Ruins That I Would Like to See

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Ruins I Would Like To See.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   But I have promises to keep,   And miles to go before I sleep,   And miles to go before I sleep.”Robert Frost

Our world is so filled with places that I want to see. It’s hard to say whether a single lifetime would indeed be enough to experience all of it. Most of us will probably never see everything that the world has to offer us, but it’s worth a shot. Here are the ruins I still haven’t seen and want to. 

Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan ruins in Guatemala are ancient wonders built between the sixth century BC and the tenth century AD. Reclaimed by the jungle hundreds of years ago, they’ve been partially excavated and stand as reminders of a great civilization. It’s the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas and famous for its view..

 Terra Cotta Warriors, China

IF you’ve heard of Xian in China before I’m pretty sure it’s because you’ve also heard of the Terracotta Warriors, a collection of terracotta sculptures created to represent the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. This figures were only discovered in 1974 by 3 farmers and have now become one of China’s most prized possessions. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits.

Great Wall, China

When i was very young, I saw a picture of the Great Wall Of China. While its length was beyond  my comprehension, I vaguely remember sitting down and being absolutely in awe .It is the coolest landmark in the world. The Great Wall was unified and constructed during the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago.  Using hundreds of thousand of workers and prisoners, the wall was constructed over decades of work. It was almost destroyed by the Mongols and Chairman Mao but in 1984 when a new ruler came into power, Deng Xiaoping he re-opened its doors to the rest of the world and opted to rebuilt the Great Wall to restore National Pride.

 

Chichen Itza, Mexico

 Chichen Itza is the most well-known and frequently visited Mayan ruins site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It has a fascinating 1,000-year-old history. One thing that makes  Chichen Itza so intriguing, other than the giant stone pyramid, is the mysterious decline of the Maya people themselves.By the time of the Spanish conquest, this great city and others like it were virtually ghost towns. Mexico’s most famous ruins are astonishingly well-restored site compared to other Mayan ruins in the region. 

Giza, Egypt

The Giza Pyramid complex is located just at the outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Set in the desert, it comprises three Pyramids that each have a mini-complex of its own and the Sphinx. The Sphinx is an iconic Giant statue of the mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. There are many theories about why the pyramids were constructed in the first place. The most accepted one was that they were constructed as a tomb for the great pharaohs that ordered them built. Many theories abound as to how is it that these massive structures were made especially during ancient times.

Luxor, Egypt

Established on the shore of the great Nile river and surrounded by both mango plantations and desert, Luxor is one of the greatest open air museums. containing some the largest and most striking ancient monuments ever constructed.. The history of Luxor (originally called the city of Thebes) dates back to 3,200 B.C. Nevertheless, the city didn’t prosper until the 2,134 B.C., during the 11th Dynasty, when Mentuhotep ll brought peace and stability to the region, and Thebes started to grow as a city, becoming, during the 18th Dynasty, in 1,550 B.C., the religious and political capital of Ancient Egypt.most of their tombs, monuments and temples still remain, very well-preserved, including the tomb of the world-famous  Tutankhamen..

Stonehenge, England

What were they for? How did they get here? What do they mean? So many questions surround the ring of massive prehistoric stones found at Stonehenge and the fact that we’ll probably never have any concrete answers only adds to the mystery and allure of the site.How these stones ended up in perfect architectural symmetry in the middle of the English countryside, long before modern machinery would have made it a much simpler feat, is perhaps what entices so many people to visit this ancient iconic site year after year.

Pompeii, Italy

In 79 AD somewhere around 20,000 Pompeians went about their daily lives giving nary a thought to the volcano they lived alongside. August 24th would change their lives forever. On that fateful day as Mt. Vesuvius spewed, though much of the city was destroyed, Pompeii was also buried under 20 feet of ash and pumice. Centuries of history were sealed away until 1748. It was Rocque Joaquin de Acubierre that discovered Pompeii. Due to the lack of air and moisture, artifacts buried under the ash and pumice at both archeological sites were extremely well preserved. 

Great Mosque, Mali

The iconic Grand Mosque in Djenne, northern Mali is the largest free standing mud brick building in the world and harking back to a time of tribal empires long since fallen.A new layer of adobe plastering is used to fill the cracks which occur in the extreme summer heat, and repairs made to damage done with the pounding of the annual rains. The worst kept secret of Djenne’s Grand Mosque is that it is not the original. Though it is surely the finest example of Sahelian adobe architecture in the world, it was in fact built by the French in c. 1908. The original dated back to the 13th century but did not stand the test of time and of the elements.

Borobodor Temple, Indonesia

Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction. Located on the island of Java, the temple was constructed in the 9th century, before being abandoned in the 14th century as the population converted to Islam. Protected by UNESCO, it was restored in the 1970s and later opened to the public (while still being used for religious pilgrimage).

