The Egyptians had pyramids, the Mesopotamians had ziggurats, which are massive brick structures with raised platforms with successively receding levels. Nobody knows what they stood for, but it’s presumed that they once contained shrines dedicated to the gods and had living quarters for priests. The Great Ziggurat of Ur in Iraq is one fine example of a ziggurat. But Choga Zanbil is one of the few ziggurats that lies outside Mesopotamia, and it’s the largest one among them. The ziggurat stands at the site of the ancient city of Elam, in today’s Khuzestan province in southwest Iran.
Choga Zanbil was built around 1250 BCE by the king Untash-Napirisha to honor the great god Inshushinak. But before the ziggurat could be completed, the king died and construction … Read the rest
Maison Carrée in Nimes, France. Photo credit: Lamax/Shutterstock.com
The Maison Carrée in the city of Nimes, in southern France, is the only ancient Roman building that you don’t have to use the word “ruins” to describe. Although not as impressive as the Parthenon of Athens, nor as elegant as the Pantheon in Rome, the Maison Carrée retains an integrity in its design, and preserves much of its original ornamentation, unlike so many ancient buildings that have been repurposed through the ages.
The Maison Carrée was built in the beginning of the first century. According to the inscription, it was dedicated to Lucius and Gaius Caesar, the grandsons whom Emperor Augustus had adopted as his hopeful heirs. Unfortunately, they died young before Augustus could be succeeded, … Read the rest
About 8 kilometers south of Ypres, in the middle of a farm, is a small green pond known as the “Pool of Peace”, but its creation was a rather violent event.
It was 1916 and the First World War was in its second year. The Germans had occupied the Belgian coast and was using the coastal ports as bases from which they attacked merchant ships and troop transports in the North Sea and English Channel. Capturing these ports became a major objective for the British army. But before that could happen, the British had to drive the Germans out of a tactically important high ground called the Messines–Wytschaete Ridge, located south of Ypress, in Belgium.
The crater at Spanbroekmolen, also known as the Lone Tree Crater … Read the rest
A popular way to see the beautiful city of Bruges in Belgium is from a boat cruising along the city’s many canals. The historic city center is conveniently enclosed within an ‘egg’ encircled by canals allowing tourists to take a boat ride around the city center admiring the charming historic houses and churches. The city’s canals themselves are worth seeing, particularly the tree-lined Bruges-Sluis Canal or the Damme Canal.
The canal is about 15 km long and connects Bruges to the Dutch border town of Sluis through the town of Damme. It was dug on the orders of Napoleon Bonaparte, and hence it is also called Napoleon Vaart, or Napoleon Canal.
Panoramic view of the famous Damme Canal. Photo credit: canadastock/Shutterstock.com
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The world’s longest sea crossing connecting Hong Kong with Macau and Zhuhai opened this week in China. The unusual bridge cum tunnel system consist of a series of three cable-stayed bridges and one undersea tunnel, as well as two artificial islands for a total length of 55 km.
The largest part of the crossing is the 30-km-long Main Bridge, which is actually a bridge and a 6.7 km undersea tunnel that dips beneath the Pearl River Estuary and emerges at the other end just before the Hong Kong border. The undersea tunnel was built to avoid disrupting shipping lanes. The route then continues over a 9.4-km-long viaduct and ends at Chek Lap Kok, the island where Hong Kong International Airport is located.
The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge … Read the rest
In south-west England, there runs a great earthwork from the mouth of River Dee near Chester, to the estuary of River Severn near Chepstow, traversing through more than 150 miles, although the earthwork is not continuous. This is Offa’s Dyke, and for centuries it has marked the boundary between England and Wales.
Offa was the king of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia during the second half of the 8th century. He controlled large swathes of land in the lowlands of Britain to the east and south-east of what was to become England, but the land to the west was divided into a number of kingdoms free from Anglo-Saxon rule. These kingdoms, ruled by the Romano-Britons—a culture that evolved after the fall of the Roman Empire—eventually become … Read the rest
In the early 1960s, movie director David Lean was scouting for locations to shoot his upcoming movie Lawrence of Arabia when he learned about Ouarzazate. This large desert town, nestled at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, in southern Morocco had exotic scenery, clear skies and friendly locals, providing an attractive location for movies involving ancient, desert-based story lines. Lean eventually shot most part of the movie in Spain, but many key scenes were also shot in Jordan and in Ouarzazate, such as the massacre of the Turkish Army in the town of Tafas.
Over the last fifty years, countless movies and TV series have been shot in Morocco, and in Ouarzazate in particular. These include The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Last … Read the rest
For more than forty years a lighthouse stood on a large anvil-shaped peninsula jutting into the Tasman Sea near Jervis Bay, in southern Australia. It stood at a place where it shouldn’t have, luring ignorant ships into the very rocks they were trying to avoid.
The cliffs around Cape St George just south of Jervis Bay was notorious for shipwrecks, and so in the mid-19th century, it was decided that a lighthouse was needed for the safe navigation of coastal shipping.
Photo credit: John Eggers/Wikimedia
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The Westbury White Horse carved on the hillside near Westbury in Wiltshire, England. Photo credit: tipwarm/Shutterstock.com
A large portion of Southern England is made up of chalk. This white limestone are the shells of tiny marine organisms that lived and died in the seas that once covered much of Britain some 90 million years ago. As time progressed, layers of calcium carbonate built up and got compacted into a solid layer of rock. Later, tectonic movements lifted the sea floor out of the sea and these became the magnificent downland in south of England.
Much of this chalk is hidden by a thin layer of soil and vegetation, except on the edges where the chalk is exposed to the sea, leading to such dramatic headlands as … Read the rest
For centuries, children and kindergarteners have sung and danced to the tune of London Bridge is falling down, but when engineers discovered that the London Bridge was actually falling down in the early 1900s, it was no laughing matter. The stone bridge was just over a century old, and was the busiest point in London crossed by 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles every hour. Surveyors found that the bridge was slowly sinking—about one third of a centimeter every year. When measurements were taken in 1924, they found that the bridge’s east side stood some 9 cm lower than the west side. Another four decades had passed before the City Council could arrive at a decision.
Council member Ivan Luckin suggested that instead of demolishing the … Read the rest