A global competition to name the new seven wonders of the world is attracting widespread interest, with more than 20 million people voting so far, organizers say. Candidates for the new list have been narrowed down to 21, including the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Acropolis and the Great Wall of China. The public can vote until July 6, 2007, by Internet or phone. The seven winners will be announced July 7 in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Egyptian pyramids are also on the list, and they are the only surviving structures from the original list of seven architectural marvels. Long gone are the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes and the Pharos lighthouse off Alexandria. Those seven were deemed wonders in ancient times by observers of the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Tourists ride rented horses and camels at the historical site of the Giza Pyramids, near Cairo, Egypt, a day before the Muslim Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice, Jan. 19, 2005. The pyramids are the only surviving structures from the original list of seven architectural marvels. The new seven wonders of the world will be announced July 7 in Lisbon, Portugal. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Choosing world wonders has been a continuing fascination over the centuries. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO, keeps updating its list of World Heritage Sites, which now totals 830 places.
The "New 7 Wonders of the World" campaign was begun in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber, with almost 200 nominations coming in from around the world.
Weber "felt it is time for something new to bring the world together" and to "symbolize a common pride in the global cultural heritage," said Tia B. Viering, spokeswoman for the campaign.
Weber's Switzerland-based foundation aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments. It relies on private donations and revenue from selling broadcasting rights.
Nominations were whittled down by public votes to 77 last year. Then a panel of architectural experts, chaired by former UNESCO chief Federico Mayor, shortened the list to 21. Interest has grown as Weber and his 10-member team visit the 21 sites. Their final visit will be March 6 to New York's Statue of Liberty.
In addition to the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, the Acropolis, the Great Wall and the Pyramids, the candidates are the Statue of Liberty; Eiffel Tower; Peru's Machu Picchu; Turkey's Haghia Sophia; the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral; the Colosseum; Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle; Spain's Alhambra; Japan's Kiyomizu Temple; the Sydney Opera House; Cambodia's Angkor; Timbuktu; Petra, Jordan; Brazil's Statue of Christ Redeemer; Easter Island; and Chichen Itza, Mexico.
To vote, go to http://www.new7wonders.com or call (011) 372-541-11738 or (011) 423-663-900299. (International phone rates apply.) Here are descriptions of the 21 candidates.
ACROPOLIS, GREECE: A million people come here each year to see the marble temples - including the ruins of the columned Parthenon - and statues of Greek gods and goddesses dating from the fifth century B.C.
ALHAMBRA, SPAIN: The palace and citadel, perched above Granada, was the residence of the Moorish caliphs who governed southern Spain in splendor until 1492, when the city was conquered by the Christian forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, ending 800 years of Muslim rule. Stunning features include mosaics, arabesques and mocarabe, or honeycomb work.
ANGKOR, CAMBODIA: The archaeological site in Siem Reap was the capital of the Khmer (Cambodian) empire from the ninth to 15th centuries. It served as administrative center and place of worship for a prosperous kingdom that stretched from Vietnam to China and the Bay of Bengal. The 12th century ruins include Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom.
CHRIST REDEEMER STATUE, BRAZIL: The 125-foot statue of Christ the Redeemer with outstretched arms overlooks Rio de Janeiro from atop Mount Corcovado. The statue was built in pieces in France starting in 1926, and shipped to Brazil. A railway carried it up the 2,343-foot mountain for the 1931 inauguration.
COLOSSEUM, ITALY: The 50,000-seat amphitheater in Rome was inaugurated in A.D. 80. Thousands of gladiators dueled to the death here, and Christians were fed to the lions. The arena has influenced the design of modern stadiums.
EASTER ISLAND, CHILE: Hundreds of massive stone busts, or Moais, are all that remains from the prehistoric Rapanui culture that crafted them between 400 and 1,000 years ago to represent deceased ancestors. Some statues are over 70 feet tall. They gaze out on the south Pacific Ocean more than 1,000 miles off the Chilean mainland.
EIFFEL TOWER, FRANCE: The 985-foot tower, built in 1889 for the International Exposition, symbolizes Paris. Made almost entirely of open-lattice wrought iron and erected in only two years with a small labor force, the tower Paris' tallest structure demonstrated advances in construction techniques, but some initially criticized it as unaesthetic.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA: The 4,160-mile barricade running from east to west is the world's longest man-made structure. The fortification was built to protect various dynasties from invasion by Huns, Mongols, Turks and other nomadic tribes. Construction took place over hundreds of years, beginning in the seventh century B.C.
