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Mysterious Mystical Places
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Mysterious Mystical Places
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MYSTIC PLACES
Petra
Jordan
  Ryoanji Rock Garden
Kyoto, Japan
  Step Pyramids
Saqqara, Egypt
  Chichen Itza
Yucatan, Mexico
  Karnak Temple
Luxor, Egypt
  Sultan Ahmet Mosque
Istanbul, Turkey
  St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City, Rome.
  Moai Statues
Easter Island, Chile
  Marble Temple
Thailand
  Mecca
Saudi Arabia
  The Great Wall
China
Bagan Temples
Myanmar
Ajanta & Ellora Caves
Anrangabad, India


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Updated: May 5, 2004


Throughout the ages man has raised monuments to the age they lived; be religious places of worship, buildings or statues for glorification of kings, saints, or love ones, memorials to the dead, astrological sites, building of immense architectural ingenuity, or sites of unusual energy. These places are the legacy handed down through the ages as guiding lights to pass on the knowledge and experiences of long past cultures. These peoples thought in major proportions and the monuments they passed down to us are testaments to the greatness of these cultures. What will be our legacy to those that follow us, will we raise to the challenge and leave great and immense structure that will take their breath away, that will be the seeds of thought and inspiration for all the future generations.

Petra is an ancient city of tombs, temples and other monumental buildings carved into solid sandstone cliffs in arid gorges in southern Jordan. The cliff buildings of Petra were sculpted by the Nabataeans, an Arab tribe that flourished from around the 4th century BC to 106 AD, when the Romans took control. They were remarkable engineers who constructed a sophisticated pipe-and-tunnel water system to bring in drinking water and keep out flash floods. The main Petra entrance way named the Siq is dramatic. It's a twisting gorge bounded closely on both sides by sheer cliff walls soaring about 200 meters (600 feet). At one point, the space between the towering walls narrows to just 5 meters (16 feet). Sometimes, the cliff walls come so close together that they block your view of the sky. This tight passageway provided the ancient Nabataeans with a natural defense for repelling invading enemies.

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The Ryoanji Temple garden - Temple of the Peaceful Dragon - Kyoto are the most famous example of a Zen rock garden and were created during the Muromachi era (1333-1573) by an unknown designer. The garden contains 15 rocks arranged on the surface of white pebbles in such a manner that visitors can see only 14 of them at once, no matter what angle the garden is viewed from, only when you attain true spiritual enlightenment can you see the last stone with your "mind's eye".. The rocks were seen as symbols, representing a tigress crossing the sea with her cubs, or the Chinese characters for the 'heart' or 'mind'. A tree-like skeleton is formed in the garden's rectangular space - measuring 35 yards from east to west and 12 yards from north to south - where 15 rocks are arranged on white gravel in five groups, each comprising five, two, three, two, and three rocks. Zen is a Japanese school of 12th century Chinese origin, which teaches that contemplation of one's essential nature to the exclusion of all else is the only way of achieving pure enlightenment.

King Djoser's step pyramid at Saqqara built in 2630 BC. It was made for the pharaoh Djoser and began as a normal mastaba, but was subsequently enlarged by adding one mastaba on top of another until it consisted of six terraces some 200ft (60 meters) high. The surface was originally encased in smooth white limestone which must have caught the sun light and reflected its rays. The person responsible for the step pyramid was Imhotep, Djoser's vizier. He is credited as being the inventor of building in stone and was a man of many talents - Architect, physician, master sculpture, scribe, and astronomer. He must be the first true genius in recorded history and his impression on the Egyptians was profound because later generations revered him as a god of wisdom..

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The Mayan ruins Chichén Itzá in Yucatan, Mexico were abandoned in the 10th century - and were soon overrun by jungle growth. Many key buildings have been reclaimed, including the famous Chichen Itza pyramid (see photo). Four broad stairways lead up to the temple at the top, which affords an excellent view of the overall Chichén Itzá site. Be forewarned: The exceptionally steep 91-step descent is not for acrophobics.Chichén Itzá was first populated between 500 and 900 AD by Mayans and for some reason abandoned around 900, the city was then resettled 100 years later and subsequently invaded by Toltecs from the North. There are numerous reliefs of both Mayan gods including Chac and the Toltec gods including Quetzacoatl. For some reason the city was abandoned around 1300. The Toltecs originated from Central Mexico, and one respected theory suggests that the Toltecs invaded Chichén Itzá and imposed their architectural style on new constructions. According to Toltec history, in 987AD the legendary ruler Quetzalcóatl was defeated and expelled from Tula. He was last seen leaving from the Gulf coast on a raft of serpents. However, in the same year, Mayan stories recorded the arrival of a king named Kukulkán, the Serpent God, whose return had been expected. Kukulkán defeated the Mayan city tribes, and made Chichén Itzá his capital.The ruins of Chichén Itzá lie about midway between Cancún and Mérida.

