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Hejaz Railway

Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Tabuk, Al-Madinah Regions
Coordinates:
Ref.: 6026
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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Latitude and Longitude, or UTM coordinates:

Name

Zone

Easting

Northing

Halat Ammar Post

37 R

215960.00 m E

3226871.00 m N

B. bin Hermas Station

37 R

233625.87 m E

3195119.35 m N

Al-Haradha Bridge

37 R

235412.48 m E

3188345.31 m N

Al-Hazm Station

37 R

241011.16 m E

3174058.10 m N

Al-Mohtatib Station

37 R

252566.95 m E

3154290.06 m N

Tabuk Sattion

37 R

261029.00 m E

3142573.00 m N

Al-Ethli Post

37 R

280853.00 m E

3123362.38 m N

Al-Barak Station

37 R

290161.57 m E

3116552.83 m N

Grain Al-Ghazal Station

37 R

299647.92 m E

3110074.91 m N

Al-Mustabgha Station

37 R

309670.01 m E

3110576.51 m N

Al-Akhdhar Station

37 R

290162.40 m E

3116550.94 m N

Khumaisa Station

37 R

328909.81 m E

3104683.93 m N

Khanzeera Station

37 R

339347.38 m E

3085677.73 m N

Al-Mu’azam Station

37 R

353541.58 m E

3069081.56 m N

Khashim San’a Station

37 R

364702.08 m E

3046591.21 m N

Al-Thamayel Station

37 R

366113.00 m E

3044707.00 m N

Addar Al-Hamra Station

37 R

381205.08 m E

3025281.91 m N

Al-Muttale’ Station

37 R

388109.85 m E

3004527.37 m N

Abu-Taqa Station

37 R

385204.34 m E

2986102.19 m N

Al-Hijr Station

37 R

395464.00 m E

2965368.00 m N

Al-Uthaib Station

37 R

392104.03 m E

2953646.28 m N

Al-Ula Station

37 R

394457.00 m E

2942955.00 m N

Al-Badaie’ Station

37 R

408262.91 m E

2930456.02 m N

Mashhad Station

37 R

417629.41 m E

2921385.05 m N

Mutran Bridge

37 R

429403.43 m E

2906675.11 m N

Sahel Mutran Station

37 R

431740.02 m E

2905189.51 m N

Zumurrud Station

37 R

442000.49 m E

2895160.58 m N

Al-Beer Al-Jadeed Station

37 R

455675.38 m E

2878726.96 m N

Attobara Station

37 R

461001.95 m E

2863083.78 m N

Al-Madraj Station

37 R

469466.21 m E

2841134.48 m N

Hadiya Bridge

37 R

473399.40 m E

2825965.83 m N

Jadda’a Station

37 R

481379.20 m E

2806861.40 m N

Abu Anna’am Station

37 R

482319.86 m E

2790390.35 m N

Estable Antar Station

37 R

488364.37 m E

2775925.99 m N

Al-Bwair Station

37 R

498758.29 m E

2759223.16 m N

Beer Nassif Station

37 R

512909.35 m E

2748682.39 m N

Bwatt Station

37 R

522071.36 m E

2731957.78 m N

Al-Hafeerah Station

37 R

536591.34 m E

2719677.65 m N

Makheet Station

37 R

547453.90 m E

2709429.53 m N

Medina

37 R

560785.00 m E

2705418.00 m N


The Hejaz Railway was built on the order of Ottoman ruler Sultan Abdulhameed II on September 1st 1909 CE. (5th of Jumada first 1318 AH). The main objective of its construction was to serve the two Holy Mosques and provide a modern means to transport Pilgrims who came from Asia, Europe and the Levant to the Holy shrines in Makkah and Madinah, in addition to strengthen ties between the then fragmented Muslim World. A number of stations are located on the railway the most prominent are: Tabuk, Madain Saleh, Medina, in addition to the presence of a number of bridges constructed over valleys and establishing wells and fortifications. The railway came to a grinding halt after the Arab revolt in 1327 AH/1914 CE. Policy during the reign of Sultan Abdulhameed II was focused on Islamic unity, and grouping all diverse ethnic minorities in the Ottoman Empire under a single state, he appointed personal Arab advisors including Ahmed Ezat Pasha from Damascus, who was one of the masterminds behind the construction of The Hejaz Railway, and a prominent Advisor in the Sultan's Court.

The construction of the Railway brought many benefits to the Ottoman Empire, the most important of which was the easing of Pilgrimage by replacing old camel caravans that took more than (40) agonizing days to reach Madinah from Damascus . It became one of the meeting points for pilgrims from Anatolia, central Asia, and Russia, to be used by common public, hence increasing Islamic ties. The other benefit was to facilitate the transport of infantry and supplies between the Hejaz and Yemen especially when the British empowered Egypt and took control of the Suez Canal.

