As travellers set out on holiday this year, many will descend upon popular tourist attractions but few will actually discover the unique stories and amazing secrets behind these astounding structures.
From around the globe, check out 8 sites and some of their most shocking secrets!
1) Taj Mahal
If legend is to be believed, Emperor Shah Jahan demanded that the hands of the workers who built the Taj Mahal, be chopped off, once the iconic building was completed. Allegedly, his reasoning was that he never wanted another structure so magnificent to be resurrected again.
Of course, there is no written proof of this story yet and still, one can’t help but to marvel at the sheer engineering genius.
According to the website Lonely Planet, “To make the Taj Mahal appear perfectly straight from ground level, the architect designed the minarets to slant slightly outward, which also ensured that in the event of an earthquake they would fall away from the mausoleum’s precious dome.”
The Taj Mahal is open every day except Fridays.
2) Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
Situated in the Arabian Desert, the cost to create this masterpiece totaled a whooping US$1.5 billion.
Towering over structures like the Eiffel Tower, the Burj Khalifa is on record as the world’s tallest edifice. It is said to be able to endure earthquakes and blustering winds.
“This superscraper is designed with a ‘buttressed core’ – three wings set at 120 degrees to each other, anchored around a central hub. Each wing supports the others, so when the wind blows on two of the wings, the third resists the force,” according to the Lonely Planet.
At 828m high, if you dare, step onto Burj Khalifa’s observation deck. You can purchase tickets at the Dubai Mall at: www.burjkhalifa.ae/observation-deck/ticket-information.aspx.
3) Moai, Easter Island (Rapa Nui), Polynesia
Myths which have developed through time say that the Easter Island symbolic figurines were responsible for the destruction and extinction of the Easter islanders.
According to the Lonely Planet: “Transporting them on logs would have devastated forests, and without trees the soil would have washed away, causing failed harvests, famine, war and cannibalism.”
Though new discoveries may tell a different story.
“Satellite images of Easter Island, taken in 2005, show dirt tracks radiating from the quarry where these mysterious 10m-tall statues were carved. After attaching ropes to the head of the moai, small teams could have moved the statues by ‘walking’ them along,” says the website.
4) Stonehenge, England
Everyone from druids to aliens have been credited with building Stonehenge. The real question is why was it constructed?
New proof has been provided which propose it was built to commemorate midwinter, not midsummer, as was originally thought.
Most of the structures line up with sunrise and sunset at midwinter. In addition, it’s now known that an abundance of pork was consumed to commemorate the days getting longer – this was determined by the dating of pig teeth found at the site.
“And how was it built? Around 2600BC, bluestones were (most likely) floated on river rafts from the Preseli Hills in west Wales. Radioactive dating proves glaciers couldn’t have swept them to Salisbury Plain 40,000 years ago, as once thought. On site, the foot of each stone was levered into a pit, and lintels lifted into place using scaffolding,” the Lonely Planet says.
5) Eiffel Tower, Paris, France
Created for the 1889 World’s Fair, Monsieur Eiffel was first in line to hike the tower’s 1710 stairs, all the way to the top.
Even though Mr. Eiffel financed the building’s development, in the first year, he collected upwards of US$1 million from ticket sales.
Standing 324m tall, the Eiffel Tower served as a convenient radio atenna for the Germans during World War II.
Every 7 years, about 50 tons of paint is used to keep the structure’s outer face looking flawless.
6) Great Wall of China, China
“Initially built out of rocks and mud, 16th-century Emperor Jiajing developed the Great Wall into a formidable stone dragon. Millions of workers were recruited from the army or press-ganged into signing up, and worked around the clock, extending the wall and constructing the forts,” according to the Lonely Planet.
Documents say that a 3km portion was finished in 600 days by a total of 3000 men.
What’s interesting, even though it’s been said to be the only man-made object visible from space, the Great Wall, in reality, can only be seen with a high-definition camera lens from low Earth orbit.
7) Angkor Wat, Cambodia
This kingdom boasted around 1 million people living in its city and from that, it took around 300,000 builders to construct the temples with the help of 6000 elephants. This is astounding as most temples have taken centuries to create, especially one of this magnitude.
Angkor Wat is said to be the largest place of worship in the world in fact, its temples can be seen from space.
“Each one of more than 3000 seductive nymphs (apsaras) carved on the temple walls is unique and has one of 37 different hairstyles,” says the Lonely Planet.
8) Machu Picchu, Peru
Hanging from the edge, elevated in the Andes, the ancient city of Machu Picchu was created and abandoned in less than 100 years and, not known to society for centuries.
It is believed that when the Inca built the city, they didn’t utilize wheels to transport materials but rather pulling and towing by hand. Protrusions were found on a small amount of stones to suggest they were used as grips for the builder’s hands.
Clever building tactics were employed to counteract earthquakes such as: : L-shaped blocks anchored corners together, doors and windows tilted inward, and no mortar was used between stones so that, if shaken, they could move and resettle without collapsing.