Sarajevo reveals its war wounds for tourist cash

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The Independent Online

Ten years after the end of the siege of Sarajevo, the Bosnian capital is having an odd kind of revival.

Tourists are returning to the city to revisit the site of the longest siege in modern warfare, looking for "snipers' alley" and the Dobrinja tunnel that led to freedom beyond the airport.

"Visitors want to know what happened here, why it happened and is there a future," said Zijad Jusufovic, the first licensed tour guide in the capital.

"Regardless of what they know or don't know about Sarajevo, I end my tours with the message that war is bad; no winners, only so many losers," he said.

The infamous "snipers' alley" is now called Zmaja od Bosne (Dragon of Bosnia) Avenue, lined with blossoming trees, and buzzing with trams, city buses and private cars.

Pedestrians flood along it in the warm and sunny spring days. It is the main boulevard of the capital, connecting the Old Town and the industrial district. It is hard to imagine the days when the boulevard, lined with Serb sniper posts, was too dangerous to cross. A total of 225 people were killed here during the siege of Sarajevo.

The daily artillery and vicious sniper attacks from the surrounding hills took 10,000 lives during the three-and-a-half year siege of the city by Bosnian Serbs.

Mr Jusufovic's war tours of Sarajevo are five-hour journeys taking in 19 sites that evoke the cruelty of war. He takes his visitors to the Stadium of Kosovo, lavishly reconstructed for the Winter Olympic Games in 1984.

Giant posters announce an open-air concert season with folk or pop stars from all over the former Yugoslavia, but the eye is drawn to the Kosovo auxiliary football field, covered with mezars (Muslim tombstones). The pitch became a graveyard because of the lack of burial grounds.

Tourists are taken to the tunnel under the runways of Sarajevo airport, the wartime escape and supply route for the besieged town.

In the downtown Markale market, behind the friendly fruit and vegetable vendors, a big glass-covered red wall behind the stands bears the names of 67 Sarajevans killed in one of the war's most notorious incidents, a mortar attack in February 1994 that ripped the heart out of the city. The inscription on the white stone monument in front of the wall says that Sarajevans will never forget.

"Despite everything, one has to believe that normal and good times are coming" Mr Jusufovic says. "The bitterness and anger have started to evaporate."

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