A Brief about the Railway:

The Sultan ABDULHAMEET issued a Decree (Forman) for the construction of the Hejaz railroad in March 1900/1313 AH, provided that to be totally funded by donations from the Muslim World, and foreigners are not to interfere in its supply nor management. Many issues threatened the project: the Desert nature of the land, the lack of sufficient water, and the enormous financial cost especially that the Ottoman Empire was on the brinks of bankruptcy, Also the issue of corruption and the lack of suitable workforce and the security issue in Arabia. Influential Muslim figures rallied in favour of the project around the Muslim World, among of which was the Indian Mohammad Inshallah owner of Al-Wakeel newspaper, also some Egyptian publications played a major role in financing the project. The Turkish Engineer MukhtarBie surveyed the area and found that the most suitable is to follow the old caravan route (Syrian Pilgrimage route) with minor modifications. Sadiq Pasha Al-Muaed Al-Muazzam oversaw the establishment of a Telegraph line between Damascus and Medina which increased the cheers of those supporting the project; he mentioned his experience in his biography. Railroad tracks from Iron rails and wooden flanges were soon found to be impractical in the desert conditions due to heat, in additions local Bedouins might sabotage the line to harvest the wooden flanges as fire wood! Therefore it was replaced with Iron flanges, but this did not change a thing as it soon became a commodity and a source of wealth for those living nearby when the railroad was stopped. Between 5.000 to 7.000 workers joined in this project, most of which were from the Ottoman Army. Later in Istanbul an institute was inaugurated to qualify railroad engineers.

The track passed many barren valleys, which required the construction of bridges, the total number of which were about 2000 overpasses. A great deal of these bridges and overpasses were built from local carved stone due to the hardship faced in supply and manufacture of reinforced concrete. The majority of these bridges and overpasses still remain and in good condition. A station was established every 20 kilometers or less for protecting the railroad, in most of these stations there was a water well or a tank to store water, security was the most important issue causing the large number of stations, for the railroad crosses isolated and frightening strips of land far from urbanity. Workers suffered from the lack of food and the severity of the weather in addition to fear and exhaustion, hundreds of workers were buried alongside the track, in addition migrant workers came from all around the Ottoman Empire, Morocco, Arabia, including European countries like Italy and Greece.

Important Dates for the Project:

-  In  September  1314  AH/1901  CE.  A  celebration  commemorating  track  reaching  Dar’a  from Damascus.

- In  December  1316  AH/1903  CE.  A  line  was  open  between  Damascus  and  Amman,  and  the revenues were used to finance what remained from the tracks southwards.

- In September 1317 AH/1904 CE, the track reached Ma’an in Jordan.

- In September 1319 AH/1906CE a celebration commemorating the Arrival of the Locomotive to Tabuk which was a major station that included accommodations and a medical quarantine.

- In September 1320 AH/1907 CE, a celebration commemorating the rail reaching Al-Ula.

- A rebellion ignited  by  the  tribe of  Harb in Medina  opposing the  establishment  of  a  railway between Medina and Makkah claiming the loss of financial costs of transporting pilgrims on camel backs, the Sultan then proclaimed that the railway shall not go beyond Medina.

- On 6th of Jumada II 1326 AH/August 28th 1908 in an un-imagined speed and accomplishment, the first train from Damascus to Al-Anbariyyah Station in Al-Medina was celebrated with the attendance of thousands, but this celebration was loomed by the Arab revolt against Sultan Abdulhameed II.

- In 1327 AH/1909 CE. Sultan Abdulhameed II was ousted from power by the Turkish Committee of Union and Progress, and did not enjoy one of his greatest accomplishments, Sultan Abdulhameed II died in exile in 1336 AH/1918 CE.

- From 1327 AH/1909 CE to 1335 AH/1917 CE, the railway worked as planned until the beginning of WWI.

The start of WWI and the Railway’s Demise:

- In  November  1332  AH/1914  CE,  Turkey  (The  Ottomans)  announced  their  intentions  to  join Germany in WWI against the Allies.

- In 1334 AH/1916 CE Jamal Pasha persecuted many Arab Politicians in Damascus, and Turkey deployed 3.500 soldiers to support its stronghold in Medina.

- On Sha’ban 3rd 1334/June 5th 1916, the Sharif of Makkah Hussein bin Ali announced his rebellion against the Turks, and easily took over Jeddah, Makkah, and Taif. But the Ottoman Ruler of Medina Fakhri Pasha defended it until the end of WWI. Later Faisal Ibn Al-Hussein blockade Medina with no gains, then decided to cut the Turks supply by attacking the Railway. Faisal and his followers attempted a failed attack on Al-Moheet and Al-Hafeera stations. As T.E Laurence destroyed a number of bridges between Madraj and Hadiyah stations, the Maintenance teams fixed them quickly.