Ellora and Ajanta Caves, India

The Ellora and Ajanta caves are located outside of Aurangabad, which is an eight-hour train ride from Mumbai. The Ellora caves were built between the fifth and tenth century. There are 34 caves, some Hindu, some Buddhist and a few Jain. The Ajanta caves, like the temples of Khajuraho, were “lost” for centuries until an Englishman discovered them in the mid-19th century. They are all Buddhist, and known more for their paintings 

Carthage, Tunisia

Carthage was the centre of the Carthaginian Empire in antiquity. The city has existed for nearly 3,000 years, developing from a Phoenician colony of the first millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire. Carthage is 15 kilometers north of Tunis and these ruins once were the most important trading base in that region with a population of over half a million. Do you know Hannibal? He came from Carthage and tried to battle the Romans but was defeated two centuries BC. Half a century later the Romans took Carthage and destroyed most if not all of the city. They rebuild their own Carthage and made it the capital of the Roman province Africa. 

Fly safe,
JAZ

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Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far

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 Best Ruins That I Have Visited So Far.

“The shattered wall,
the broken tower
have a story to tell –
from the touchstones of ruins
and ancient texts
we make a pilgrimage.” Michael Alexander,

Architectural ruins connect us to the past and bring history alive. There is something about visiting the sites of these ancient civilizations that fascinates me. You can see the potential that people all over the world and thousands of years ago had for greatness. Some of these amazing structures were built long before all the machinery, transport and communication tools that we have now. 

 Peru, Machu Picchu

The purpose of Machu Picchu will always remain a mystery. It is probably a religious and spiritual site.  The Inca trail leading up to Machu Picchu (it takes four days  of camping out in the Andes if you want to do it) was built to always face the snow-capped mountains because that is what they worshipped .How they transported all that granite up there  remains a mystery. It is believed that they quarried  it on site. No other civilization has managed to assemble so many colossal stone blocks so seamlessly cut with stones or bronze.  There is no mortar holding them together and they are earthquake-proof constructions.

 Chile, Easter Island, Rapa Nui Park

Who carved such enormous statues? How did they move them and raise them up onto platforms? The missionary’s stories, the explorer’s diaries, the archaeologist’s shovel, the anthropologist’s bones and the Rapa Nui oral tradition have all revealed something of the story. No one agrees on any of the answers to these questions. Archaeologists have proposed methods for moving the statues, using various combinations of log rollers, sledges and ropes .In the Rapa Nui oral tradition, the Moai were infused with mana, a spiritual force from the ancestors and the Moai walked.The Rapa Nui stories make just as much sense of the unknown as the scientific theories. There is no proof that it did not happen that way.

Turkey, Cappodocia

The dramatic landscape is the result of volcanic eruptions that happened millions  years ago. Wind and water eroded the land leaving these odd surreal land formations, fairy chimneys, caves and underground cities. Goreme Open Air Museum is a group of cave churches and monasteries from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. The most famous and most restored one is Karanlik Killse (Dark Church) which is filled with elaborate Byzantine frescoes. Early Christians escaping from Roman persecution found shelter in Cappadocia.

Turkey, Ephesus

The ancient city of Ephesus was built in the tenth century. It was a large city (over 250,000 inhabitants in the first century BC) and a major port for trade routes into Asia Minor. Ephesus was known in antiquity for its sacred shrines, the most famous being the temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (only foundations and sculptural fragments remain). Ephesus came under Roman control in 129 BC, and continued to prosper under Emperor Augustus as capital of the Roman province of Asia. It was also an important centre of early Christianity and its greatest Christian monument was the 4th century church of St. John the Evangelist.

 Turkey, Pergamon

Pergamon was one of the key Roman cities of Anatolia and the well-preserved remains hint at the grand spectacle that the city was during its glory days. Excavations reach back to the second century B.C. It  has one of the largest libraries in the world and one of the steepest theatres.

Cambodia, Ta Prohm 

Yes,Ta Prohm is the temple where Angelina Jolie played Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. Ta Promh has been left the way it was originally found.  It was built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The jungle had completely engulfed the entire complex when it was discovered in the last century. It was amazing to see how the massive trees have grown around and atop the structures, their roots seemingly strangling and holding up the temple’s towers and other buildings.

Cambodia, Angor Wat

Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone. It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today. It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

Jordan, Petra

 Petra is a city of rose-colored stone, carved out of rock by the Nabateans in the third century BC. Like Macchu Picchu, there isn’t a lot of information known about it. It is one of the dryest places on earth and how they got water for the thirty thousand people who lived here is a mystery. Stephen Spielberg brought it to us in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. 

Thailand, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was the old capital of the Thai kingdom from the thirteenth to the seventeenth century.  The site resembles a  graveyard of temples,  headless Buddhas (beheaded by the Burmese in the thirteenth century) and ruins showing what it might have looked like.

Myanmar, Bagan

Bagan is an ancient city located in the Mandalay region of Myanmar. From the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, the city was the capital of the Pagan kingdom. During the kingdom’s height between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, over 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries were constructed in the Bagan plains alone, of which the remains of over 2,200 temples and pagodas still survive to the present day.

