Bernard Weber, a business person in Zurich, Switzerland, is responsible for launching the New7Wonders internet poll in an attempt to identify the best cities in the world. The survey began with a list of 1,200 cities in 220 countries, however that list was narrowed down to 77 due to a one city per country restriction. A committee, headed by the former director of UNESCO, further reduced the list to 28 cities based on a specific set of criteria. The idea behind the New7Wonders was that the winning cities would best represent the accomplishments of urban civilization around the world.
In 2011, interestested internet-users were asked to cast their vote for 1 of the 28 candidates. The results were tallied in 2014 with 7 winners: Beirut, Doha, Durban, Havana, Kuala Lumpur, La Paz, and Vigan. This article takes a closer look at each of these cities.
Vigan is located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and has a population of approximately 53,879. It is one of the last cities in this country that still displays a relatively unchanged Hispanic history, dating back to the 1500’s. This city is well known for its unique architecture, which blends together several styles, including colonial European, Oriental, and Philippine. Its architecture is made even more interesting by the cobblestone streets that wind between the buildings. Before Spanish colonizers arrived, Vigan was established by the Chinese as a trading post. In addition to being one of the new “Urban Wonders” of the world, it is also a World Heritage Site.
6. La Paz
La Paz is the capital of Bolivia. It is located at 11,975 feet above sea level, making it the highest national capital in the world. This city is settled in a canyon that runs through the Altiplano mountains of the Andes mountain range. It has a population size of around 789,541, however, the entire metropolitan area includes El Alto and Viacha, which brings the population up to 2.3 million. Spanish colonialists founded La Paz over the site of an Inca settlement in 1548. Today, this city is home to the Presidential Palace, Plurinational Legislative Assembly, San Francisco Church, and Witches’ Market (among other places). Its economy makes up 25% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is centered around manufacturing of goods like: food, clothing, building materials, and tobacco products.
5. Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and largest city of Malaysia. It has a population size of 1.7 million and is listed as one of the fastest growing metropolitan regions of Southeast Asia. Its entire metropolitan area has a population of 7.2 million. This city is home to a wide variety of modern architecture and is well known for its skyscrapers. In fact, the tallest buildings in the world are located in Kuala Lumpur: the Petronas Twin Towers. Nobody is sure when the city was founded, but written records dating back to the early 19th century indicate that at that time, the city had a thriving tin mining industry. Today, this city is the principal financial, real estate, insurance, arts, and media center of the country.
Havana is the capital city of Cuba. It has a population of approximately 2.1 million over an area of 281.18 square miles, making it the largest city in the country by both population and area. Additionally, Havana has a major economic role in this country as a commercial center and major port city. Founded in the early 16th century by Spanish colonialists, this city is well known for its historic and colorful architecture. It is divided into 3 sections: Old Havana, Vedado, and modern suburbs. Old Havana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Durban is located in South Africa and has a population of 3.5 million, making it the largest city in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. This city sits on the coast and has become the busiest sea port in the country. Additionally, Durban is a popular tourist destination, known for its subtropical weather, surfing, and beautiful beach. In order to attract more tourists, the city has invested in developing the Golden Mile. This is a developed stretch of beach with apartments, hotels, casinos, piers, a promenade, and restaurants. The waters off of the Golden Mile are protected by lifeguards and shark nets. Durban and the area surrounding it have served as important human settlements since around 100,000 BC, according to archaeological evidence. British settlers began arriving at the beginning of the 19th century, when Durban as it is known now was established.
Doha is located along the Persian Gulf in the eastern region of Qatar and became the national capital in 1971 after Qatar's independence. It currently has a population of nearly 1.5 million, which represents more than half of the country’s population. Doha is the most important economic center of Qatar and is considered its fastest growing city. Additionally, this city is quickly emerging as one of the most important financial hubs of the Middle East. It is also home to Education City, a research and education project established by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. Doha has significant oil and natural gas reserves, which have contributed to Qatar’s growth as one of the wealthiest nations in the world. This city has become more involved in international events, hosting the 2006 Asian Games, the 2011 Pan Arab Games, the 20th World Petroleum Conference in 2011, and the UNFCCC Climate Negotiations of 2012. In addition to being one of the new 7 Wonder Cities, it is also believed to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, is one of the oldest cities in the world with human settlements dating back as far as 5,000 years ago. It is located on a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea and is the most important port city in the country. Additionally, it is a financial and legal center and home to several corporate headquarters. Because of multiple instances of political unrest, the Lebanese Civil War being perhaps the most destructive, throughout its history, Beirut has been rebuilt on many occasions. This ongoing construction has resulted in a unique architectural mix of Ottoman, colonial French, and modern influences. Beirut is sometimes referred to as the Paris of the Mediterranean.