You might be wondering how a suburban street like this can qualify as an attraction, and what it has to do with a cemetery. Well, it's a cemetery and all those fine little houses are not for the living, quite the opposite. They are mausoleums for some of the deceased wealthy Filippinos, and they come in all sizes from mailbox size to multi-storey houses with toilets and air-con. The cemetery is actually made up three different cemeteries; the Chinese Cemetery, La Loma Catholic Cemetery and the North Cemetery. And they are not just for the dead, as there are thousands of people living within the cemeteries. Some are caretakers living inside the mausoleums, while others are squatters living in shacks between the graves. It's best to visit on Sundays, when families come by to honour their ancestors, and it gets really lively on All Saints Day, the 1st of November.
In the 16th century, some monks got the crazy idea to dig up the town's graveyard and use the human bones and skulls to decorate a chapel's interior at St. Francis church in Evora. Each wall is covered in neatly stacked bones, while columns and arches are ornamental with lines of skulls. On one of the walls, a whole skeleton is dangling. It was a brave and artistic move to illustrate the 'transitory nature of human life', something the inscription above the entrance also points out: We bones that are here, are waiting for yours.
In 1935, a local wood carver started to make artistic crosses for the local graveyard in the small town of Săpânța. He succeeded turning the otherwise sad symbol into a cheerful monument by painting the crosses in bright colours and pictured the deceased in either their occupation or what they liked to do (which could be drinking). A funny poem or a small story from the deceased's life is carved under the picture and is often written in the first person, as if the deceased himself/herself were telling the story. Other stories on the crosses describe how the person died and one even warns visitors not to wake up a dead mother-in-law. When you see some of the pictures among the 800 crosses, you wish you could read Romanian.
Even though we've seen and read numerous reports about Rwanda's genocide in 1994, it might still be hard to grasp the magnitude and sheer horror of the event. The Murambi Genocide Memorial could be the place to help people get a sense of what happened. Set on top of a hill with incredible views and a seemingly peaceful environment, the Murambi technical school has been the theatre of the killing of 40,000 to 50,000 Tutsis in just one night. Mass graves were quickly dug and volleyball courts and baseball fields set on top of them to cover the massacre. 20,000 bodies have since been found, exhumed and reburied, but about 1000 of them have been preserved with lime to be exposed in the many small dorm rooms on site. It's a tear-inducing, stomach-churning experience to see all those contorted mummified corpses piled one on top of another... and it goes on and on, room after room, until you reach the point where, overwhelmed, you want to scream "No more!", but you keep watching this incredible display, feeling invested in a certain duty to bear witness and make your motto the same as Rwanda's: Never again.
Out of respect for the victims, picture-taking is forbidden inside the rooms.
Not far from the tombs of UNESCO World Heritage listed Madain Saleh is the leftover from another ancient kingdom. The Dadan Kingdom predates that of Madain Saleh with several hundred years. Since the modern city of Al Ula probably is built on top of the ancient city of Dadan, not much is visible today. The archaeological site is located at the foot of the red sheer cliffs. The most fascinating are probably the square-shaped tombs, which were dug into the cliff face probably around 5th century BC.
Magnificent Madain Saleh, also called Hegra, is Saudi Arabia's version of Petra (in Jordan). Madain Saleh was the second largest city in the Nabatean kingdom after Petra and was thriving during the 1st century AD. It was a key city on the trade route to and from the Mediterranean, and the taxation made the city flourish. The civilization left more than 100 tombs carved into sandstone outcrops. The more important the person was, the more spectacular the tomb had to be. Some tombs are just a few meters tall with little ornamentation, while the biggest tomb is more than 20 meters tall. Many tombs feature inscriptions that record who it was for and who made it. Like Petra, Madain Saleh is also listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.
These stone rings are prehistoric burial chambers from the late 3rd millenium BC. There are about fifty of those, so-called clava cairns, in this part of Scotland. Probably the most well known is the Balnuaran of Clava (picture) not far from Inverness. Here, you will find three chambers, two with chamber-passages and one without, each encircled by big standing stones - a bit like Stonehenge. Cremated bones have been found inside the chambers, but else not much is known about these mysterious Bronze Age cemeteries.
Mizdakhan is a wicked cemetery close to the border with Turkmenistan. Ancient Mizdakhan was once an important city for many centuries until it got sacked by Timur. However, it stayed a sacred place and burial site up to present. Today, the hill is covered with mausoleums and graves, including a handful of ancient tombs. There are great views over the neighbouring ruin of the mud castle Gyaur Qala and the plains that stretch into Turkmenistan.
Like their Chinese counterpart, the emperors of the Vietnamese Nguyen dynasty had some mighty fine tombs build, so they could have a descent afterlife. Though not as big as the Chinese, they were designed on the same feng-shui principals. Though keep in mind that the Chinese emperors started erecting tombs in 11th century, while all the Vietnamese ones are from the 19th and 20th century. The Nguyen dynasty had 13 emperors altogether, but only seven of them had a tomb made; Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, Tuc Duc, Duc Duc, Dong Khanh and Khai Dinh. The last emperor, Bao Dai (dead 1997), is buried in Paris, France. Some of the tombs have been restored while others are slowly decaying. A closer look reveals a more practical, than aesthetic, style of architecture, like tiles made of broken porcelain (tomb of Khai Dinh). The finest tomb is probably the tomb of Tu Duc, which also functioned as a retreat while Tu Duc was still alive. It was quite a lavish affair including a lake with a tiny island for hunting. The other popular tombs are the ones for Minh Mang and Khai Dinh.
The Jarai (Gia Rai) people outside Kon Tum have some unusual cemeteries. A wooden hut is build to protect the grave and hold possessions of the deceased as well as some offerings to the spirit. Some have fence around while others are guarded by crude wooden statues and maybe decorated by jaws of the buffalo that got sacrificed during the burial ceremony. If the deceased's family can't afford a proper burial ceremony (which includes sacrificing a buffalo), it can be postpone for years. In the meantime the deceased's spirit take home in the hut and has to be taken care of with food offerings and rice wine. Only after a proper burial celebration can the spirit be released and the hut then gets abandoned.
There are several cemeteries west for Kon Tum (e.g. Plei Bur and Plei Sar villages about 15 km West from Kon Tum) and can also be seen in Ratanakiri province in Cambodia.