Mexico, Tulum

The ancient walled city perched on the edge of a cliff in Quintana Roo overlooking the Caribbean ocean was a major trading and religious centre between the eleventh and sixteenth centuries. Tulum was built to be a seaport fortress, with steep ocean cliffs providing protection from the East, and a large limestone wall enclosing the rest of the city on three sides. 

Acropolis, Greece

The Acropolis looms over Athens, and is impossible not to recognize.This citadel includes the famous white-columned Parthenon, as well as the fifth century, Propylaia, Erechtheion and Temple of Athena Nike. The Parthenon temple was dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and war who planted the first olive tree on this very spot to found the city of Athens.

Italy, Colosseum

The Colosseum has been regarded as an iconic symbol of Rome since the Middle Ages.  Built in eighty A.D, it is a massive structure and is the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire. Being able to seat close to 50,000 spectators, it was the premier venue for wild beast shows and bloody gladiator combat.

Italy, Forum

Once the centre of public and political life in Ancient Rome, the Forum is a sprawling labyrinth of ancient ruins, including the Temple of Saturn, the Arch of Titus and the House of the Vestals. You’re standing in the very center of the ancient city, surrounded by the remains of famous temples and political buildings. The people of Rome saw the funeral of Julius Caesar here, along with the execution of Cicero and countless triumphal processions.

 Italy, Pantheon

The Pantheon was built as a temple dedicated to the worship of  Roman gods. In 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV and Emperor Phocas converted it into the Christian church we see today. The Pantheon is considered a rotunda, a circular drum structure. Perfect mathematically, the Pantheon’s dome has an opening in the center.  In fact, the Pantheon in Rome still holds the world record for having the largest unsupported concrete dome.

Croatia, Diocletians Palace 

Diocletian’s Palace was built in the fourth century as a retirement seaside residence for the Roman Emperor, his family and seven hundred or so servants and guards in Split. The rectangular structure (520 x 620 feet) was two stories, fronted the sea and was built more like a fort than a palace. It is the most complete Roman ruins of a palace in existence today. It is not a museum .Three thousand people live and work on the grounds and there are many shops and restaurants. It is best seen when not besieged  by cruise ships.

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Angor Wat, Cambodia

Angor Wat, Cambodia

“One of these temples – a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo  – might take its place besides our most beautiful buildings – Grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome …it makes the traveler forget all the fatigues of the journey, filling him with admiration and delight, such as should be experienced on finding a verdant oasis in the sandy desert” Henry Mouhot (the French explorer who publicized Angor Wat by writing about his findings)

There’s a moment just before you do what it is you have anticipated doing for your whole life, that is better than actually doing it. That is how it felt as the plane landed in Siem Reap. Everyone was a tourist. Everyone had their Iphones out and were snapping photos out the window and of the Cambodian Airlines plane that we were on.

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Collective excitement is definitely more exciting – especially in many different languages. We were here. The place that we had watched on the Discovery Channel specials, or documentaries and/or had seen photos of, was just a few miles from the airport. The next day, everyone on that plane was about to see one of the most impressive sights in the world.

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Angor Wat is the largest temple in the world and the world’s largest religious building constructed of stone.

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It is often described as one of the most extraordinary architectural creations ever built, with its intricate bas-reliefs, strange acoustics and magnificent soaring towers. It was built by King Suryavarman II in the 12th century. The Cambodian word Angkor is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Nagara’ meaning ‘holy city’. It was originally built as a Hindu temple.

Angkor Wat is unusually oriented to the west, a direction typically associated with death in Hindu culture. Archaeologists and scholars disagree about why the ancient builders chose to deviate from the ‘norm’ at the time. Bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat read counterclockwise, another sign that the temple is associated with funeral rituals.

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Also unusual for the time of construction, Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu a Hindu deity, rather than the current king.

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Angkor Wat was shifted from Hindu to Buddhist use sometime around the late 13th century. The temple is still used by Buddhists today.

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The temples greatest sculptural treasure is its 2 meter high bas reliefs, around the walls of the outer gallery.

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It is the longest continuous bas reliefs in the world. In some areas, traces of paint and gilt that once covered the carvings can still be seen.

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There are scenes of legends, wars and everyday life, enhanced by carvings of nearly 2,000 apsaras, or celestial dancers.

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Angor Wat was made a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1992.The site suffered from decades of unregulated tourism and looting; many ancient statues have been decapitated and their heads sold to private collectors.

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An international collaborative effort has helped to slowly restore sites and prevent further collapse of unstable structures.

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Sokimex, a private company founded by an ethnic Vietnamese-Cambodian businessman, has rented Angkor Wat from Cambodia since 1990 and manages tourism there – for profit.

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Most of the money to restore Angkor Wat comes from foreign aid.

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Only an estimated 28% of ticket sales goes back into the temples,

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It is architecturally and artistically breathtaking. No photograph can capture the immensity of this monument.

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I expected to have some deep spiritual connection with Angor Wat but I did not. Instead I felt the imprints of history and stood in awe of the skill and artistry that covers ever inch of the buildings from an ancient Khmer universe that surpasses the imagination.

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Fly safe,

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JAZ