King Salman inaugurates Saudi Arabia’s Haramain railway

1 / 6
King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
2 / 6
One of the new Haramain train stations that were inaugurated on Tuesday. (CIC)
3 / 6
King Salman (L) and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (R) oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
4 / 6
King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
5 / 6
One of the new Haramain train stations that were inaugurated on Tuesday. (CIC)
6 / 6
King Salman oversaw the services that will be available to passengers when the railway opens to the public next month. (SPA)
Updated 26 September 2018
0

King Salman inaugurates Saudi Arabia’s Haramain railway

  • The King oversaw the services that the railway will offer passengers when it opens to the public next month
  • The network will carry 60 million passengers a year with a fleet of 35 trains

JEDDAH: King Salman launched the Haramain High-Speed Railway, the biggest electric speed train project in the Middle East, at Jeddah’s Al-Sulaymaniyah station on Tuesday.

The inauguration ceremony was attended by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, adviser to the king and governor of Makkah, along with senior officials and dignitaries.

The ceremony concluded with the king taking the train to Madinah. The train was captained by a Saudi national driver, Abdullah Al-Ahmadi. 

Minister of transport, Dr. Nabil Al-Amoudi, delivered a speech saying that the Kingdom had always been proud of serving pilgrims. “The two holy places are now closer than ever,” he said.

He added that King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had directed the implementation of comprehensive work plans for the transport industry in the Kingdom. He said that the leadership had supported the project to overcome all obstacles so that it could meet the growth in the number of pilgrims and visitors to the two holy places of Makkah and Madinah.

The Haramain High-Speed Railway project is in line with the objective of Vision 2030, the main goal of which is to increase the number of pilgrims and visitors to the holy places, he said. Transport is a main pillar of the national economy and a key driver of the economic renaissance that will take place under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy. 

Al-Amoudi presented a picture to the king, which showed King Abdul Aziz with King Saud at the launch of the first railway project (East Train) in the Kingdom in 1951.

Rumaih Al-Rumaih, chairman of the Public Transport Authority (PTA) and acting president of the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO), said that supervision of the project had ensured the operational efficiency of the project and all facilities were of the highest quality. “We were keen to introduce a trustworthy project that reflects the Kingdom’s care for pilgrims and visitors of holy sites, as well as the citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Al-Rumaih added that despite the technical and topographical challenges encountered during the project, the Al-Haramain train was one of the great achievements for the service of pilgrims and Umrah performers.

Al-Rumaih told Arab News that the train can annually transport 60 million passengers onboard a fleet of 35 trains, each one consisting of 417 seats. The trains are equipped with the latest technology to ensure comfort and safety.

As for women’s participation in the project, Al-Rumaih said that the government was working to provide jobs for young men and women. “Women are the other half of the society and we can see them one day driving our trains,” he told Arab News.

With a speed of 300 km and hour, Al-Rumaih said that the train would cover a distance of 450 km, linking stations in Makkah, Jeddah, King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah (KAIA), King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) in Rabigh and Madinah.

The SR60 billion ($16 billion) mega project went through three stages before screens could display journey timetables at the stations. The first stage, which was carried out by a consortium of national and international companies, started with the construction of 130 bridges and 850 water channels, a process in which some 150 million cubic meters of sand and rocks were removed to prepare the route for the train.

The second stage involved the construction of four stations in Makkah, Jeddah, Rabigh and Madinah. The construction of the fifth station, at the KAIA, was part of the airport project. 

The third stage involved the construction of a railway line and the importation of the systems for signals, controls, ticketing and telecommunication.


Adventures that prove the Empty Quarter is teeming with life

Unseen vistas of life in the vast Arabian desert. (AN photo)
Updated 22 min 7 sec ago
0

Adventures that prove the Empty Quarter is teeming with life

  • The Empty Quarter is, in fact, so full of life that it is nearly impossible for anyone to explore and experience it completely in a lifetime

It is quite unbecoming to call a place “empty” — and rather too easy, as well. It is just another lazy way to label a location. That has been the case with Rub Al-Khali, the Empty Quarter, which is the largest contiguous desert, or erg, in the world.

Describing this particular place as “empty” is an irony. The Empty Quarter is, in fact, so full of life that it is nearly impossible for anyone to explore and experience it completely in a lifetime. The book “Camels in the Sky: Travels in Arabia” by Indian author V. Muzafer Ahamed, does, however, reveal and describe an incredible amount of the life, in its full spectrum, to be found among the Arabian dunes.

The author’s work in Saudi Arabia as a journalist for a Malayalam-language daily newspaper led him to the desert and its inhabitants. He admits he was initially reluctant to journey into the harsh terrain, especially after an early, bitter experience during his rural reporting assignment. 

He recounts how a subsequent accidental encounter with a Bedouin sowed the seeds of his desert travel adventures. Had it not been for the resultant irresistible temptation to discover the unfathomed other side of the “severity of the desert,” he would have ended up being just another migrant worker in the Saudi city of Jeddah, totally unaware of the nuances of life in the great Arabian desert.

“Camels in the Sky” is a collection of Ahamed’s travel essays, translated from Malayalam by P. J. Mathew, that record the glimpses of desert life the author was given during his adventures in Saudi Arabia over a period of 13 years. They reveal some hitherto largely unseen vistas of life in the desert villages of the Kingdom, which will come as a surprise to readers who have no clue about the variety of life to be found on this part of the planet.

The author is our guide on a deep journey through the hidden alleys of desert life, sketching a vivid and detailed picture along the way. Much like the magical vision of Garcia Marques (a comparison made by the translator in his introduction to the book), Ahamed’s unique perspective on desert life provokes in the reader a massive urge to make similar forays into the locations he describes.

The book begins with a tale of utmost relevance in the modern world: A water war. Water has always been a valuable commodity in the desert, of course, even before it became a serious matter of discussion elsewhere. That the author’s first major encounter with Saudi life is related to this much-valued resource is more than just a coincidence; it is the light that led him toward exploring and uncovering the specificities of life in the Kingdom.

Although personal injuries he suffered in Sakaka initially threatened to extinguish the spirit of the traveler, he was inspired to carry on with his adventure by an encounter with Abd’ Rehman, a Bedouin he met in a restaurant in Jeddah. The travel bug that bit the author eventually took him to every corner of the vast country and the result is the invaluable collection of life sketches found in this book.

Ahamed leads us through a series of diverse stories and experiences to prove that the desert is teeming with life. From historical accounts of the Kinda to the perils of travel through harsh desert terrain to tales of vast civilizations and heritage, the author leaves no stone unturned along his way.

Then there is the relentless spirit of the hardy ghaf tree, which survives on the rare sprinkles of rain that come once in a decade or so; the stories of an anonymous man who rescues travelers in the desert; the adventures in the mighty sand traps; the mating of beetles; birdhouses in the desert; the different shades of sand; and camels in all their glory. Through these tales and more, Ahamed paints a vivid and complete picture of a land that is so little explored.

A unique feature of his writing style is the way he blends Arabian life with historical and literary references and analogies from elsewhere in the world, thereby drawing parallels between life in this less-navigated landscape with that in the other parts of the world.

“Camels in the Sky” offers not only a unique reading experience but also plants seeds that can grow into a love of travel and the urge to venture into the unknown corridors of life. The book is a reminder of the vast ocean of experiences that our blue planet has in store for those prepared to set sail.