For Your Eyes Only

The race to conserve the last remaining wonders of the world

By Abdul Azim

The world is ripe with beauty. Carved by nature and crafted by man; these wonders lay dotted across our planet, basking in timeless sophistication. The same however, cannot be said for all. As geographical and social threats emerge, several of these wonders will not stand the test of time.

They will soon become fragments of the past or at best, evolve into obscure pages on Wikipedia. Future generations lay at risk of never having the privilege to be immersed in their greatness. Making them truly: FOR YOUR EYES ONLY.

Tombs of the Buganda Kings – Kampala, Uganda

A stone’s throw away from the bustling metropolitan capital of Uganda: Kampala, lies a sacred hill fenced in humble reed. Atop this hill lie the tombs of past royalties and presidents of Uganda. Truly one-of-a-kind, the construction of the tombs is considered unique even when compared with the architecturally intricate Taj Mahal or the colossal pyramids. No quarries were needed for the manufacturing of stone, and no masons were required for the construction. The tombs were woven with wooden poles, spear grass, reeds and wattle. These materials used to construct the tomb are also the reason why this site is at risk of being endangered. On the 16th of March 2010, fire ravaged the main tomb causing widespread damage to the original structure. While the cause of the fire remains undetermined, the organic nature of the tombs make them potential fire hazards. There would be no telling when it could happen again, or if the inner sanctum would survive if a second incident took place.

Samarra Archaeological City – Samarra, Iraq

Beyond crumbling monuments of the fallen Saddam dictatorship, lie ruins from a bygone era. Dating back to the 8th century, Samarra, once a bustling capital city of the Abbasid Caliphate was the centre of the Islamic empire. A shifting Tigris River depriving the city of accessible water and Baghdad transforming into the new city capital sparked its decline. Neglected for nearly 1100 years, key elements of the city’s architecture and layout still stand proudly: A single huge spiral minaret dominates the landscape.  Currently, the site has seen renewed activity as a base for foreign armies. Military activity, infringing local agriculture and a lack of enforcement by Samarra’s conservation groups have led to progressive decay. In time, the shifting desert sands will engulf the forgotten ancient city of Samarra and not even the glorious spiral minaret will stand visible as a testament of its former glory.

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras – Luzon Island, Philippines

The people of the Philippine Cordilleras have managed to establish an equilibrium with Gaia. An agricultural method first conceived almost 2 millennia ago by the ancient Ifugao people has since been passed down from generation to generation. Along with all the customs, traditions and techniques associated with maintaining this engineering marvel. Built on the slopes of the Philippine Cordilleras Mountain Range, the cultivation of the crops are lauded as an impressive engineering achievement. Cutting into the slopes for flat crop land reflects the awe inspiring precision of an ancient empire. Technical achievements aside, the landscape’s beauty alone is gripping. Today, few traditional granaries remain with many farmers leaving for cities. This rural to urban migration, has been steadily whittling away at this ancient culture, slowly driving it into extinction.

These are just a few examples of majestic wonders around the world that have come under threat of fading away entirely. While climate change or human conflicts present the immediate danger, it is human apathy and ignorance that represent their true downfall. We do not care enough to preserve, we do act enough to prevent, nor do we try hard enough to change. So when you plan your next holiday, keep this in mind: “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Be among the last and witness the beauty of fading wonders around the world.


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