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Landmarks of The World (Part 1) - Great Pyramid of Giza, Statue of Liberty, The Taj Mahal

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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 public.

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 magnificent seven.

Description: Most ancient: Great Pyramid of Giza

Most 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 immense.

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.

Description:  The Inexplicable Precision in the Construction of The Great Pyramid at Giza

 The 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.

Description: Statue of Liberty

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.

Description: The Taj Mahal

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 symmetry.

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.

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