Seven Wonders of the Modern World (oh, & one ancient one)
on 7 Sep 2017
The New Seven Wonders was a controversial project inaugurated in the Millennium year to determine a list of ‘Wonders’ to rival that of the Seven Ancient Wonders. Some 100 million votes were cast, and despite notable absentees, the following list was announced. Despite the contention, the list is arguably immediately impressive.
Taj Mahal – Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India
A grand measure of the bereft Shah Jahan’s enduring inconsolability for his beloved Mumtaz who died in childbirth, the mausoleum best known as the Taj Mahal is arguably India’s most famous attraction. Constructed by a workforce of more than 20,000 as an integrated complex of structures containing gardens, reflecting pools, gateways, inns and a mosque, the Taj Mahal represents the finest example of Mughal architecture. The mausoleum is constructed of solid white marble with fine pietra dura, panels featuring fine calligraphy and tiles. Legend has it, Shah Jahan has planned to construct just across the river a mausoleum for himself in precious black marble, but warring with his sons prevented this. The couple are interred for eternity in a relatively unadorned crypt below visitor level.
Christ the Redeemer – Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
As Brasilian as Samba, Havaiana flip flops and Copacabana Beach, the open-armed Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) gazes out over Rio from atop Corcovado. Given the mountain rise straight up from the city to 710m, the 30m-high statue is visible from almost every part of the city, all 635 tons of the revered man. Constructed of reinforced concrete and soapstone between 1929 and 1931 at the height of the Art Deco period, the statue sits on an 8m pedestal, and its arms stretch to 28m. A symbol of Brazilian Christianity, the statue has become an icon for Rio de Janeiro and Brazil.
Colosseum – Rome, Italy
Located in the heart of Rome, the Colosseum is an enduring and impressive symbol of Imperial Rome. Constructed in around 70-72 AD, the Colosseum was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles and animal hunts. Spectators were given tickets in the form of numbered pottery shards, which directed them to the appropriate section and seat. The Coliseum’s huge crowd capacity of up to 50,000 made it essential that the venue could be filled or evacuated quickly. Roman architects adopted solutions very similar to those used in modern stadiums to deal with the same problem. To combat sun and rain, a sophisticated retractable awning known as a velarium was operated by sailors at the top of the structure.
Petra – Ma’an Governorate, Jordan
Just as you round a corner whilst wandering like a modern-day explorer through the rock-cut Siq to the Nabataean lost city of Petra, suddenly that Indiana Jones moment strikes. There in front, is Indy’s prize – the behemoth rock-cut Treasury Building. Described as a “rose-red city half as old as time” by poet John William Burgon and “one of the most precious cultural properties” by UNESCO, Petra is crammed with amphitheatres, rock-cut tombs and Roman ruins. Travel on foot, by donkey or Arabian horse, and if you have the energy ascend to Ad Deir, colloquially known as the The Monastery. This will catch your breath just as the Treasury Building does. In fact, Petra is simply breathtaking.
Great Wall of China – China
Witnessing the Great Wall from outer space is given currency by the simple fact that most of us just haven’t been in orbit or to the Moon. Until we do, make a shorter trip to China. Snaking some 6700 kms from east to west across hills, deserts, plains and mountains, this enduring symbol of Chinese genius built to protect China against marauding invaders from the north is believed to be the longest man-made structure on earth. Although the present wall dates mainly from the Ming dynasty, some 20 states and dynasties were involved in its spellbinding construction over a period of 2,000 years!
The most accessible part of the wall is best visited at the Mutianyu or Badaling sections beyond Beijing.
Machu Picchu – Cuzco region, Peru
Lost to the world until its discovery by historian Hiram Bingham in 1911, Machu Picchu is a 15th century site purportedly built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. Stunningly located – indeed almost hidden on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley, Machu Picchu was not known to the Spanish during their conquest. It is therefore highly significant as a relatively intact cultural site. Much restorative work has been undertaken on surrounding structures, and with controlled visitor entry, the Peruvian Government are seeking to ensure this Incan eye-candy is visible to visitors now and in the future.
Chichen Itza – Yucatan, Mexico
Chicken it isn’t. One of the most-visited archaeological sites in Mexico, Chichen Itza is the best-restored of the Yucatan Maya sites and boasts an illustrious 1,000-year history where different civilisations have left their mark. The Maya and Toltec vision of the world and the universe is revealed in their stone monuments and artistic works. The fusion of Mayan construction techniques with newer elements from central Mexico makes Chichen Itza one of the most important examples of the Mayan-Toltec civilisation. Several very impressive buildings have survived, notably the Warriors Temple, El Castillo and the circular observatory known as El Caracol.
The pyramids at Giza Plateau, Cairo, Egypt
Intact survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World – Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus were already more than 2,000 years old when Herodotus the Greek historian visited them in 5BC!
A highly skilled corps of mathematicians, masons, surveyors and stone-cutters undertook the construction, coupled with the use of 100,000 labourers to move and lay the stones. Around 2.5 million limestone blocks, quarried locally and weighing in excess of 6 million tonnes were used in the construction of Cheops alone. Napoleon exclaimed during his visit that the stone blocks used to erect this edifice would be enough to build a wall in decimal measurements some 3 metres high and a metre wide around France. The great Mathematician Gaspard Monge confirmed his calculations!
Speak to your Phil Hoffmann Travel Consultant about visiting any or all of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World.
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