Nubian Pyramids, Sudan

Nubian Pyramids
photo © Wufei07

Less famous than the Egyptian pyramids but not less fascinating, those burial monuments belong to the ancient kingdom of Kush, a rival to Egyptian settled from 2500 BC in the Nubian Valley (modern Sudan) to AD 350, when the kingdom of Axum invaded and conquered the capital Meroë and ended the Kushite dominance.

Compared to the Egyptians, they are more recent (built a thousand years after), smaller (the highest is less than 30 meters, Giza’s is 139 meters), and with steeper sides. There are around 200 pyramids in the Nubian Valley, more than in Egypt.

Meroë, located 240 kilometers north of Khartoum, is the biggest and best-preserved sacred area, where 30 kings, eight queens, and three princes are buried.

Although relatively unknown (the last group of pyramids was discovered between 2009 and 2012), the Nubian pyramids are recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011.

Valadier Temple, Italy

Valadier Temple
photo © Alicudi
 

Located in the central Italian region of Marche, about one hour drive west of the city of Ancona, this gorgeous temple designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier in 1828 was originally a refugee for Christian pilgrims.

The temple is at the entrance of the Frasassi caves complex, whose Abisso Ancona is one of the biggest cave chambers in the world, 180 meters long and 200 meters tall, enough to accommodate the Milan Cathedral.

Beside the temple stands the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Infra Saxa, built in 1029 and completely carved into the rock.

Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

Mada'in Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Qaṣr Al-Farīd tomb photo © Ahmad AlHasanat
 

Also known as Al-Ḥijr or Hegra, this impressive archaeological site belonged in the first century AD to the kingdom of Nabatean, a nomadic Bedouin tribe of the northern Arabian peninsula, whose capital was Raqmu, now known as the famous Petra (Jordan).

According to the Quran, it is believed that this is a cursed place, owing to the punishment with natural disasters given from Allah to the Thamud people (8th century BCE) for their idol worshipping.


The outstanding location consists of 131 rock-cut monumental tombs and was the first Arabian proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

The site is reachable by car from the nearest towns with flight connections: al-Wajh (100 km) and al-Ula (20 km).


All visitors need a permit to visit Mada’in Saleh (you can easily obtain the permission in the Hotels near the site).

Northern Ireland’s Peace Walls, U.K.

Belfast Peace Walls
Peace Wall in Cupar Way, Belfast, photo © mytouristmaps
 

Some of the Northern Ireland‘s neighborhoods are still divided by walls: the Peace Walls (or Peace Lines) separate the nationalists/Catholics/Irish from the loyalists/Protestants/British people.

Most of them are in Belfast, others are also existing in Portadown, Derry and Lurgan, with a total length of around 34 km; some of them have gates that are opened only during daylight.

The walls were initially built as a temporary structure to avoid the violence episodes; the first peace line is dating back to 1969 in Belfast after the riot that had involved nationalists, loyalists and police that caused more than 150 homes destroyed, almost two thousand families evacuated, 8 killed and more than 700 injured people.

The number of the walls have raised from less than 20 in the early 1990s to more than one hundred nowadays; there was also an increase after the Irish-British Good Friday Agreement of the 10th April 1998.

According to the public local opinion, the walls are still necessary to maintain the peace and avoid the violence in those areas: the majority of the people still think that more time is needed to change the mentality that has caused lots of conflicts in the past.

In September 2017, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice published its Interface Programme, which intention is removing all the structures by 2023.

Reading the messages of thousands of people marked on the Peace Walls, it is evident that the thought of the people, with or without walls, is still aimed at peace.

Tamil Nadu, India

 

The Meenakshi Temple, located in the ancient city of Madurai, is one of the most impressive Indian Hindu temples.

Rebuilt in the 14th century and renovated in the 17th century, the structure is formed by 14 gopurams (gatehouse towers) adorned with several (about a thousand) colourful sculpted pillars, celebrating the Princess Meenakshi and her marriage to Shiva.

Every evening it is represented the symbolic ceremony of the sexual union: Shiva, carried on a silver palanquin, is washed, perfumed, incensed and then taken to Parvati’s room.

The temple has been declared best Swachh Iconic Place (SIP) in India on 2017 and is one of the main Shivaism pilgrimage destinations and attracts thousands of visitors a day.

Prayer Flags, Tibet

 

The colorful flags, originated with the ancient Tibetan religion bön and typical of the mountain areas of Tibet and Himalayas are not ornaments or even simple flags: they spread wisdom, peace, strength and wellness to all living beings.

Horizontal prayer flags are called lung-ta (small and rectangular or square shape) and vertical flags are called darchor (rectangular and large, attached to vertical posts).

 
Their high altitude position is not accidental: the blow of the wind touches the prayers printed on the flags and the air is purified by the mantra, spreading all the virtues in space. 
 
The five traditional colours are placed in a specific order from left: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. They represent the five elements, which balanced, produces harmony and health:

 

  • blue: sky 
  • white: wind
  • red: fire
  • green: water
  • yellow: earth
 

Tibetans continually arrange new flags alongside the oldies, symbolizing a welcoming of new life.

Since they are sacred, the flags should be treated with respect: they should not be placed on the ground or used for other purposes.

Mount Roraima, Venezuela

Mount Roraima
© Tadashi Okoshi
 

Located at the punto triple, the border between Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela, the Mount Roraima (Roroi-ma) is, along with the Auyantepui (where is the Salto del Angel,  the world’s highest waterfall), the most famous Tepui in South America.
The Tepui (in Pemòn language “house of the Gods”) are table-top mountains formed after the erosion of the sandstone plateau that once covered the granite base between the Amazon forest and the Orinoco River, and between the Atlantic coast and the Rio Negro.

According to the beliefs of the Pemòn (people who inhabited the Gran Sabana area for centuries), Mount Roraima was originally a huge tree which bore all the fruits and vegetables of the world. After the tree fall, his stump, turned to stone, later became the house of the Gods. Due to his sacred status, the Pemòn people never attempted to climb the Roraima, so the mountain remained unexplored for many years.

The first exploration was led by Walter Raleigh, in 1596; later, the legend of Mount Roraima was the inspiration for the Scottish writer Arthur Conan Doyle in his novel The Lost World (1912) and for the Werner Herzog‘s movie The Wild Blue Yonder (2005).

Today the Mount Roraima can be visited (joining a guided tour) by travelers and tourists: with its beautiful natural landscapes including the Valley of the Crystals, the sinkhole El Foso and the Labyrinth it is one of the most fascinating destinations of the American continent, although there are no lost world’s dinosaurs.