Some two thousand years after Greek scholars listed the seven wonders of the ancient world, a foundation created by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber has announced seven sites elected as the modern world wonders.
The sites were chosen by millions of people who voted on the Internet and also by mobile-phone text messaging (SMS). The competition organizers say 100 million people participated in what is being described as the first global democratic vote.
The results were unveiled at a glitzy ceremony in Portugal's capital, Lisbon, on July 7. The event was attended by stars and celebrities including former astronaut Neil Armstrong and American singer and actress Jennifer Lopez.
The competition and its result, which generated lots of enthusiasm, have been criticized by experts and the United Nations.
UNESCO, the UN's cultural body, said in a statement in June that the list of the seven new wonders will be the result of a "private initiative" that cannot contribute in any significant or lasting way to the preservation of the elected sites.
The organizers of the competition claim that publicity will help protect endangered monuments.
They have vowed to use half of the funds raised through sponsorship and other activities to restore monuments such as the Bamyan Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001.
Seven Modern Wonders
The seven modern wonders of the list were chosen from 20 candidates short-listed from among 77 initial ones.
Losing out among the front-runners on the short-listed sites were the Acropolis in Athens and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
The Colosseum in Rome is the only Western site to have been chosen among the world's new wonders of the world.
Three of the winners are in Latin America. They include the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico, the statue of Christ the Redeemer that gazes down at Rio de Janeiro, and the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru. Their selection led to joy and celebration among people in the three countries that cheered, danced and applauded when their sites were selected.
There was also celebration in Jordan where Petra, the 2,000-year-old city carved in rose-red stone, made the list.
In the Indian city of Agra, Indians handed out sweets and set off fireworks outside the Taj Mahal funeral monument to celebrate its inclusion in a list of new seven wonders. The tomb was built by the Mogul emperor Shah Jahan for his wife.
In China, there was reportedly less enthusiasm for the event but still some citizens expressed joy over the selection of the Great Wall as one of the world's new wonders.
Organizers of the contest say the it was a chance to level the global cultural playing field and recognize the achievements of societies outside Europe and the Middle East.
The initiative sought to recreate the popularity of the seven wonders of the ancient world, out of which only the Egyptian pyramids still stand.
(compiled from agency reports)
A UNESCO team working to stabilize Herat minarets in 2003 (UNESCO)
THE MINARETS OF HERAT: In Afghanistan's leafy western city of Herat, a two-lane road slices between the city's five remaining 15th-century minarets. Every truck, car, bus, motorcycle, and horse-drawn carriage that passes by sends vibrations coursing through the delicate structures.
In particular, the Fifth Minaret -- all 55 meters of it -- seems ready to collapse into a dusty heap of bricks and colored tiles at any moment. A large crack near its base makes drivers speed up just a little as they pass by....(more)
Click on the image to view an audio slideshow of this story by RFE/RL correspondent Grant Podelco.
ARCHIVETo view RFE/RL's complete coverage of Afghanistan, click here.
SUBSCRIBE For weekly news and analysis on Afghanistan by e-mail, subscribe to "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report."