-  In Rajab 9th 1335/May 1917, British bombers dropped bombs on Al-Ula Station.

-  In Ramadhan 11th 1335 AH/July 1917.Stewart Newcombe camped with a brigade comprised from Indian and Egyptian solders in Al-Zumurrud fort to attack and sabotage the railway. A small force from Bani Attiyah attacked Al-Akhdhar station and captured 20 Turkish soldiers.

-  In Muharram 1336 AH/November 1917. Sharif Abdullah and the Tribe of Harb attacked Al-Bwair station and destroyed two Locomotives.

-  In Safar 1336 AH/December 1917 IbnGhusiab and his men derailed a train coming from Damascus south of Tabuk, Sulaiman ibn Rfadah stole large amount of ammunition sent to support ibn Rasheed from Turkey.

- In Dhul Hijja 1335 AH/October 1917. The Ottoman Strong hold of Tabuk fell to the Arab rebels. Sultan Al-Faqeer captured Madain Saleh and Abu-Anna’am station with the aid of Farhan Al-Aida.

- In Muharram 1337 AH/November 1918. The Arabs and the Allies entered Damascus.

- In Rabea I 1337 AH/January 1919. Madina was handed over and Fakhri Pasha marking the end of Ottoman control of the Railway.

After the end of the WWI few changes were made to return the railway to its previous glory, Prince Abdullah ibn Al-Hussein travelled by train from Madinah to Ma’an in Safar 1339 AH/November 1920. As the British and the French divided control over parts of the Levant, operation of the railway was complicated as both the British and French were not so eager to use the railway to transport pilgrims. And Since 1340 AH/1921 few scheduled trips were made to Madinah which took (12) days, and as a result of the lack of maintenance, the railway started to rapidly deteriorate until it was no longer suitable for use and later it was halted. Finally in 1343 AH/1924 CE, King Abdul-Aziz ibn Abdurrahman Al- Saud took control over the Hejaz ending the rule of Sharif Hussein ibn Ali and starting a new chapter in the History of the Arabian Peninsula, since then there were few efforts to revive this project, but with the Arab war in the second half of the 20th  Century, and the political changes in Palestine, Syria and Jordan resulted in the Halt of this project. The Egyptian traveller Al-Batnuni mentioned in his book “The Hejaz Trip”: "the train travel from Damascus to Ma’an   at an average speed of 30 km/h, and from Ma’an to Madinah at an average of speed of 15 km/h, and the ticket of a round trip from Haifa to Madinah is  14 British Pounds, and in the third class is about half this amount, as there is no second class. The first class carriages are narrow and  in each of them are six seats separated with fixed arm rests. The traveller to Madinah faces major difficulties and especially at night when they spend it as they do in the day sitting , the first class was to be equipped with four seats that can turn to beds, therefore many travellers preferring third class and especially luggage carriages where they can lay down and sleep freely". Sheikh Ali Attanttawi wrote: “The story of the Hejaz railway is a literal tragedy. Its mother carried it for eight years from 1314 to 1321 AH/1901 to 1908 CE, and lived for ten years after it was born from 1321 to 1337 AH/1908 to 1918 CE, it was later diagnosed with a chronic illness, for it is not a life to wish for, nor death to be forgotten. The line is there, but no train in motion and the stations exist, but with no passengers, here where they bid farewell and hello, witnessing hopes and expectations, people from every country and every race as it became with no distinction, nor receiving with joy. If tragic poets wept it with poems, the stations will remain the same and the rest of the poem will be erased by time, where each built wall and every stone in it are surviving lyrics of those poems. Each empty station is from the Hijaz stations is a poem from corners and walls need only who weeps in sorrow and words, so cover pens with ink from tears, and make it an for what you write, for every block at every station weeps, and every window with torn padlocks, and every door became with no tomorrow".

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The yearly Islamic pilgrimage to the Holy city of Makkah is one of the five pillars of Islam and one of the most important and most ancient religious pilgrimages in the world. Until today, millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Makkah every year to accomplish this religious duty. Pilgrimage (Hajj) is a spiritual and psychological journey, where feelings are mixed between joy and sadness, longing and nostalgia, far away from home, family and friends, winning and suffering, hope in Allah’s mercy and mixed Human feelings. For centuries, the Muslim pilgrims crossed the Arabian Desert in long caravans that followed traditional paths and routes to reach the Holy City of Makkah. Pilgrimage routes were not only religious axes but also commercial axes favouring movement across the ancient world and the cultural and commercial exchanges with continuity over a long period of time. The Hajj land routes leading to Makkah from the neighbouring countries materialize on the land of Arabia this century-old, deeply rooted cultural and religious tradition, and constitute one of the most important material vestiges of the Islamic civilization in Saudi Arabia. The Syrian Hajjroadperfectly  embodies  the  cultural significance  coming from  exchanges  and multi-dimensional dialogue across countries as it permitted to bring together Muslim pilgrims from different ethnic groups and regions, favouring cultural, religious and scientific exchanges among the inhabitants of the region. The Syrian Hajj road illustrates the interaction of movement, along the route, in space and time from the early Islamic period until the establishment of the Hejaz Railroad in the early 20th Century.