HAGIA SOPHIA, TURKEY: The soaring cathedral, also called the Church of Holy Wisdom, was built in 537 B.C. at Constantinople, today's Istanbul. In 1453, when Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, it became a mosque with minarets. When Turkish President Kemal Ataturk turned it into a museum in 1935, Christian mosaics covered up by the Muslims were revealed.
KIYOMIZU TEMPLE, JAPAN: Kyoto's Kiyomizu-dera, which means Clear Water Temple, was founded by a Buddhist sect in 798 and rebuilt in 1633 after a fire. Drinking from its three-stream waterfall is believed to confer health, longevity and success.
KREMLIN AND ST. BASIL'S CATHEDRAL, RUSSIA: Onion domes with golden cupolas surrounded by red brick walls are at the heart of Moscow's Kremlin, a Medieval fortress converted into the center of Russian government. The Kremlin once symbolized Soviet communism. The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed on adjacent Red Square features nine towers of different colors. It was built by Czar Ivan the Terrible in the mid-16th century.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU: Built by the Incan Empire in the 15th century, Machu Picchu's walls, palaces, temples and dwellings are perched in the clouds at 8,000 feet above sea level in the Andes overlooking a lush valley 310 miles from Lima.
NEUSCHWANSTEIN CASTLE, GERMANY: The inspiration for the Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland, Neuschwanstein is a creation of "Mad King" Ludwig II of Bavaria, who had it built in the 19th century to indulge his romantic fancies. Perched on a peak in the Bavarian Alps, the gray granite castle rises to towers, turrets and pinnacles and contains many paintings with scenes from Richard Wagner operas admired by Ludwig.
PETRA, JORDAN: This ancient city in southwestern Jordan, built on a terrace around the Wadi Musa or Valley of Moses, was the capital of the Arab kingdom of the Nabateans, a center of caravan trade, and continued to flourish under Roman rule after the Nabateans' defeat in A.D. 106. The city is famous for water tunnels and stone structures carved in the rock, including Ad-Dayr, "the Monastery," an uncompleted tomb facade that served as a church during Byzantine times.
PYRAMID AT CHICHEN ITZA, MEXICO: This step pyramid surmounted by a temple was part of a sacred site in an important Mayan center on Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. It is built according to the solar calendar. Shadows at the fall and spring equinoxes are said to look like a snake crawling down the steps, similar to the carved serpent at the top. An older pyramid inside features a jade-studded, red jaguar throne.
PYRAMIDS OF GIZA, EGYPT: The only surviving structures of the original seven wonders, the three pyramids were built as tombs for pharaohs 4,500 years ago. Nearby is the Great Sphinx statue, with a man's face and a lion's body.
STATUE OF LIBERTY, NEW YORK: The 305-foot statue in New York Harbor has welcomed immigrants and symbolized freedom since 1886, when it was dedicated as a gift of the French government.
STONEHENGE, BRITAIN: How and why this circular monument of massive rocks was created between 3,000 and 1,600 B.C. is unknown, but some experts say the stones were aligned as part of a sun-worshipping culture or astronomical calendar. Today it is a major tourist attraction. Druids and New Age followers gather here every June 21 to celebrate summer solstice.
SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE, AUSTRALIA: Situated on Bennelong Point reaching into Sydney's harbor, the opera house was designed by Danish architect Jorn Utzon and opened in 1973 by Queen Elizabeth II. Its roof resembles a ship in full sail and is covered by over 1 million white tiles. The building has 1,000 rooms.
TAJ MAHAL, INDIA: The white marble-domed mausoleum in Agra was built by a 17th century Mogul emperor for his favorite wife, who died in childbirth. The architecture combines Indian, Persian, and Islamic styles. The complex houses the graves of the emperor, his wife, and other royalty.
TIMBUKTU, MALI: Two of West Africa's oldest mosques, the Djingareyber, or Great Mosque, and the Sankore mosque built during the 14th and early 15th centuries can still be seen here in the northern Sahara Desert. Founded about A.D. 1,100, Timbuktu was a flourishing caravan center in the Arabic world and a leading spiritual and intellectual center in the 15th and 16th centuries, with one of the world's first universities.
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