Ever since the Geek scholar
Callimachus of Cyrene put pen to papyrus back in the third century BC, jotting
down what was believed to be the original list of the Seven Wonders of the
World, famous landmarks have captured the imagination of an inspired global
Of the original seven, just one ancient
wonder remains: the Great Pyramid if Giza. But over the millennia, since those
seven made the shortlist, an entirely new world of wonders has opened up. Lands
have been explored and natural wonders discovered; ancient cultures and
histories have been unearthed, magnificent monuments erected, and incredible
creations constructed. Far from a simple seven, we are now faced with an entire
planet of photo opportunities. Today, Callimachus’ manuscript compares modestly
with guidebooks which whittle the world’s landmarks down to a top 100, and an
even more ambitious travel tome advises not only that there are a staggering
1,000 places to see before you die but also, that there are 1,000 places to see
in the United States and Canada alone.
Each with their own claim to fame, there
are sites to be seen on every continent, in every capital city, and in every
corner of every country. Some are recognized for their incredible beauty, and
others as outstanding feats of engineering. Some are surrounded by mystery,
some are steeped in history, and all have a fascinating tale to tell.
What follows is whirlwind trip around the
world, seeking out the superlatives, the very best examples of the different
attractions of landmarks everywhere. The Taj Mahal, being a tribute to love,
beast the Eiffel Tower narrowly to our tittle of most romantic landmark in the
whole world. We cover the biggest, the most mysterious, the most iconic and the
most spiritual. And, in keeping with Callimachus, so too is our list limited to
seven, and also include, as his did, the most ancient of all landmarks, the
Great Pyramid of Giza.
1. Most ancient: Great Pyramid of Giza
If the astounding Great Pyramid of Giza, as
the last of the original Wonders of the Ancient World, is anything to go by,
then the historians are right; the combined wonders would have made a pretty
ancient: Great Pyramid of Giza
Taking 20 years to build, 4,500 years ago,
the giant monument which looms over the desert sands on the bank of the River
Nile was constructed as a tomb for the fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu.
The immediate tale the Pyramid tells is that of his vanity. Quite some
undertaking, up to 200,000 peasants, slaves and engineers were charged with the
construction of his tomb. Together, in an amazing feat of human endeavor, they
raised six million blocks of limestone and granite to the Pyramid’s original
height of 146m.
The pyramid therefore also stands as a
testament to the ingenuity of an advanced civilisation. The knowledge, across
many disciplines, necessary to build such a monument would have had to be
But is the real reason of the Pyramid’s
construction truly known? Many a conspiracy theory exits as to the potentially
undiscovered purpose if the Pyramid. Despite it being the world’s oldest
tourist attraction, much of it has never been explored by modern civilisations,
and there are areas still very much out of bounds.
Inexplicable Precision in the Construction of The Great Pyramid at Giza
Over the centuries, research teams have
attempted to unlock its secrets. Robots have been sent down hitherto hidden
passageways, and the existence of four narrow shafts has puzzled
archaeologists; the open air, were explained as an intended channel through
which the soul of the pharaoh could arrive at the afterlife, but explorations
into the southern two have been unsatisfactory. The robotic discovery of a
series of limestone slabs each featuring two copper pins has sparked
suggestions that these are some kind of power points for alien technology…
Turning away from the extraterrestrial
though, many do believe that even four and half millennia later, the Great
Pyramid does still retain ancient secrets. Delivered flippantly (and
fictionally, of course), symbologist Robert Langdon in The Da Vinci Code
ponders at one point whether “any of Harvard’s revered Egyptologists had ever
knocked on the door of a pyramid and expected an answer”.
2. Most iconic: Statue of Liberty
Still radiant at 125 years old, Lady
Liberty has held her flame aloft since she was gifted to the United States from
France to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.
She is a universal, iconic symbol of freedom and democracy, and one of the most
famous women in the world.
The story of the Statue began at a Parisian
banquet in 1865. Prominent academic Edouard de Laboulaye was discussing the
impending American centennial, and suggested it would be an appropriate gesture
for France to offer the United States a gift as a lasting memorial to
independence, and a demonstration of the two countries’ shared love of liberty.
Young sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, attending the same dinner, embraced
the idea and proposed the sculpture of a large monument.
The six years it then took for Bartholdi to
decide exactly what form this monument was going to take was prophetic in terms
of the project’s progression. Bartholdi’s early hestitation, combined with
further problem of planning, permissions, production and cashflow, meant that
his creation, officially entitled Liberty Enlightening the World, took a total
of 21 years to complete. Weighing 204,000 kilograms, she was shipped to New
York in 350 pieces, and on arrival took four whole months to be assembled on
her pedestal, but by then, timing was largely irrelevant. She had missed the
centennial, her raison d’être, by a whole decade. Her tardiness, a woman’s
prerogative after all, was nonetheless forgiven when she was unveiled on
Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbour in 1886 (renamed Liberty Island in 1956) to
the awe of America and the entire world.
Not only is she visited by millions of
tourists every year, standing as an icon of independence for all to see, but
the all-America heroine, even has an enviable resume of film roles. She has
appeared, appropriately, in Independence Day, as well as The Day After
Tomorrow, and ironically, in the final scene of Planet of the Apes. The day she
hosts her own chat show, then Oprah (arguably America’s most famous animate
female) will have competition.
3. Most romantic: The Taj Mahal
Forget ‘Isaac’s Proposal’ or whatever the
latest romantic viral videos doing the rounds and making men all over the world
swear are, if you want the greatest declaration of love ever made, look to the
Taj Mahal in Agra, India.
As Mumtaz Mahal lay on her deathbed, having
delivered her husband Shah Jahan their fourteenth child, costing her her life,
her devoted husband made her a promise; that he would erect a monument to match
her beauty as a tribute to hos eternal love. And so, December 1632, the
construction began of one of the greatest monuments of all time, the Taj Mahal.
The Taj Mahah was built as a beautiful
mausoleum, containing the tomb of Shah Jahan’s young wife. Designed to be
perfectly symmetrical, it was decorated with ornate, precious and semi-precious
gemstones and carved with floral designs. It captures the changing light of the
day, radiating pink hues as the sun rises, changing to a dazzling white in the
heat of the sun, and glowing with a pearlescent sheen in the moonlight. It was
likened by Rudyard Kipling to an ‘ivory gate through which all dreams pass’.
This testament to love took 21 years to
build, but perhaps in the saddest twist of the whole story, just five years
after its completion, Shah Jahan was overthrown by his third son and imprisoned
in the nearby Agra Fort. From there he could only gaze out from a small window
towards his Taj Mahal, the resting place of his beloved wife.
It was not until 1666, on the occasion of
his death, that he was to rejoin his love; the position of hos tomb immediately
next to hers being the only element of the Taj Mahl breaking the perfect
Tourists to the Taj Mahal may lose a little
love for the place when they realise there’s an almost 5,000 per cent mark-up
on the price of their tickets compared to those of locals, but even then, they
still only equate to around $18.55, most of which goes to the upkeep of this
most incredible of all (sorry Isaac) declarations of love.