Tombs with a view: Five amazing cemeteries

Staff ReportsOctober 19, 2013 

Not all cemeteries are merely the abode of the departed: Some are so amazing that they are attractions in their own right. With Halloween just around the corner, cheapflights.com recently released Kara Segedin’s roster of fascinating cemeteries. The list includes:

Merry Cemetery, Sapanta, Romania

Just south of the Ukrainian border in Sapanta, Merry Cemetery has become a popular attraction thanks to its colorful “folk art”-style tombstones. The bright, cheerful markers depict scenes from the lives of the dead. While the epitaphs are largely warm and humorous, other graves tell tragic stories of deadly accidents and lives cut far too short. The tradition began when village woodcarver Stan Ioan Patras sculpted the first tombstone crosses in the 1930s. Now more than 1,000 blue wooden crosses can be found on the site. For a small fee you can visit the cemetery and Patras’ workshop (which also houses a small gallery).

Shah-i-Zinda, Samarkand, Uzbekistan

Shah-i-Zinda (“the Living King”) necropolis in Samarkand was established more than 1,000 years ago and today includes more than 20 ornate buildings and mausoleums featuring some of the most exquisite tile work on earth. The site is believed to be the resting place of Muhammed’s cousin, Kusam ibn Abbas, who brought Islam to the area in the seventh century. The most beautiful tomb, the 14th-century Shadi Mulk Aka mausoleum, belongs to the wife of Turko-Mongol ruler Tamerlane.

Gangster graveyards, Yekaterinburg, Russia

During the 1990s, Yekaterinburg was a center of organized crime in Russia with two rival gangs fighting for control of the city. The Uralmash and the Centralniy buried their dead in different cemeteries, where gang members are immortalized with life-size grandiose depictions of themselves carved onto huge blocks of imported marble. Bosses are shown dressed in expensive suits, gangsters are pictured holding keys to luxury cars. One went so far as to have a separate grave for his car.

Hanging coffins, Sagada, Philippines

The indigenous Igorot people of Sagada have practiced a rather unique burial process – hanging coffins from cliffs and caves. The origins of this ritual are debated, but it is believed that the hanging method started as a way to bring the deceased closer to heaven. The hand-carved wooden coffins are carried through the dense jungle, then suspended on ropes and wires. Coffins are often stacked on top of one another. But this special form of burial isn’t open to just anyone: There are several criteria that need to be met, including being married and having grandchildren. The hanging coffins are now a popular attraction; you can visit these cemeteries in Echo Valley and Lumiang Cave.

Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt

For nearly 500 years – from the 16th to 11th centuries B.C. – Egypt’s pharaohs and powerful nobles were laid to rest in the Valley of the Kings in a series of complex, richly decorated, underground tombs. Some of the most well-known burials on the site are Rameses II, Queen Hatshepsut, and, of course, Tutankhamun. Though their false walls and hidden passageways were designed to thwart grave robbers, many tombs were looted of their rich bounty years ago. However, the thieves left a real treasure untouched – the brilliantly elaborate wall paintings. A total of 63 tombs and chambers have been uncovered in the area, but only 18 are ever opened to the public.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service