17 August 2021

Hejaz Railway – Al Ula

The Hejaz Railway was a 1050mm narrow gauge railway originally built to transport pilgrims from the city of Damascus through Syria to Madina in Saudi Arabia, through the Hejaz region of Saudi Arabia and was one of the principle railroads of the Ottoman Empire. It was originally designed to reach mecca but never reached this destination stopping at Medina 400 kilometres short. It was started in 1900 and completed in 1908, but was severely damaged during the First World War (1914-1918) by Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt. It was built to facilitate pilgrimages to the Muslims’ holy places in Arabia but in fact also to strengthen Ottoman control over the most distant provinces of the empire. The main line, built by a multiracial labour force mainly under the supervision of a German engineer and covered 1,320 km of difficult terrain. It ran from Damascus southward to Deraa and thence over Jordan into north-western Arabia, and inland via Dhāt al-Ḥajj and Al-ʿUlā to Medina. Small stations of uniform design were built along the railway from Tabuk until Madain Saleh (Al-Hijr) in Saudi Arabia and one year after the opening of the railway station in Tabuk a ceremony was held in September 1907 for the arrival of the railway line at Al Ula. Volcanic black rock was used to build the stations and bridges in the sector of the railway between Al Ula and Al Madinah.