Christo Rei, a statue of Jesus standing on top of a globe on a hill at the eastern edge of Dili, is definitely the main landmark of Timor-Leste’s capital. You can see the hill and statue from various points around the bay and climbing the stairs to it is a popular exercise for the expat community.
As generally accepted as it is as a landmark and general way of finding your way around town (just head to Christo Rei, you’ll find Little Pattaya after the deer that eats out of a dumpster, etc), the statue itself is controversial. A ‘gift’ to the Timorese from Indonesian dictator Suharto in 1996, it is 27 metres high… Timor Timur (East Timor) was the 27th province of Indonesia during the occupation.
Some say the Indonesians built Jesus looking towards Jakarta as (yet another) snub to the deeply Catholic Timorese people. Others say that Jesus faces away from Timor-Leste, as he could not bear to witness the atrocities that occurred there under the Indonesian occupation.
Nowadays, I’d like to think he looks towards the future and new possibilities.