Tourists look at the Taj Mahal in Agra.– Photo by AFP

News surfaced recently that a firm in Dubai planned to build a replica of Agra’s famed Taj Mahal, only four times the size of the iconic Mughal monument!

Now something like this is not completely unexpected from a place like Dubai, which has built a map of the world in the form of artificial, reclaimed islands, a giant palm tree-shaped archipelago-cum-housing colony (which can be seen from space) as well as an indoor ski resort (in the middle of the desert). Mind you, replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids as well as the Great Wall of China will also be built in the same development as the new Taj.

There could be many reasons behind the desire to build these glitzy, unsustainable replicas of historical monuments; the vulgar display of wealth, the wish for well-heeled tourists to make a beeline towards the emirate or perhaps a love of history. Whatever it is, there is one thing that seems to be missing from the whole plan: originality.

It’s all well and good to replicate a wonder of the world built over three centuries ago, in a time when there were no computers, heavy machinery or other advanced technology to help you along in your grandiose quest. Shah Jahan and his army of labourers did a great job. So why mess with it? Why not build something original to reflect your own culture? But to be honest, our friends in Dubai are not the only ones to have built a replica of the Taj. One exists in Bangladesh, while the Chinese have also made an attempt.

Our own city is not free from this phenomenon either, but thankfully on a much, much smaller scale as compared to the rich Arabs across the pond. As a matter of fact there exists a popular buffet restaurant modelled after Delhi’s Red Fort, complete with a shamsheer-wielding, poetry-spouting Mughal prince who regales guests with his wit. To be honest, the whole experience is quite comedic. Aside from this, one has spotted various palatial houses, especially in the Defence area, that seem to have been inspired by the White House.There’s nothing wrong with imitating famous landmarks or architectural masterpieces from history. Yet perhaps the architecture of a city should ideally reflect its own history and not be a mishmash of kitsch from all over the world.

Even worse are the grey, soulless drab concrete structures that today dominate Karachi. For example taking a drive down Gulistan-i-Jauhar’s main road, especially at night, presents a dystopian look as one peers into the cavernous apartment complexes that dot the locality. It would perhaps be wishful thinking to demand that the city’s colonial masterpieces be preserved, or that new structures be built in consonance with the cultural aesthetics of the metropolis.

There’s no point really in recycling the great achievements of the past, that too in such a crass manner (as in Dubai). Perhaps the focus should be on innovation, creating new structures that will be remembered for their originality and environmental soundness, structures that are organic and earthy, yet modern and progressive in the same breath. It’s truly a challenge, especially when building structures for the masses such as apartment complexes and housing schemes, but not something impossible. After all, original architecture has a better chance of being remembered by posterity than garish, Disneyland-type photocopies of past wonders.—QAM

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Comments (14)

November 13, 2012 2:01 am
What has the middle east countries contributed to humanity? Oil. End of story. Have they invented a single pin to benefit humanity? No. Building the tallest building half empty, a palm shaped island seen from the sky for the benefit of Martians and birds perhaps stems from an inferiority complex. Lack of originality, innovation is glaring. The only option is to build Disney type structures using slave labour from Asian and third worl nations. Wait until the oil wells run dry.
November 13, 2012 5:38 pm
Someone is clearly envious and jealous of the oncoming Taj project in Dubai and it's wealth. However, besides such projects more schools, universities and research centers should also be built for the betterment of humanity all over the world to eradicate poverty and illiteracy from the world.
November 12, 2012 10:31 pm
Let there be another Taj. Someone seems to envious and jealous.
November 12, 2012 10:14 pm
The story of the Taj Mahal is not known to many people. Please google Tejo Mahalaya to find out the truth about who built the Taj and what is was before it was converted into a mausoleum.
November 12, 2012 5:36 pm
Apart from crying why they are spending money like this lets convince sheikhs to allocate part of the project income to preserve and maintain the original Taj Mahal. Indian government should charge royalty on project. I am ok if sheikh are making new Taj but they should use the structure for good purpose like housing science university in it instead of making a Taj casino.
November 12, 2012 5:08 pm
i ahve seen the Taj it is beautiful it takes your breath away.
November 12, 2012 5:21 pm
Please wait few day and supreme court of Pakistan will take suo motto notice of this replica. I am sure Mr. Iftikhan gonna call foreign minister to write a letter to Sheikh to scrap the plan.
November 13, 2012 12:22 am
The sentiments and emotions behind Taj Mahal cannot be replicated.
Mohammad A Dar
November 12, 2012 6:03 pm
To remember wastage of wealth of people by a king to promote his desire is not of educated, knowledgeable human, but way of hindu's to satisfy their hindu soul, desire.
Goodness Grace Me
November 12, 2012 8:02 pm
History says that Shah-Jahan chopped the hands of all the construction workers who help build the Taj Mahal since he did NOT want one more Taj to be built anywhere in the world. One of the testimonies of how cruel the Moguls were. I am sure Shah-Jahan whould have felt as if someone stamped on his grave when he would have heard this news of another Taj. Will only need to wait on whose hands will be chopped for this Dubai Taj. May world rest in peace.
akhter husain
November 12, 2012 4:59 pm
God has given them enormous wealth,so let them spend as they wish.Any way they are not used to listen a sane advice.The construction bonanza will feed thousands of people from poor countries.
iqbal Khan
November 12, 2012 4:23 pm
I have following to contribute: 1. Has it ever occured to Sheikh sb to open a world class university for the students of neighbouring countries. 2. Shahjahan built Taj Mahal in loving memory of her wife, what prompted sheikh sb to build his Taj Mahal? Just wondering.......
Shahid Ashraf
November 12, 2012 11:05 am
I agree with the writer! He made an interesting and sensible argument.
shahab ahmed
November 12, 2012 10:30 am
love is blind and wealth intoxicates
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