Joe Lavin

July 10, 2007

The Seven Tourist Traps of the World

Over the weekend, a new seven wonders of the world were named, based on the results of an Internet poll, because, as we all know, there is no better way to decide something important than with an online poll. (Click here if you agree!) New 7 Wonders, a Swiss non-profit organization, chose the new wonders, based on the results of over 100 million cell phone and Internet votes. In no particular order, here's what they came up with:

The Great Wall of China
The Colosseum in Rome
The Taj Mahal in India
The Incan Ruins of Machu Pichu in Peru
The Ruins of Petra in Jordan
The Mayan City of Chichen Itza in Mexico
The Statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro

Sadly, the Grover Cleveland Service Area on the New Jersey Turnpike did not quite make the cut, but, hey, there's always next time. As you can imagine, the list has created much controversy, especially among those countries whose wonders did not make the list. For example, Egypt is particularly galled that the Giza Pyramids did not make it, especially since they are the only of the original ancient seven wonders that still exist today.

Understandably, the Egyptians were offended that the Pyramids even had to compete for a spot on this "ridiculous" list. Egypt's antiquities supremo Zahi Hawass told the Agence France-Presse that the contest "has no value." He also said, "This contest will not detract from the value of the pyramids, which is the only real wonder of the world." One lesson is clear; don't go messing with an antiquities supremo, whatever that might be. In the end, voting was stopped for the Pyramids, and they were made an honorary wonder, which probably didn't make the Egyptians any more pleased.

UNESCO, the cultural wing of the United Nations that names world heritage sites, was also annoyed by the contest. They were disturbed that the list only allowed for seven wonders. Christian Manhart, UNESCO's press officer, said that the list sent a "negative message to countries whose sites have not been retained" This is sort of the "let's not make Stonehenge sad" theory of choosing, but he does have a point. It's tough to say that runners-up like the Easter Island Statues, the Hagia Sofia, and the Eiffel Tower are really not as wondrous as any of the wonders that did make it.

The United States did have one site nominated, the Statue of Liberty, but such is the animosity towards the USA these days that the Statue came in near the bottom of the poll. Some in the audience in Portugal, where the announcement took place, even booed the Statue of Liberty. Not surprisingly, Washington's Cheney the Impaler Statue was also widely denounced by the crowd. (The Cheney Statue is similar to the Christ the Redeemer Statue, except that a single finger on each hand is raised.)

Speaking of Christ the Redeemer, there were some voting irregularities, as many were surprised when the Brazilian statue surged onto the list in late voting. Brazil even launched a "Vote for the Christ" campaign, in which cell phone companies didn't charge those who voted with their phones. Easter Island tried a similar strategy for their statues until they realized that nobody there could get a cell phone signal.

Interestingly, in this contest, people were even allowed to vote twice if they paid $2 -- you know, much like other elections, except in this case the corruption was straightforward. Maybe we should try this in presidential elections. The money could even go to charity. We already know elections are bought. At least, this way, some good might come from it. Besides, without the need to learn about political action committees or the difference between hard and soft money, politics would become a lot simpler.

Luckily, I have seen two of the wonders in person -- The Great Wall of China and the Colosseum. The Great Wall fully deserves its spot, but I'm not so sure about the Colosseum. To be honest, during my brief visit to Italy, I was actually more impressed with both the Vatican and the Cathedral in Florence.

Then again, to be fair, I was twenty-one at the time and was also impressed by the fact that you could buy beer at the Rome McDonald's, so my opinion here might not be all that relevant.

©2007 Joe Lavin

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