The famous Hijaz Railway is a fascinating story in itself.
The purpose of it was in connecting the holy sites in the Hijaz to Istanbul via railway. The Hijaz Railway was built by the Ottomans between 1900 and 1908, it was a project that came to light during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdel Hamid II.
Sultan Abdel Hamid II’s need for a railway, like his prior need for telegraph lines, was that they would allow him to tighten his grip on distant Ottoman states far from the centre of his rule in Istanbul, and to send military forces should a rebellion or revolution need quelling.
A pilgrimage from Damascus by camel required 40-50 days. As they progressed toward Medina and Mecca, the pilgrims faced many risks including robbery, floods and epidemics in addition to the difficulties and suffering one might expect from such a journey.
|Train station |
at Homs (Syria) 1900-1920
Sultan Abdel Hamid made the decision to establish a rail line linking Damascus to the holy sites.
The main line linked Damascus to Medina; a distance of 1,320 km. It passed through Transjordan in Az-Zarqa, Al-Qatranah, Amman and Ma’an before reaching northwestern Arabia the Hejaz region. It was built as an extension of the already existing line between Istanbul and Damascus.
|Fruit vendors at Homs station |
The Ottoman government viewed even Haifa as the Hijaz railway’s optimal access point to the sea due to the city’s strategic location granting it advantages over other coastal cities. The decision to make Haifa the railway’s outlet to the Mediterranean Sea required extending a secondary line from Dar’a in Syria to Haifa in Palestine for a total length of 161 kilometres. The extension of this line was not only meant to enable the delivery of the materials and equipment necessary to construct the Hijaz railway, but also to facilitate the transport of Muslim pilgrims via the Haifa Port to the Hijaz.
|Jerusalem station |
Transport through Haifa Port thus increased–the amount of goods imported and exported via the port multiplied. With the extension of the Hijaz railway to Haifa, the city was connected to Damascus and the regions of Houran and eastern Jordan, among others, turning it into a bona fide port city.
The crops of these regions, particularly grains, were exported via Haifa while European and American goods and products needed by the regions were imported.
The Hijaz railway project played a prominent role in the development of Haifa from several perspectives. The following is an outline of the most significant developments.
- Population Increase
- The Development of Haifa Port
- Economic Development
- Construction Development
- Development of Tourism
- Improvement of the Administrative Agency
|People riding coach in the Hijaz train|