Manaus, Brazil

Taking its name from the Manaos Indians who inhabited the region, the city became a huge boomtown at the end of the 19th century, as more and more rubber was harvested from the surrounding rain forest. As the economy thrived, the locals erected monuments to their success. The most flamboyant being the huge golden-domed Opera House, which was imported, stone by laborious stone, from Europe. At its height, it also boasted palatial mansions and a hedonistic life-style. Nowadays, the rubber industry has died away, but the city, with its vast crumbling civic building, remains a fascinating gaudy metropolis, set amidst a sea of dense rain forest.

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