Apparently revolutions are not good for tourism

That used to be mainstream opinion in white South Africa and is what Tina Brown and her editors think about. What drove Newsweek’s editors to commission and publish a feature–in the latest issue–on “Five Places to See Before the Revolution.” In breathless prose, reporters Dan Ephron and Claire Martin list five countries–Morocco, Jordan, Gabon, Ecuador and Nepal–that modern seize-the-day Hemingways should get to soon, before agitation for the Rights of Man disrupt their travel plans. Popular uprisings are basically treated as nuisances in the piece, not only because they reveal the oppressive structures behind the tourist-poster versions of favoured nations, but because they cause trip-cancellations.

That’s a picture of Gabon’s Loango National Park above. The link to the entry for the park (which is breathtaking of course; we’re not disputing that) treats us to a flock of birds, in mid-flight. The giddy caption–after noting the repression in post-independence Gabon–assures us: “Thankfully, the poaching hasn’t spoiled Loango’s safari parks, which are flush with chimpanzees, elephants, and lowland gorillas.”

Oh, and Gabon apparently has a reputation as “Africa’s last Eden.” I thought that was a contest between Naimbia and Zambia. And to say nothing of the fact that it was if any of these places were prelapsarian Edens then why would the Adams and Eves therein need revolutions?

The famed Galapagos Islands are also given the nod. But the last time I checked, there’s no real threat of a “revolution” in Ecuador; in any case the troubles there are really a case of anti-democratic elements in the police challenging the authority of the elected, very popular, government.

In addition to the “jungle” Edens, we also get the “ancient-but-destroyed-civilisation” Edens. Here’s the description for Morocco, equal parts Orientalism and just plain silliness:

When you think of exotic Marrakech, you probably think of Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart blazing a path in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much—not anti-government protests like the ones that rocked the “Red City” (and 50 others in Morocco) during February. Marrakech is one of the nation’s former imperial cities and still boasts the region’s largest bazaar. Protests also spread to the ancient city of Fez, in the northeast. The city is often considered the soul of Morocco, and its oldest district, Fes el Bali, built in the ninth century, is a maze of unpaved alleys lined with fountains, hundreds of mosques, and museums (also, increasingly, dissidents).

In between the mixed messages in this entry and others, one thing is clear: “the nation has been run—and robbed—by one family” (insert dictator’s name). Nothing of course about our own governments’ complicity in making that robbery possible. And soon enough, the revolting masses will want them “to go the way of the Mubaraks and Ben Alis,” disrupting all adventures. Apparently, dictators are good for game park/ancient monument tourism.

Ah, dissidents. The flies on a visitor’s repast, once well-controlled by a proper autocrat.

The link to the rest of the entries.–Sean Jacobs, Neelika Jayawardane

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.