9 Insane Cities You Won't Believe Aren't Photoshopped
We've delved time and time again into the annals of urban planning, only to discover that humans are infinitely creative and resilient, and that they will live in exotic locales that challenge the limits of logic and/or sanity. Here are nine real communities that make basically every other city out there look like the sleepy suburbs between East Borington and New Doodlyfuckshire.
The Filipino Cemetery Town With a (Living) Population of 10,000
Barring the demographics of thrill-seeking stoners, out-of-the-closet necrophiliacs, and ghosts of the damned who read Cracked, none of you have ever looked around a graveyard and wondered aloud, "Gee whiz, I could really see myself putting down roots here."
Sadly, the 10,000-plus residents of Manila's North Cemetery don't really have any other options.
At least they're not living in a crematorium.
Because of overcrowding in the slums of the Filipino capital, entire families attempt to carve out living space in any crypt or mausoleum that they can jam themselves into. They've turned this cemetery into a village, complete with restaurants and shops. A few well-placed bribes even score residents some electricity.
The cemetery's economy makes use of its environs, with residents paid to maintain tombs and children working as pallbearers for a pittance. But Manila isn't the only city where people live among the dead.
Yep, that's a mausoleum.
And that's a dude setting up his karaoke machine between two caskets.
And this is when a photographer said, "Here, hold this. It'll look creepy and make an awesome picture."
In Cairo's el-Arafa suburb -- aka "The City of the Dead," as it was originally built as a necropolis -- anywhere from 250,000 to 1 million people make their homes among rows of tombs and mausoleums. And just in case you think this is a neighborhood of quiet rustic charms, know that el-Arafa is right around the corner from the city of Manshiyat Naser, which is better known as "the slum where Cairo throws away all of its garbage."
The Blue Town of Morocco
When visitors stop by the Moroccan town of Chefchaouen, reality switches over to Smurf-O-Vision. Was this the site of the most epic Crips versus Bloods showdown of all time? Well, no. Jewish residents of Chefchaouen painted the town a soothing shade of blue in the 1930s, a tradition that keeps vacationers rolling in to this day.
Their military is often mistaken for the Blue Man Group.
Chefchaouen is also located squarely in Morocco's marijuana country, so the pleasing hues will also prevent hashish-crazed day-trippers from thinking that they've died and gone to hell. We guess Chefchaouen's azure walls will not help those stoned souls who jump to the conclusion that the underworld is made out of blue flame. ("Cuz, like, blue's the hottest, brah.")
Although we're pretty sure that giving directions in this town would be a bitch.
For centuries, residents of Monsanto, Portugal, have lived in houses built under massive boulders. These rocky roofs give their village the aesthetics of a Tolkienesque hamlet, or perhaps a medieval town that incurred the wrath of a stone giant with severe bowel problems.
Tabling all discussion of the scatological habits of fantasy megafauna for the rest of this article, it's good to know that Monsanto is committed to preserving these strange houses for future generations, so that they too can stay awake all night, fear-sweating over that one hypothetical weak stone in the masonry.
"Wait. Hold up. Do ... do you smell what that thing is cookin'?"
Australia's Underground Town in the Middle of Fucking Nowhere
Coober Pedy is one of the most inaccessible towns in all of Australia. And -- as anyone who has ever glanced at an atlas knows -- Australia is one of the most inaccessible places in the whole damn world.
"Go get the jackhammer. I want to hang this new picture on the wall."
Using the transitive property, we can determine that no one in their right mind would willingly settle in Coober Pedy, but the discovery of a rich deposit of opal in 1915 brought with it an onslaught of miners. These miners soon realized that temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit are nothing to mess with, so -- to escape the testicle-melting heat -- they went underground.
"I bet you're a huge Minecraft fan."
A century later, Coober Pedy remains an oddly popular tourist destination, even though it's at least eight hours away from the nearest real city. This makes it the perfect vacation destination for sadistic parents who enjoy insisting to their progeny, "Pish posh, of course there's a Disneyland in the middle of the Australian Outback."
Yemen's Cliff Towers
Throughout the history of the Arabian Peninsula, marauding bandits have posed a problem for people who enjoy owning things. So to prevent roving bands of thieves from running roughshod over the mountainous regions of Yemen, the Ottoman Empire built vertiginous cliffside villages. History does not record how many drunken tenants plummeted off a thousand-foot drop trying to find their front door, but we're going to guess it was a lot (do YOU see any fences up there?).