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The temples of Karnak and Luxor were built over three thousand years ago to honor the great god Amun. The modern town of Luxor is the site of the famous city of Thebes, (Waset in ancient Egyptian) the city of a hundred gates. It was the capital of Egypt from the 12th dynasty (1991 BC) and reached its zenith during the New Kingdom. It was from here that Thutmose III planned his campaigns, Akenaten first contemplated the nature of god and Rameses II set out his ambitious building program. Luxor Temple was built in the heart of the ancient city of Thebes, and was connected to Karnak by a 3 kilometer processional way lined with sphinxes.  Like most of the Karnak complex, Luxor Temple was also dedicated to the god Amun.  The principal builders in ancient Thebes included the New Kingdom pharaohs Tuthmosis III (ruled 1504-1450 BC) and Amenhotep III of dynasty 18 (1386-1349 BC), and Ramesses II of dynasty 19.  Ramesses II (1279-1212 BC), known as Ramesses the Great, was a prolific builder enamoured of colossal statues of himself. The Temple of Karnak is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples. This vast complex was built and enlarged over a thirteen hundred year period. The main complex, The Temple of Amun, is situated in the center of the entire complex. The Temple of Monthu is to the north of the Temple of Amun, while the Temple of Mut is to the south. There is also the small Temple dedicated to Khonsu, and next to it, an even smaller temple of Opet. The ancient name for Karnak was Ipet Isut, 'The Most Select of Places'. 

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The present Church of St. Peter stands upon the site where at the beginning of the first century the gardens of Agrippina lay, Caius Caligula later built a circus there. Early Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs and, according to church tradition, in A.D. 64, the apostle Peter was arrested, brought to one of the great imperial circuses in Rome and martyred on an inverted cross. His body was taken outside the walls of the arena and there, on the side of what was called the Vatican Hill, he was buried. Pope Anacletus (76-88), Peter's immediate successor, built a small chapel over the Apostle's tomb. It immediately became a place of worship and pilgrimage for the early Christians. Almost three hundred years later, Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, declared that a great church be built on the site of the tomb of St. Peter which had evolved from a simple grave to a small shrine. Anchored on the grave of the apostle, the first St. Peter's Basilica incorporated the original shrine into the altar floor. But twelve hundred years later, when the first basilica was replaced, the details of Peter's burial had been forgotten. The exact spot where St. Peter was buried after his martyrdom by crucifixion in the circus in Rome around 64 CE. is marked by an altar in the Church of St. Peter . In the spring of the year 1506 Pope Julius II, in the presence of thirty-five cardinals, laid the foundations of St. Peters Basilica, Bramante was entrusted with the construction of the new San Pietro basilica, the renovation of the facade of the Apostolic Palace, completed by Raphael in 1519, and the construction of the massive wall and the three raised terraces between the Palace and Belvedere. In 1546 Michelangelo Buonarroti started planning the complex of the three apses and the dome. At the time of his death in 1564 the left apse and the drum, which would be vaulted under Sixtus V in 1585, were completed. . The construction of St. Peter's took a period of 176 years (1450-1626), the cost of construction including all the additions of the seventeenth century amounted to about $48,000,000.

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Easter Island in the South Pacific is noted for its stone human statues (called "moai") carved from volcanic rock. They number nearly 1000 and dot the hillsides above the rocky shores. The biggest standing moai is 10 meters (33 feet) tall. An unfinished moai in the quarry is over twice that length and would have weighed about 135,000 kilograms (150 tons). The moai's purpose is a mystery. The most popular theories say they depict gods or ancestors. Rapa Nui, as the locals call Easter Island, was inhabited by seafaring Polynesians around 400 AD. The Easter Island culture slowly evolved and peaked around 1400 AD. Linguists estimate Easter Island's first inhabitants arrived around AD 400, and most agree that they came from East Polynesia. The archaeological record suggests a somewhat later date of settlement, between AD 700 and 800. As early as BC 5500 people in Melanesia were voyaging in boats and trading in obsidian. According to an Easter Island legend, some 1,500 years ago a Polynesian chief named Hotu Matu'a ("The Great Parent") sailed here in a double canoe from an unknown Polynesian island with his wife and extended family. Easter Island is over 2,000 miles from the nearest population center, (Tahiti and Chile), making it one of the most isolated places on Earth.

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The Marble Temple or "Wat Benjamabopit Dusitavanaram," is a Royal Noble Temple, it was constructed as the source of religous heritage for the future generations of Thais during the reign of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn the Great, the Fifth King in the Rattanakosin Dynasty), who laid its foundation stone on the 1st of March, 1899 [2442 B.E.]. The main shrine was originally intended to house a highly sacred and revered Budddha image known as Phra Buddha Shinaraja, which at the time was located in the province of Phitsanulok (approximately 300 km north of Bangkok). But when construction of the Marble Temple was complete, a replicate of the Phra Buddha Shinaraja was created and enshrined in the temple instead, due to that the people of Phitsanulok and northern Thailand were unwilling to part with their Buddha image, the main source of their religious inspiration. The Marble Temple is built entirely out of white marble as its name suggests, manifests the devotion that Thai people have for Buddhism.

