Popular uprisings, while inspiring and (we hope) good for the citizens who spark them, aren’t just bad news for dictators. They’re often trouble for tourists as well. When Egypt convulsed with protests, airlines canceled flights to Cairo and guards barricaded the great pyramids of Giza. At the Cairo museum that is home to King Tutankhamun and some lesser mummies, troops circled to keep out the looters. The shutdown helped ravage Egypt’s economy, about a tenth of which revolves around tourism. It also served as a reminder that political upheaval—in the Middle East or elsewhere—can suddenly limit access to some of the world’s most breathtaking sites. With that in mind, Newsweek offers a guide for seize-the-day types.
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).
It took a Swiss explorer disguised as an Arab to rediscover the stone city of Petra following eight centuries of neglect. (After an ancient Middle Eastern trade route went bust, the city—cut entirely from pink rock formations—fell into obscurity until the explorer arrived in 1812.) But if conditions in Jordan worsen in the wake of recent protests against unemployment and government corruption, Petra’s rock-carved formations and thousand-foot canyons could be off limits again.
The country’s small population, dearth of roads, and layers of thick forest explain its reputation as “Africa’s last Eden.” But Gabon’s governance suffered its great fall long ago. For 34 years, the nation has been run—and robbed—by one family: first Omar Bongo, and now his son Ali. (Protesters want the Bongos to go the way of the Mubaraks and Ben Alis.) Thankfully, the poaching hasn’t spoiled Loango’s safari parks, which are flush with chimpanzees, elephants, and lowland gorillas.
Yes, the islands might be lodged in our imagination as an oasis of idyllic bliss and scientific history (Darwin observed the giant tortoise and native penguins there during his HMS Beagle voyage). But opposition forces have been gathering momentum in Ecuador since September, when President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency after being attacked with tear gas by rebellious police officers. If protests heat up, access to the Ecuadoran archipelago could be limited.
For centuries, Nepal’s Himalayas have prevented incursions by neighboring China. But no mountain—not even Mount Everest—is big enough to block internal dissent. Five years ago, Maoist rebels and democracy activists united to overthrow the king, and since then the two groups have struggled to agree on a common agenda, raising the specter of a military takeover or a return to civil war.