Sigiriya – save a prayer for Lion Rock

NMy favourite year for music is 1982.

In fact, three of my top five albums of all time were released in that year. One of those is Rio by Duran Duran. I know this is a travel blog, but music looms large in the lives of the 2emptynesters and we all know how songs can evoke moments in time.

Unusually for 1982, Duran Duran were given big budgets and top director Russell Mulcahy to make the videos for the singles from Rio. The track ‘Rio’ featured a video shot in Antigua, but the videos for ‘Hungry like the Wolf’ and ‘Save a Prayer’ were both shot in Sri Lanka. How exotic it all felt! And infinitely far from the south-west London suburban school life I was experiencing at the time.

Knowing we were visiting Sri Lanka this year, I reminded myself of the videos – particularly the one for ‘Save a Prayer’, which also happens to be a deeply personal song for me.

If you want to check it out, you can watch it here:

We’ve had moments on gorgeous Indian Ocean beaches bearing outrigged fishing boats. We’ve visited the Polonnaruwa ruins (which contain the large headless Buddha that the guys raise their eyes up towards at the end of the video). But for me, it was visiting Sigiriya (also known as Lion Rock) that was the crowning glory in this fan’s little homage to a song that has touched his life.


Well, for a start, it’s no mean feat to get to the top. 1,200 steps is, I guess, around 100 flights of stairs. Add on the heat (ok, I started at 7.15am, but it was still in the high 20s) and some slightly vertigo-inducing elements and it’s certainly a bit of a challenge. There are plenty of places to stop along the way, but I felt a big sense of achievement on reaching the summit.

Secondly, in the video you get a slight sense of the view to be had from the top. But nothing truly prepares you for the vista on a clear day. It is easy to see why the 5th century king and his 500 concubines sited themselves on this 200m high rock with a garrison of soldiers. You could see any trouble coming a good 40 miles away.

P1030432And it is, of course, an astonishing engineering achievement. The sides of the rock are sheer on all sides and yet access, protection, opulent shelter and water collection were all fashioned like decorations on top of a wedding cake. And this was over 1,500 years ago.

It really is something to stand there, getting your breath back, imagining life in the court of King Kashyapa, whilst looking over rich rain forest to the mountains beyond. A huge highlight of our Sri Lankan adventure for me.

Sigiriya was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

Hmmm. 1982?

What was I doing then?

Ever paid homage to a key musical location in your life? We’d love to hear about it below.

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