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French Version

Voters include Petra in 'new seven wonders'

The centuries-old pink ruins of Petra in Jordan were named late Saturday as one of the modern day seven wonders of the world chosen in a poll of 100 million online voters.

The other six are the Great Wall of China, India's Taj Mahal; the Colosseum in Rome; the statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro; the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru; and the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico. Petra came second to the Great Wall of China.

Following the announcement, thousands of Jordanians cheered, waved flags and broke into traditional dance in Amman and Petra.

The contest was launched by the Switzerland-based New Open World Foundation, a group that aims to promote cultural diversity by supporting, preserving and restoring monuments.

Petra is known for its dramatic tombs and temple facades, including one that served as a church during Byzantine times.

It was the capital of Arab Nabataean nomads, who settled in the area more than 2,000 years ago, turning it into a key junction for the silk, spice and other trade routes that linked China, India and southern Arabia with Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome.

The city was hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains for centuries until it was rediscovered by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burchhardt in 1812. It was officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.

The winners were announced during a glitzy show at the Benfica Stadium in Lisbon after what is likely to be the biggest online poll ever. Jordan's minister of tourism and antiquities, Osama Dabbas, led an official delegation to Lisbon to receive the award.

On Sunday, Jordanian Premier Maarouf al-Bakhit presided over a conference entitled "Petra, the Center of Human Culture" to honor its new title. Jordan's tourism minister said the flow of tourists to Petra would "double" from its current level of 400,000 visitors a year.

The traditional seven wonders of the world all existed more than 2,000 years ago and were all in the Mediterranean region. Only one remains standing today - the Pyramids of Giza.

The UN body for culture, UNESCO, blasted the initiative. "This campaign responds to other criteria and objectives than that of UNESCO in the field of heritage," said Sue Williams, the spokeswoman for UNESCO. Egypt was also critical, dismissing the new list of wonders as worthless.

Marseille,09 04 2007
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The Daily Star
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