The short history of the Hijaz Railway in Saudi Arabia

1 / 4
Hijaz Railway station in Al-Ula. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
2 / 4
Hijaz Railway station in Al-Ula. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
3 / 4
Hijaz Railway station in Al-Ula. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
4 / 4
Hijaz Railway station in Al-Ula. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 04 April 2019
0

The short history of the Hijaz Railway in Saudi Arabia

  • Volcanic rock was used as building materials for the stations and bridges between Al-Ula and Madinah
  • The railway station in Al-Madinah was also illuminated on this occasion, the first use of electricity in Madinah

JEDDAH: The line that was built from Damascus, Syria, to Madinah, Saudi Arabia, is a fascinating part of Hijazi history.
Sultan Abdul Hamid II put great effort into modernizing transportation and communication during the Ottoman Empire. He laid telegraph lines and railways to connect Ottoman villages and built the Hijaz Railway to connect Damascus with Madinah.
The line was built to meet the needs of pilgrims traveling to Makkah. Its construction took eight years. The first stage of the project from Damascus to Daraa began in September, 1900, and the first train reached Madinah in August 1908. The work was carried out by German and Turkish engineers and local workers recruited from the areas along the route.
The sultan planned to extend the railway on to Makkah and down the Red Sea coast to Yemen, but plans to extend the Hijaz Railway were disrupted by World War One (1914-1918).
The terrain between Tabuk and Madinah presented many challenges. One portion of Al-Akhdar valley required the building of both a tunnel and a 143-meter long bridge, the longest bridge in Saudi Arabia. In Al-Muazzam area high rubble landfills were used to lessen the steep angle of the track.
Small stations, all of the same design, were built along the line between Al-Ula and Hadiyya, where a mid-sized station was built and supplied with water. As the line approached Madinah the stations grew larger, such as at Istabl Antar.
Volcanic rock was used as building materials for the stations and bridges between Al-Ula and Madinah.
On Sept. 1, 1906, a ceremony was held in Tabuk to mark the arrival of the railway line. It was attended by an official delegation from Damascus, as well as sheikhs of tribes, nobles and merchants. One year later, a ceremony was held to mark the line reaching Al-Ula.
On August 22, 1908, the first train arrived in Madinah. The official ceremony was postponed until Dec. 1st to coincide with the anniversary of the accession of the sultan, and a grand ceremony was held to mark both events.
The railway station in Al-Madinah was also illuminated on this occasion, the first use of electricity in Madinah.
After 1918, the Arabs attempted to reopen the railway.
The train arrived in Madinah twice, once in 1919 and again in 1925. A lack of material and technical skills stopped the railway in Hijaz from working again. The Hijazi portion of the line is defunct, but the Syrian, Palestinian and Jordanian sections have remained in service locally.


Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

Updated 14 sec ago
0

Christchurch Muslims praise King Salman’s Hajj offer

  • The president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury Shagaf Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey
  • Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back”

CHRISTCHURCH: King Salman’s Hajj offer to host families of those affected by March’s Christchurch terror attacks is “something really special,” said the president of the Muslim Association of Canterbury, Shagaf Khan.
The Saudi king has offered to host and cover the expenses of 200 Hajj pilgrims when they journey to Makkah this year.
Khan said people will be both financially and spiritually supported during the journey. “For some of them, it’ll be a great comfort feeling like they’ve fulfilled the obligations of being a Muslim,” he added.
Khan said a trip to Makkah would normally cost around 10,000 New Zealand dollars ($6,769), but King Salman’s offer would cover pilgrims “from the time they leave their house and come back.”
When asked what the offer would mean for Canterbury’s Muslim community, Khan said it is part of the solidarity and support that has been shown to them since the Christchurch terror attacks, which claimed the lives of 51 people.
“Four months on … people still feel supported and they feel they’re still being remembered,” he added.
Sheikh Mohammed Amir, who is working closely with the local community, Saudi Arabia’s Embassy and its Ministry of Islamic Affairs to implement King Salman’s offer, said it will be available for those who had lost family members or been injured in the mosque attacks.
Canterbury’s Muslims are “very appreciative” of the offer, added Amir, who is chairman of the Islamic Scholars Board of New Zealand.
“I’ll say with full confidence that this will be a big relief for the deceased’s families, for the victims, for all those who’ve been injured and affected,” he said.
When asked how the organization of the pilgrimage is going, Amir said “so far, so good,” but added that it has been challenging without official records to track everyone down.
He said it is an honor and a responsibility to help organize the pilgrimage, which he has been helping to plan since the end of Ramadan. “People are very excited about it,” he added.
He said he believed that the king’s offer had been made to help people’s rehabilitation after the terror attacks.
“The community believes he’s going to contribute in building Christchurch and bringing people to a normal life,” Amir added.