"Each year, our schools score higher and higher on aptitude tests. We don't know why."
One of these villages, al-Hajjarah, has existed since the 11th century. These days, the only invaders are wheezing tourists, hiking from vista to vista while secretly praying they don't get kidnapped by an al-Qaida affiliate group.
But if we have to die, we wouldn't mind doing it while ramping a motorcycle off this shit.
A Real-Life Batman Begins Monastery
Think Ra's al Ghul's digs existed solely in some laudanum-addled comic book artist's brain? Lookalike monasteries can be found at the extreme altitudes of the Himalayas, such as India's picturesque Ki (or Key) Monastery, which sits at 13,668 feet above sea level.
We suppose it could also be Gondor ... if you're into that sort of thing.
Since the early 11th century, this monastery has been home to Buddhist monks occupied with their religious studies. Sadly, these are just ordinary monks, rather than a bunch of ninjas who inexplicably can't take down one damn rich kid with a chip on his shoulder.
However, nothing is stopping you from assembling a bunch of ninjas and taking it over.
Chinese Doughnut Castles
Imagine living in a Panopticon with up to 800 neighbors -- that's what life is like in a tulou, or a type of fortified castle found in southeastern China.
The tulous have been around since the 15th century in China's Fujian province, and even today families still squeeze shoulder to shoulder inside the tulous' Bundt-cake-like layout.
We're assuming that the house in the middle is where they make assholes sleep for punishment.
Back in the day, the tulous defended communities from marauding bandits, who would have to go through hell to breach these strongholds. And in the 1980s, these structures made the news when American analysts poring over satellite images mistook them for nuclear launch sites. The United States even sent exasperated spies to investigate these totally-not-missile-silos, which are actually not the strangest 'hoods you'll find in the People's Republic ...
Honestly, even seeing them up close, we still would have thought the same thing.
Chinese Cave Houses
Yup, the people of China's Shaanxi province have found an economical solution to housing: cave living. Residents carve their homes either into the sides of hills or directly into the ground. And this isn't a niche phenomenon -- over 30 million people live this way, and while the dwellings may look transplanted straight out of Land of the Lost, many have modern amenities, like television and Internet.
"Let's watch The Flintstones."
"Fuck you, Mom."
These cave dwellings are unique to what's known as China's loess soil region, an area encompassing 2,000 kilometers and several different provinces. This region is perfect for cave living because A) the soil lends itself well to a shovel and B) some (but not all) of these regions are out of the way of the mole person's natural predator, the earthquake.
Life underground may not sound ideal, but this layout yields many tangible benefits. Residents save money on the cost of building materials, they can farm the land above their ceiling, and their subterranean lairs are insulated during the winter and cool during the summer. Also, these homes really lend themselves to H. G. Wells-themed bedroom roleplaying. ("Hey baby, tonight you're the Eloi, I get to be the Morlock, and the 40-gallon drum of lube is our time machine.")
"Sounds good. But first, I have to go upstairs and mow the lawn."
The World's First Skyscraper City (Is Made of Clay)
From afar, that may just look like any ol' modern city. But lean closer and you'll realize that those buildings are smack in the middle of the desert. Oh, and they're hundreds of years old. And made of clay.
Back in the 1500s, the merchant city of Shibam (which can be found in modern-day Yemen) grew weary of Bedouin raiders strolling into town and stealing their stuff. The elders of Shibam noticed that the Bedouin raiders had yet to evolve the power to levitate, so they built their city upward instead of outward for defense. These days, Shibam goes by the moniker "The Manhattan of the Desert" or -- as we at Cracked like to call it -- "A horrific collapse just waiting to happen."
Because we're talking about eight stories of unfired clay here. Whenever it rains, a fresh layer of clay must be added to the buildings' surface. Fortunately, downpours don't occur often, so this mini-metropolis doesn't melt away like Lord Licorice's condo on a July day. Hell, they must have done something right, since it's still standing half a millennium later.
Still, we're just going to stand back here and admire it from afar.
For more ridiculous architectural projects, check out The 5 Craziest Buildings Ever Proposed With a Straight Face and 6 Insane Early Drafts of Iconic Buildings.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The Senator Who Wants You to Know He's Completely Insane.