Karnak may be a set of ruins now, but it was once the most important place of worship in the whole of Egypt. Built during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II, between 1391-1351 B.C, the Karnak Temple Complex just south of Cairo is second only to the pyramids of Giza in terms of importance in Egyptian history.
The Precinct of Amun-Re, which lies at the heart of the four main temples within the complex, is absolutely huge and has stood for thousands of years. Visitors to Karnak will be astounded by that fact that many of its main features – the towering pillars, the rows and rows of statues dedicated to the gods, and even the dwellings of the priests, is miraculously intact after all this time.
Despite the best efforts of the archaeologists involved, much of the original temple compound now lies buried under the city of Luxor, making it in accessible to the world’s historians. Even so, the timeless work of the 12th Egyptian dynasty lives on spread out over nearly 200 acres in the sacred enclosure of Amon.
Sam Tung UK Museum
A 200-year-old walled village, the Sam Tung UK Museum occupies an area of 2,000 square metres, lying right at the centre of Hong Kong. It was only a couple of centuries ago that this was the urban hub of the Tsuen Wan district, a small scattering of rural communities which was preoccupied with village and agricultural life.
Declared an historical monument in 1981, the museum features an incredible ancestral hall which is laid out within a kind of chessboard sequence – the multi-coloured tiles of the flooring clash with each other as you walk from room to room. Although Hong Kong is now more readily known as a thrilling port which wears its futuristic aspirations on its sleeve, this is one place where you can still tour the history of the city in fine style.
Park Guell by Gaudi
First built in 1900, the Park Guell was created in order to foster a balance between the industrial and artistic endeavours which made Barcelona a powerhouse of Europe. It’s fair to say that its creator, Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, succeeded in this regard, positioning the beautiful garden onto the hill of El Carmel so the whole grand scope of the city unfolds below the site.
Rainbow-streaked mosaics are the milestones which mark separate parts of the municipal garden, so as you wander among the art deco church facades and gothic spires, you’ll find yourself coming face to face with multi-coloured Salamanders and curving walls speckled with glitter tiles. At the heart of the park, you can find Gaudi’s very own house (which is as striking as you might expect) as well as the Sagrada Familia Church, a timeless icon of the Barcelona landscape, the spires of which have graced countless postcards and travel catalogues.
Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum
In the western suburbs of Tokyo, away from the busy network of streets that interlock at the city centre, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Architectural Museum opens its doors to hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. In a way, the Museum was built as a rescue mission. After nearly all of the buildings from the Meiji Period (1868-1912) were lost in a cataclysmic sequence of fires, earthquakes, world wars, and even the bulldozers of city development, Edo-Tokyo was built as a safe haven in which to preserve the architecture of the past.
Now, protected from city zoning regulations and the endless expansion of Tokyo’s business districts, the open-air museum is one of the most serene districts in the whole of the city. Visitors who wander through the buildings of Edo-Tokyo will be astounded to discover a politician’s residence restored absolutely perfectly, down to the last detail. That includes the stationery which would have been used at that time arrayed on desks, varnished dining tables and shelves filled with books and old documents.
In that sense, the Edo-Tokyo Open Air Museum is an unmissable look into the past – it’s almost as if a whole village has been displaced into the Tokyo suburbs, including a farm house, a public bathhouse, and even a police box.
Port Arthur, Tasmania
Officially the top tourist attraction in Tasmania, Port Arthur is a small town and a former convict settlement which lies on the coast of the peninsula. The fertile strips of land were originally used by the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries in order to create the main sections of the penal colony.
After all that time, the Port Arthur site remains to this day, complete with the buildings in which many of the convicts were interred. Lush green parklands roll on for acres, and landscape is a superb backdrop for the chilling stories the tour guides at the Port Arthur site can tell.