Turkey realizes dream with Asia-Europe tunnel

Updated 28 December 2013

Turkey realizes dream with Asia-Europe tunnel

ISTANBUL: Turkey opened the world’s first underwater rail link between two continents on Tuesday, connecting Asia and Europe and allowing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to realize a project dreamed up by Ottoman sultans more than a century ago.
The engineering feat spans 13 km to link Europe with Asia some 60 meters below the Bosphorus Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry subway commuters in Europe’s biggest city and eventually serve high-speed and freight trains.
“Today we are realizing the dreams of 150 years ago, uniting the two continents and the people of these two continents,” Erdogan said at the opening, which coincides with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish Republic.
The 5.5 billion lira ($2.8 billion) tunnel is one of Erdogan’s “mega projects,” an unprecedented building spree designed to change the face of Turkey. They include a 50-km canal to rival the Suez that would render half of Istanbul an island, an airport that will be the world’s busiest and a giant mosque atop an Istanbul hill.
Atomic power stations are on the drawing table. A third bridge over the Bosphorus, whose construction has already felled 1 million trees, is under way.
The plans have fired up Erdogan’s opponents who dub them “pharaonic projects,” symptom of an increasingly authoritarian style of government, and warn of environmental catastrophes in one of world’s most earthquake-prone nations.
Erdogan has called the Marmaray the project of the century and says it fulfils an age-old “dream of our ancestors.”
Plans for a rail tunnel below the Bosphorus date to at least 1891, when Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid, a patron of public works whom Erdogan frequently evokes, had French engineers draft a submerged tunnel on columns that was never built.
Today, the gleaming Marmaray is an immersed tube set in the seabed built by Japan’s Taisei Corp. with Turkish partners Nurol and Gama. The bulk of financing came from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects warned the Marmaray set on a silty seabed 20 km from the active North Anatolian Fault is at risk in case of a large earthquake, which geologists predict may strike within a generation.
But Yildirim described the Marmaray as the “safest structure in Istanbul,” its free-floating structure designed to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 9. Interlocking floodgates would seal off each section.


AlUla cultural and heritage site to reopen in October

Updated 02 June 2020

AlUla cultural and heritage site to reopen in October

  • Historic destination in northwest of Kingdom will now be accessible to visitors all year round

JEDDAH: When you’re already a quarter-of-a-million years old, a few months out of action because of a coronavirus pandemic is no more than a blip in time.

It is therefore safe to say that when visitors return to AlUla, the culture and heritage destination in northwest Saudi Arabia, not a lot will have changed.

AlUla’s attractions, including the Kingdom’s first UNESCO world heritage site, will reopen in October — and they will now be accessible all year round.

Walks, treks and trails will be available, guided by the local Rawi (Arabic storyteller) or self-guided, for visitors who want to delve deeper into the stories and customs of the region.

A visit to AlUla is a transformative experience to all who have visited — its vast open spaces, its secrets of civilizations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks.

“We are developing immersive, light-touch experiences that harness the power and silence of the landscapes, experiences like guided stargazing in a desert night sky that has inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature for millennia,” said Phillip Jones of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Adventure tourists can tear around in a desert buggy or take to the skies in a vintage light aircraft to see volcanic craters and the lava fields of Harrat Khaybar. 

For families, Hijrat Noura, or Princess Noura Farm, offers a chance to observe the local flora and fauna. Winter Park, developed for the Winter at Tantora festival, will also return.

“A visit to AlUla is a transformative experience to all who have visited — its vast open spaces, its secrets of civilizations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks,” Jones said.