Going on holiday. Marvel at man's finest creations and monuments
Time Out Dubai staff
The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
The last remaining intact monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the pyramid remains an incomprehensible feat of engineering and sheer manpower. It was built around 2560 BC as a tomb for King Khufu, and took 20 years and probably cost thousands of slaves’ lives in the making. It’s estimated that 2.3 million blocks of stone, at 2.5 tonnes per block, were dragged from quarry to desert to complete the landmark. The accuracy of the pyramid’s design dimensions still confounds modern-day mathematicians.
Empire State Building, New York
A landmark New York skyline landmark for more than 80 years and still going strong, this beautiful building was designed by Gregory Johnson from the top down, and took 410 days to complete. Beaten by the World Trade Center for a 30-year spell, 9/11 restored the Empire State to its position as the tallest building in the city and the fifth tallest in the world. A trip to the top means a breathtaking view of the metropolis below, and over three million visitors scale the vertigo-inducing heights every year to step out on to one of the world’s most popular outdoor observatories. www.esbnyc.com
London Eye, London
Opened in 1999 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair as part of London’s millennial celebrations, the Eye was not actually in use until March 2000 due to numerous ‘technical problems’. Despite this stumbling start, the Eye now looks set to be a permanent fixture, and since it opened over 30 million visitors have hopped into one of its 32 sealed capsules to make the half-hour journey round Europe’s largest Ferris wheel. www.londoneye.com
Eiffel Tower, Paris
Originally planned for Barcelona, but dismissed by the city’s authorities as bizarre and too expensive, Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure finally landed in Paris in 1889, in time to mark the centennial of the French Revolution at the Exposition Universelle. At 324 metres, it’s the tallest building in the city, and weighs in at a hefty 10,000 tonnes of puddle iron, all held in place by over 2.5 million rivets. Despite this, on a windy day the tower can sway up to seven centimetres, so watch out! www.tour-eiffel.fr
Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Built in 1648 by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to mourn the death of his favourite wife, Mumtaz Mahal, the building is an epic architectural icon in its own right. It combines Persian, Indian and Islamic styles and 28 types of precious stones to create one of the most easily recognisable palaces on the planet. Thanks to the benign Agra weather, the classic sight is of its 14 purely decorative white marble minarets standing against a background of pure sky and again in the placid waters of the reflecting pool that lies on a north–south axis.
Great Wall of China, near Beijing, China
Built in stages and under various dynasties from the fifth century BC onwards to protect the northern borders of the Chinese Empire, the wall stretches 6,400 kilometres from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, is up to nine metres wide, and was at one point guarded by more than one million men. It quickly became less a defence bastion and more of an elevated highway and trade route, part of the all-important Silk Road. Today, the wall still functions as a moneyspinner, and Beijing-based tourists are herded towards Badaling and Jinshanling where the wall has been kitted out with souvenir shops, restaurants and amusement-park rides. Hiking the wall is best done with an organised tour. Can it be seen from space? Well, yes, if you have military-standard observational gear.
Berlin Wall remains, Germany
Built at the height of Cold War-induced paranoia in 1961 to separate East Germany from West, the wall was finally brought down on 9 November 1989 in a historic night of spontaneous riots and, um, singing by David Hasselhoff. Once reinforced by 116 watchtowers, barbed wire and vicious dogs, an estimated 200 people were killed trying to cross the wall into West Germany. The location of the wall is now marked by a row of cobblestones in the street, and the memorial remains an important part of German history.
Angkor Wat, Cambodia
This vast temple is a national symbol – appearing on Cambodia’s flag – and has been appropriated by both Hindus and Buddhists as a centre for worship since it was built in the early 12th century as a tomb for King Suryavarman II in the high classical Khmer style, using more than five million tonnes of sandstone. To avoid the crowds, visit smaller, lesser-known temples such as the Bayon, with its numerous enigmatic faces; or indulge your sense of adventure with a helicopter ride over the temples.
Mayan Pyramids of Palenque, Mexico
Smaller than the better-known Mayan archaeological sites Tikal (in Guatemala) or Copán (in Honduras), Palenque nonetheless contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture and carvings the Maya produced. It’s estimated that only five per cent of the total city has been uncovered, and its misty isolation near the Usumacinta River in the heart of the Mexican rainforest can really make you feel like an explorer who’s just stumbled on an undiscovered ancient settlement. But this is not just archaeology; visit nearby Indian villages and you’ll find the language and culture are very much alive. www.mesoweb.com/palenque
Machu Picchu, Sacred Valley, Peru
The most famous of the Inca citadels, this 15th-century archaeological site – set on a mountain ridge 2,438 metres above sea level in the Urubamba Valley – remained virtually undiscovered until the early part of the 20th century. Despite now attracting its maximum tourist allowance of 2,500 visitors daily, the ‘Lost City of the Incas’ still retains its air of grandeur and mystery. Often shrouded in mist, the space is composed of 140 structures including temples, sanctuaries, parks and an impressive system of water fountains designed for irrigation. www.machupicchu.org.