Criterion (ii): The Hejaz Railroad exhibits an important interchange of human values, spanning from the early days of Islam until the establishment of the Hejaz Railroad in 1900 CE. and the climax of WWI, starting from Damascus in Syria passing the north western region of Arabia providing a vital link between the northern frontiers of the Islamic World to the Holly lands in Makkah and Madinah, witnessing development in architecture ranging from simple structures and guard posts to fortified enclosures to provide safety and security for travellers, thus providing vital administration techniques for large masses of travellers, with outstanding landscape works in easing and facilitating travel along its road.

Criterion (iv): The Fortifications, Stations and water works along the Syrian Hajj  road represents outstanding example of architectural and transport security administration in a technological development of that time illustrating significant stages in safety and security management;

Criteria (vi): The Syrian Hajj road is directly associated with the Pilgrimage (Hajj) engaged by Muslims from all around the world either rich or poor, with the idea of facilitating and easing travel through the vast desert wilderness of Arabia, this ritual forms the fifth pillar of Islam, and the Syrian Hajj road was literary described by many Muslim writers and later by Western travellers making the journey from Damascus to Makkah and Madinah as of outstanding universal significance.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The stations and forts, combined with the path of the road, provide a very complete picture of the efforts made by Muslim Rulers to provide facilities for this important ritual. Remains of all the elements that comprised the stations (fortifications, water works and caravanserai) are still found along the path of the road. The dislocations of these structures have made them venerable, and require protection from looting and urban encroachment.

Authenticity: The Hejaz Railroad road remained active for centuries. The remains of the stations, forts, caravanserai and the desert landscape surrounding them reflect and exemplify the relevance of this Hajj road and the prosperity it brought to the area.

Comparison with other similar properties

From Islam's earliest years, the desire to perform the Hajj set large numbers of people travelling to the heart of the Muslim World. As a result, certain developments along Hajj Routes took on new importance and new technologies were used do ease the pilgrims' journey, Sultan Abdulhameed II built a Rail road that provided vital necessities including physical protection along this trail to Madinah. So beyond the meaning of each pilgrim's Hajj spiritually, the Hajj took on great importance as a social phenomenon, contributing enormously to forging a melded Islamic culture and a worldwide Islamic community whose shared characteristics bridged differences of nationality, ethnicity and custom.

Other Railway Projects inscribed on the World Heritage List

Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes

Rhaetian Railway in the Albula/Bernina Landscapes, brings together two historic railway lines that cross the Swiss Alps through two passes. Opened in 1904, the Albula line in the north western part of the property is 67 km long. It features an impressive set of structures including 42 tunnels and covered galleries and 144 viaducts and bridges. The 61 km Bernina pass line features 13 tunnels and galleries and 52 viaducts and bridges. The property is exemplary of the use of the railway to overcome the isolation of settlements in the Central Alps early in the 20th century, with a major and lasting socio-economic impact on life in the mountains. It constitutes an outstanding technical, architectural and environmental ensemble and embodies architectural and civil engineering achievements, in harmony with the landscapes through which they pass.

Semmering Railway

The Semmering Railway, built over 41 km of high mountains between 1848 and 1854, is one of the greatest feats of civil engineering from this pioneering phase of railway building. The high standard of the tunnels, viaducts and other works has ensured the continuous use of the line up to the present day. It runs through a spectacular mountain landscape and there are many fine buildings designed for leisure activities along the way, built when the area was opened up due to the advent of the railway.

Mountain Railways of India

This site includes three railways. The Darjeeling Himalayan Railway was the first, and is still the most outstanding, example of a hill passenger railway. Opened in 1881, its design applies bold and ingenious engineering solutions to the problem of establishing an effective rail link across a mountainous terrain of great beauty. The construction of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, a 46-km long metre-gauge single-track railway in Tamil Nadu State was first proposed in 1854, but due to the difficulty of the mountainous location the work only started in 1891 and was completed in 1908. This railway, scaling an elevation of 326 m to 2,203 m, represented the latest technology of the time. The Kalka Shimla Railway, a 96-km long, single track working rail link built in the mid-19th century to provide a service to the highland town of Shimla is emblematic of the technical and material efforts to dis-enclave mountain populations through the railway. All three railways are still fully operational.