Paris – Die-hard doomsayers will be scurrying to the nearest shelter in fear of a Mayan prophecy of the world’s end on Friday, but many more from Delhi to Sydney will ring in the date by partying like there’s no tomorrow.
One thing is certain: from off-the-shelf bunkers to “World’s End” menus or trips to esoteric hot spots, December 21, singled out by the Mayan “Long Count” calendar as the end of a 5 000-year era, has spelled big business worldwide.
Across the Mayans’ ancestral homeland, a vast swathe of Central America, including parts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, The End of the World As We Know It, or Teotwawki, has been a shot in the arm for tourism.
Ancient Mayan sites will be buzzing with activity on Friday, hosting ritual re-enactments, conferences and sound-and-light shows – often against the backdrop of protests by indigenous groups who complain their culture is being hijacked.
But elsewhere around the globe, there will be no shortage of shelters or shrines to host the fearful – or simply curious – crowds through the night.
Apocalyptic-minded folk in Brazil can head to the village of Alto Paraiso, a place pulsating with “mystical energy”, as local lore would have it, that has been readying for the end for years.
An anti-Armageddon ceremony will take place on the Island of the Sun, in the middle of Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca, the highest in the world, where legend has it the founders of the Inca empire were born.
And illuminati in Serbia are predicting that the pyramid-shaped mountain of Rtanj will glow on Friday night, which is also the solstice.
The village of Sirince in western Turkey has also become an apocalyptic magnet, with all 400 hotels in the vicinity fully booked. It is reputed to be doomsday-proof because the Virgin Mary is said to have risen to heaven from there.
Likewise, the picturesque south Italian village of Cisternino was singled out by an Indian guru as a safe bet come the end of the world.
Or there is France’s apocalyptic spot of choice, the Pic de Bugarach in the foothills of the Pyrenees, though the site is cordoned off to keep out the hordes, and a local hotel will set you back 1 500 euros – payable in advance.
Short of a sacred site to weather the doomsday storm, there is always the man-made option of a good-old bunker.
For 30 000 rubles (about R8 000) per head, the wealthiest Muscovites can check into a Stalin-era communications bunker 65 metres underground, which is offering 300 people a 24-hour experience.
Local television has put up tickets for the bunker in a prize draw, and will be broadcasting live from inside on the night – like a world’s-end take on “Big Brother”.
In eastern France, the underground galleries of Schoenenbourg fort – part of the World War Two Maginot line of defence – will, exceptionally, be thrown open to the public.
But elsewhere in Asia, the end of times will be the best of times, featuring a techno soundtrack and fine dining.
“This is potentially the very last dance, so you know you’ve got to be there!” reads one flyer for the Sky Bar in New Delhi.