Inquiring minds want to know what the town of Abbottabad — with its ridiculous, Anglo-sounding name — was like, and what Bin Laden would have seen as he surreptitiously entered and left his isolated compound. Despite being located in the suburb of Bilal Town, he was still within easy walking distance of Abbottabad, and here are some of the places he might have visited, giving a picture of the place not all that different from an upscale Colorado resort town.
Abbottabad itself was named after British garrison officer Major James Abbott, who commanded the cantonment (fort for housing troops) from 1847-1853. Somewhat ironically, the place is a center of Pakistani Christianity, and a famous Episcopal cemetery is located there, its headstones conserved by a Pakistani government agency.
Perhaps due to the bucolic, resort-style setting, there are a half-dozen prestigious boarding schools located within an easy walk of the Bin Laden compound, including Present Times Public School and College, Pine Hills Public School and College, FG Barki Girls High School, etc. There is also a university, technical college, and several Islamic schools. Five mosques are also within easy walking distance, and, apparently, one of the few reasons the denizens of the compound left, according to neighbors, was to attend the mosque.
Here, then, are five places within easy walking distance of the compound.
1. Siqa Bano Clinic – A medical clinic connected to SiQa, the electrical company that provides power to the Abbottabad region.
2. Pine Hills Public School and College – See their Facebook page. Might be a good way for journalists to contact people who’ve lived in the area and speak English. The web is filled with pictures of this upscale boarding school, which moved into its new campus in 1994.
Description found on a scholastic website: “Pine Hills Public School and College Murree Road Abbottabad is came into being in 1984 Owned By Mushtaq Ahmed Ghani This is the new building after the old one rented in Naryah. Pine Hills is one of the five top schools in Abbottabad. The others are APS, Burn Hall, PIPS and Modernage.”
3. Cantt Graveyard – The cantonement graveyard for British garrison troops, and later Pakistani Christians, founded in 1853.
4. Barrah Market – Also known as the Khyber Bara Market, this strip mall stretches along Muree Road and features electronics stores, car dealerships, hosiery shops, open-air grocery and meat markets, travel agencies, and the Mehmood Shopping Center. Osama could have easily walked there from his compounds across open fields given over to agricultural purposes.
5. ChenOne – A store devoted to linens and bathroom fixtures and supplies, something like a Pakistani Bed, Bath, & Beyond. The company’s somewhat ambiguous slogan is “Changing Lifestyles.”