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Writer Carl Hoffman traveled to Egypt in February 2011, a week after popular demonstrations led to the president's resignation. People line up for a taste of this 12-foot-tall edible gingerbread house, which took a team of bakers two months to create in England. This model of the White House in the year 1800 was made with a combined 130 pounds (59 kilograms) of gingerbread, chocolate, and a sugary paste called marzipan. A miniature model of Egypt's Sphinx, placed in front of a mirror, shows some holiday spirit with a tiny Santa hat.
The clock tower of Big Ben (left) and the London Eye Ferris wheela€”famous landmarks in London, Englanda€”become bite-size with gingerbread. Built to awe, the pyramid known as El Castillo has become the towering icon of Chichen Itza. Asiatic Hyksos settlers rule the north, introducing the horse and chariot; Thebans rule the south. This glorious step pyramid demonstrates the accuracy and importance of Maya astronomy—and the heavy influence of the Toltecs, who invaded around 1000 and precipitated a merger of the two cultural traditions.The temple has 365 steps—one for each day of the year.
Each of the temple’s four sides has 91 steps, and the top platform makes the 365th.Devising a 365-day calendar was just one feat of Maya science.

To visit the Pyramids is to be struck dumb by their monumentality, their celebration of the fundamental human need to create. Incredibly, twice a year on the spring and autumn equinoxes, a shadow falls on the pyramid in the shape of a serpent. A week after Hosni Mubarak’s departure and a day after the biggest celebration in Tahrir Square, a handful of Egyptians scrambled up the blocks of Khufu’s Great Pyramid, but there was not a foreigner to be seen.
Spanish records report that young female victims were thrown into the largest of these, live, as sacrifices to the Maya rain god thought to live in its depths. Archaeologists have since found their bones, as well as the jewelry and other precious objects they wore in their final hours.Chichen Itza's ball court is the largest known in the Americas, measuring 554 feet (168 meters) long and 231 feet (70 meters) wide.
During ritual games here, players tried to hit a 12-pound (5.4-kilogram) rubber ball through stone scoring hoops set high on the court walls.
Competition must have been fierce indeed—losers were put to death.Chichen Itza was more than a religious and ceremonial site. All I could think of is how hard it must have been to make them, how much will it took when there were no cranes or earthmovers or power tools, and what that says about us as human beings—that we can no more not build or mark our place or strive for glory than we can not breathe or eat or love.
But after centuries of prosperity and absorbing influxes of other cultures like the Toltecs, the city met a mysterious end.During the 1400s people abandoned Chichen Itza to the jungle.

Though they left behind amazing works of architecture and art, the city’s inhabitants left no known record of why they abandoned their homes. Scientists speculate that droughts, exhausted soils, and royal quests for conquest and treasure may have contributed to Chichen Itza's downfall.Recently this World Heritage site was accorded another honor.
In a worldwide vote Chichen Itza was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.How to Get ThereChichen Itza is located near the small town of Piste.
Bus services connect to the international airports at Merida (under two hours) and Cancun (two and a half hours). Spring and autumn equinoxes offer the chance to see the incredible shadow serpent of El Castillo—but the often crowded site is absolutely packed at these times. How to VisitStaying in the Chichen Itza area allows visitors to visit early in the morning, out of the hot sun and without the company of the many tourists who arrive on day trip tours from Merida and Cancun.

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