Rock-cut architecture fascinates me. It’s the effort involved; it’s unimaginable. I can stand and look at a rock-cut architecture site, such al-Khazneh in Jordan, or Naqsh-e Rustam in Iran, or Lalibela in Ethiopia, for hours on end and feel breathless the entire time and never want to leave.
Perhaps my ancestors were troglodytes?
Here are a few of the most awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture sites of the world.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: Asia
Kailasa Temple was not built from the ground up; it was excavated into being, a feat that took seven generations of workers to complete.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: Middle-east
The image of Al Khazneh dances before your eyes, just a sliver of the whole, the rest hidden behind a million tonnes of rock.
The Achaemenids selected a stark cliff, one that rears up from the desert at an almost vertical angle, and embedded in it, at an impractical height, a tomb worthy of the mightiest kings.
The main reason I wanted to visit Fethiye wasn’t to sit on pebble beaches, nor to gorge on blood pudding and bangers and mash. I wanted to see the Lycian tombs.
The Monastery, also known as Ad Deir (Arabic for the monastery) wasn’t really a monastery; it was a temple dedicated to Nabataean king Obodas I.
I was giving the lower slopes of Mount Bisotun a good eyeballing as I approached, hoping vainly to espy the famous cliff inscriptions of Darius I from afar.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: Africa
I’d seen pictures of the famous, cryptic, rock-cut churches of Lalibela before. In fact Lalibela was one of the main draw-cards of Ethiopia for me.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: Europe
Take a hard hat. That would be my tip for your visit to Vardzia, Georgia. The site is crumbling and unstable. Several times while I was there I saw and heard rocks tumbling down the cliff.
Who said living in a separatist-controlled unrecognised republic can’t be fun?
One day, many years ago, I came upon a picture of the rock sculpture of King Decebalus, on the banks of the Danube River, in southwestern Romania; it took just a nanosecond to determine that I wished to visit the site in person.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: Oceania
When most people think of Easter Island they’re likely to think of giant stone heads. And that’s fair enough; there are a thousand or so moai (as the giant stone heads are known – pronounced mwai) on the island.
Awe-inspiring rock-cut architecture: South America
The salt mines of Zipaquirá, Colombia, have been worked since the 5th Century BCE. Salt was a highly prized trade item for the pre-Colombian Muisca people, and on occasion it was even traded for emeralds.