From Machu Picchu to Timbuktu: The Search for the World's Seven New Wonders

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World have been around forever it seems. Isn't it time for some "new" monuments to take their place? The people from New 7 Wonders think so. They're traveling the globe looking for the best of the best.

After such a gruelling travel schedule, one can hardly blame the people from New 7 Wonders for wanting to take a couple weeks off. From the group's Sept. 5 kick-off at the Acropolis in Greece, Bernard Weber and his team have hit 12 sites in 12 different countries -- from the furthest reaches of East Asia to Stonehenge in England -- and this week they are in India taking a closer look at the Taj Mahal. Team members, though, have most of December to rest up. Looking for the new seven wonders of the world, after all, is hard work.

The quest has been underway for some time. Weber, a filmmaker and adventurer from Switzerland, launched the project in 2001 with a vision of creating a list as imposing and impressive as the original wonders, compiled over 2,000 years ago. Since every monument on the original list -- except for the pyramids -- no longer exists, Weber reasoned it was time for an update. And, initially at least, he financed the search himself. But with growing worldwide interest in the project came the New 7 Wonders Foundation -- and a long list of possible wonders. By 2005, fully 200 buildings and monuments were on the list.

Back in 200 B.C., Philon of Byzantium chose the Seven Ancient Wonders himself. But Weber wanted to do things a bit more democratically. An Internet vote, which drew some 20 million votes, cut the list down to 77 monuments and a jury of internationally recognized architects took it from there, paring the inventory of wonders down to the 21 finalists. Weber and his 10-member team are currently engaged in the thankless task of traveling the world and taking in some of the most stunningly beautiful structures ever built.

The Seven Ancient Wonders and their Potential Successors
The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
The Mausoleum of Halicarnassus
The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
The Colossus of Rhodes
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Pyramids of Egypt
The Temple of Artemis
The Statue of Zeus
The 21 Candidates for the New Seven Wonders
Acropolis
The Alhambra in Granada
Great Wall of China
Eiffel Tower in Paris
Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janiero
Statue of Liberty in New York
Haghia Sophia in Istanbul
Machu Piccu in Peru
Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto
Colosseum in Rome
Kremlin in Moscow
The City of Timbuktu in Mali
Sydney Opera House
The Pyramids in Egypt
Angkor Wat in Cambodia
Ruins of Chichen Itza in Mexico
Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany
Easter Island Statues
Petra in Jordan
Stonehenge in England
Taj Mahal in Agra, India
And being lavishly hosted. It seems that many of the sites want to put their best foot forward to get on the list of lists. The Sydney Opera House, says project spokeswoman Tia Viering, put on a show including drag queens dressed up to look just like the building itself. Stonehenge wowed the weary travelers with dancing druids.

"We give them a chance to present themselves to the global voters and to their own people," Viering says. "We just show up with our hot air balloon. They are responsible for presenting their monument the way they want us to see it."

Tuesday's viewing of the Taj Mahal will mark the end of the Asian leg of the tour -- a trip which included stops at the Haghia Sophia in Istanbul, the Great Wall of China, and the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. Starting in January, the team will head to Africa to visit Timbuktu before calling at Petra in Jordan and then returning to the pyramids in Egypt. By early February, they will be in South America for stops in Rio de Janeiro, Machu Picchu, Chichen Itza and Easter Island. "We'll have to tether our balloon on Easter Island, says Viering. "If we fly away, it's a long, long way to the next landfall."

The last stop on their global journey is the Statue of Liberty in New York on March 6. Voting will continue until July 6 before the winners are announced on 07/07/07. And then? Then we'll have to wait and see if the new wonders develop the cachet of the old. By the year 4200 or so it should be clear.

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