The world has been a canvas for many a breath-taking and stupendous man-made creations which have resolutely weathered the ravages of time and nature. These buildings are not merely edifices of brick and mortar but emanate life. On July 7 2007, Lisbon’s Benfica Stadium was about to burst at the seams as a crowd of some 50,000 spectators and a television audience of millions heard hosts Bipasha Basu, Hilary Swank and Ben Kingsley, announce the New 7 Wonders of the World, as chosen by the people of the world. New 7 Wonders Foundation President and Founder Bernard Weber and Amir Dossal, Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Partnerships, presented plaques to all finalists. The beauty of this event lies in the fact that an unprecedented global movement has united people everywhere through this New7Wonders campaign. The citizens of the world from all four corners, springing from a plethora of races, religions and ages, have overwhelmingly shown their enthusiasm for global dialogue.
The new seven wonders listed below:
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6,400 km from Shanhai Pass in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia. The wall is a series of stone and earthen fortifications, built, rebuilt, and maintained between the 5th century BC and the 16th century to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire during the rule of successive dynasties. Several walls, referred to as the Great Wall of China, were built since the 5th century BC, the most famous being the one built between 220 BC and 200 BC by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang. That wall was much further north than the current wall, built during the Ming Dynasty, and little of it remains. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon from May 1932 makes the claim that the wall is “the mightiest work of man, the only one that would be visible to the human eye from the moon” and Richard Halliburton’s 1938 book Second Book of Marvels makes a similar claim. This belief has persisted, assuming urban legend status, sometimes even entering school textbooks.
The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal is located in Agra, India. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan commissioned it as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal. In 1631 Shah Jahan, emperor during the Mughal’s period of greatest prosperity, was grief-stricken when his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of their daughter Gauhara Begum, their fourteenth child. Contemporary court chronicles concerning Shah Jahan’s grief form the basis of the love story traditionally held as the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. Construction began in 1632 and was completed in approximately 1648. Some dispute surrounds the question of who designed the Taj Mahal; a team of designers and craftsmen were responsible for the design, with Ustad Ahmad Lahauri is considered as the principal designer. The Taj Mahal (sometimes called ‘the Taj’) is generally considered the finest example of Mughal architecture, a style that combines elements of Persian, Turkish, Indian, and Islamic architectural styles. While the white domed marble mausoleum is the most familiar part of the monument, the Taj Mahal is actually an integrated complex of structures. In 1983 the Taj became a Unesco World Heritage Site and was cited as “the jewel of Muslim art in India” and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.
Christ the Redeemer
This grand statue of Jesus Christ is standing at 38 m tall, weighing 700 tons and is located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue and is located at the peak of the 700-m Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park, overlooking the city. As well as being a potent symbol of the Roman Catholic Church, the statue has become an icon of Rio and Brazil. The idea for erecting a large statue atop Corcovado had been around since the mid 1850s, when Catholic priest Pedro Maria Boss requested financing from Princess Isabel to build a large religious monument. However, it was in 1921 when the Archdiocese of Rio De Janeiro organised an event called Semana do Monumento (‘Monument Week’) to attract donations, which came mostly from Brazilian Catholics. Local engineer Heitor da Silva Costa was chosen to oversee the construction of the new monument, to be designed by Polish-French monument sculptor Paul Landowski. The structure was made out of reinforced concrete instead of steel, more suitable for the cross-shaped statue. The outer layers of the statue are soapstone, chosen for its enduring qualities. The monument was opened on October 12, 1931. In October 2006, on the statue’s 75th anniversary, Archbishop of Rio Cardinal Eusebio Oscar Scheid consecrated a chapel (named for the patron saint of Brazil — Nossa Senhora Aparecida) under the statue. This allows Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings there.
Petra is an archaeological site in Jordan, lying in a basin among the mountains which forms the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is famous for having many stone structures carved into the rock. Rekem is claimed by some writers to have been the native name of Petra, and Petra has also been identified as the capital of the Nabataeans, and the centre of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress but controlled the main commercial routes. Petra’s decline came rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. But in 363 AD an earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled the vital water management system. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by the Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the close of the 13th century. The long-hidden site was revealed to the Western world by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. The site was inscripted as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation World Heritage Site in 1985 when it was described as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. Additionally, on July 7, 2007, Petra was named one of New Open World Corporation’s New Seven Wonders of the World. Movie buffs might identify with Petra as it is featured in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the Holy Temple where the Holy Grail is located.
Machu Picchu was constructed around 1450, at the height of the Inca Empire, and was abandoned less than 100 years later, as the empire collapsed under Spanish conquest. Although the citadel is located only about 50 miles from Cusco, the Inca capital, it was never found and destroyed by the Spanish, as were many other Inca sites. Over the centuries, the surrounding jungle grew to enshroud the site, and few knew of its existence. This is a fortress city of the ancient Incas, in a high saddle between two peaks 50 miles NW of Cuzco, Peru. The extraordinary pre-Columbian ruin, 18 sq. km of terraced stonework link by 3,000 steps, was virtually intact when discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It is said that the silhouette of the mountain range behind Machu Picchu represents the face of the Inca looking upward towards the sky, with the largest peak, Huayna Picchu (meaning Young Peak), representing his pierced nose.
The Colosseum or Flavian Amphitheater was begun by Vespasian, inaugurated by Titus in 80 AD and completed by Domitian. Located on marshy land between the Esquiline and Caelian Hills, it was the first permanent amphitheater to be built in Rome. Its monumental size and grandeur as well as its practical and efficient organisation for producing spectacles and controlling the large crowds make it one of the great architectural monuments achieved by the ancient Romans. The amphitheater is a vast ellipse with tiers of seating for 50,000 spectators around a central elliptical arena. It had approximately eighty entrances so crowds could arrive and leave easily and quickly. Below the wooden arena floor, there was a complex set of rooms and passageways for wild beasts and other provisions for staging the spectacles. The Colosseum remained in use for nearly 500 years with the last recorded games being held there as late as the 6th century — well after the traditional date of the fall of Rome in 476. Although it is now in a severely ruined condition due to damage caused by earthquakes and stone-robbers, the Colosseum has long been seen as an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome and is one of the finest surviving examples of Roman architecture. It is one of modern Rome’s most popular tourist attractions and still has close connections with the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope leads a torchlit “Way of the Cross” procession to the amphitheatre each Good Friday.
Meaning “At the mouth of the well of the Itza” is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site built by the Maya civilisation located in the northern centre of the Yucatán Peninsula, present-day Mexico. Chichen Itza was a major regional centre in the northern Maya lowlands and rose to regional prominence towards the end of the Early Classic period (roughly 600 AD). It was, however, towards the end of the Late Classic and into the early part of the Terminal Classic that the site became a major regional capitol. Archaeological data now indicates that Chichen Itza fell by around AD 1000. The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, from what is called “Mexicanised” and reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico to the Puuc style found among the Puuc Maya of the northern lowlands. It is also referred to in the ancient chronicles as Uucyabnal, meaning “Seven Great Rulers”. The fact that three natural sink holes (cenotes) providing plentiful water year round at Chichen made it attractive for settlement. Two of these cenotes still exist today, of which the “Cenote of Sacrifice” is the more famous, and it was sacred to worshipers of the Maya rain god Chaac. Chichen Itza is today a World Heritage Site and is Mexico’s second most visited archaeological sites. The site contains many fine stone buildings in various states of preservation; the buildings were formerly used as temples, palaces, stages, markets, baths, and ballcourts.