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Mecca is located about 80 km from the Red Sea Coast, around a natural well, and is the most holy city in Islam. The city is revered from being the first place created on earth, as well as the place where Ibrahim together with his son Isma'il, built the Ka'ba. The Ka'ba, the centre of Islam, is a rectangular building made of bricks. Around the Ka'ba is the great mosque, al-Haram, and around the mosque, in between the mountains, are the houses that make up Mecca. Mecca was a central point on the caravan routes running over the Arabian peninsula at the time of Muhammad. Mecca was revered as a holy city even before the first revelations came to Muhammad. Mecca's importance as a centre of religious teaching must not be exaggerated. Very soon in the beginning of the Muslim expansion, religious teaching moved to other places in the Muslim world. Mecca is important in two points: Centre of the compulsory pilgrimage, and a focal point for all Muslims. Today, many of the people living in Mecca are pilgrims wanting to study Islam in the very centre of the world. Every year some 2 million pilgrims attend the hajj, and this number is now regulated, where each country can send a fixed number of adherents. The numbers of Muslims coming to Mecca for the umra, the lesser pilgrimage are far less, and not regulated.

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The Great Wall is by far mankind's most extensive construction endeavor, it winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus stretching approximately 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles ) from east to west of China. In its Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) heyday, it snaked 6400 kilometers (4,000 miles) across northern China. Meng T'ien employed some 300,000 men in the creation of the original section of the wall. The Great Wall's construction was begun in 221 BC under the emperor Meng T'ien of the Qin Dynasty. Continual invasion and wars from the barbarians to the north drove the emperor to order its construction to protect the newly unified The Great Wall started at Lin-t'ao and extended to Liao-tung, reaching a distance of more than ten thousand li. After crossing the Yellow River, it wound northward, touching the Yang mountains". Following Meng T'ien's original construction other walls were added to and encompassed within The Great Wall. The last major work on the wall was completed during the Ming Dynasty around AD 1500. The Great Wall extends around 1500 miles in an east-west direction. It travels through four provinces (Hebei, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu) beginning in northern Hebei and ending in the northwest Gansu province.

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Bagan was built from the mid-11th to near the end of the 13th centuries, when it was overrun by Kublai Khan's invading forces. In its glory days, Bagan was a major religious center and a thriving city of at least 300,000 people just 193 km south of Mandalay in Upper Myanmar situated on the eastern bank of the Ayeyarwaddy Riveralong (Irrawaddy) River. The people erected over 10,000 pagodas and monasteries. The three most famous Bagan pagodas are the Thatbyinnyu, Ananda and Shwezigon Temples. Shwezigon is the holiest of the Bagan pagodas, Thatbyinnyu is the tallest, Ananda is slightly shorter but one of the oldest and best preserved. Four tall standing Buddha statues peacefully adorn its corners. Known as the city of four million pagodas, Bagan is one of the richest archaeological sites in Asia. Bagan city covers an area of 42 sq.km. There are over 2,000 pagodas, temples and monasteries built during the Bagan Dynasty founded in 1044A.D by King Anawrahta who introduced Tharavada Buddhism into Myanmar with the help of Shin Arahan, a missionary monk from Thaton. It was Buddhism that influenced the rulers of Bagan Dynasty to build innumerable pagodas and temples in and around the city.

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It was only in the 19th century that the Ajanta group of caves, lying deep within the Sahyadri hills at Maharashtra and cut into curved mountain side above the Waghora river, were discovered. A group of British officers on a tiger hunt stumbled on these wonderous ancient works of art. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning the period from 200 BC to 650 AD. The Ellora caves, of which there are a total of 34, are carved into the sides of a basaltic hill 30 kolometers from Aurangabad. The finest specimens of cavetemple architecture, they boast of elaborate facades and house exquisitely adorned interiors. These structures representing the three faiths of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, were carved between the 350 AD to 700 AD. The 12 caves towards the south are Buddhist, the 17 in the center are dedicated to Hinduism, and the 5 caves to the north are Jain. Ajanta and Ellora caves are located near the city of Aurangabad in Maharashtra. They depict the story of Buddhism, spanning a period from 200 BC to 650 AD. The 29 caves were built as secluded retreats of the Buddhist monks, who taught and performed rituals in the Chaityas and Viharas, the ancient seats of learning, and nerve - centers of the Buddhist cultural movement. Using simple tools like hammer and chisel, the monks carved out the impressive figures adorning the walls of these structures. Many of the caves house panels depicting stories from the Jatakas, a rich mine of tales of the several incarnations of the Buddha. Images of nymphs and princesses amongst others, are also elaborately portrayed.

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