With the Taj Mahal losing its sheen, here are five other monuments in need of a facelift
The Taj Mahal’s regal white walls are losing their sheen because of pollution and bug dung, but it's not the only historic monument that needs some touching up, renovation or restoration. We look at five more
It seems that India’s Taj Mahal is losing its shine. The Indian government is worried that the 17th century building’s regal white walls are turning shades of brown and green because of air pollution and insect dung.
The country’s Supreme Court has urged the government to do more to protect one of the world’s most famous buildings, which attracts almost eight million visitors annually. Built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the northern Indian city of Agra as a mausoleum for his favourite wife, the monument has been losing its sheen for years.
It’s not the only landmark that’s in need of – or is undergoing – a facelift. Here are five others:
1. The Great Wall of China
One of the most impressive structures ever built – at one point it stretched for more than 21,000 kilometres (13,050 miles) – the wall, which is 2,500 years old, was built along China’s northern frontier to keep Mongol invaders out.
Today it is disappearing, with some 30 per cent of its length eroded by natural wear and tear from weather and plants, and from damage caused by the theft of bricks. In 2005, China began the arduous undertaking of restoring the Unesco World Heritage Site. Two years ago, officials came under fire when pictures appeared of a section of the wall so badly renovated it looked like a cement skateboard track.
Last month, Intel and the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation joined forces to use drones and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to help scout a remote and heavily weathered section of the wall constructed during the Ming dynasty, which spanned the 14th to 17th centuries.
Intel’s Falcon 8+ drones will inspect, map and take aerial photographs of the Jiankou section in the next few months, providing high-definition, three-dimensional images that will help determine the site’s condition.
Pompeii was a Roman town near modern-day Naples in southern Italy that was buried under a thick layer of volcanic ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Today, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy, receiving about 2.5 million visitors a year. Objects buried under the ash in Pompeii were preserved for nearly 2,000 years but since having being exposed by natural or man-made forces, the city’s shell has deteriorated over time. In 2014, the Italy government approved work to repair walls that collapsed after heavy rains.
3. Angkor Wat
According to the Guinness World Records, Angkor Wat is the world’s largest religious complex, at 162 hectares (401 acres). But like most ancient temples in Cambodia, Angkor Wat – its name means temple city – has suffered extensive damage, deteriorating over the years due to plant growth, fungi, war damage and theft. Built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu for the Khmer Empire, it was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century. Later it was turned into a military fortification. Nowadays, it is a Unesco World Heritage Site, but scientist are struggling to preserve it.
4. Cave of Altamira
The drawings at this Unesco World Heritage Site in the historic town of Santillana del Mar in Cantabria, Spain date back to the Paleolithic age, making them some of the earliest known human artworks. The oldest of the charcoal drawings, that include polychromatic paintings of contemporary local fauna and human hands, date back 15,500 years. As you would expect, after thousands of years, the usual wear and tear is affecting the quality of the paintings.
5. Big Ben
How could we forget Big Ben, the nickname for the Great Bell in the clock tower at London’s Palace of Westminster. The landmark is undergoing repairs until 2021, and has been silenced except on important days such as New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The biggest change will be the installation of a lift. Other repairs include repainting and regilding the clock face and replacing broken panes of glass. The cost of the works was initially put at between £29 million and £45 million (US$39.3 million and US$60.9 million), but last year the figure was adjusted £61 million.