Innlegg merkte med ‘Damascus’

I går kunne ein lese i Aftenposten at heile Hijazbana no skal opnast for turistar og andre:

Til Mekka på første klasse?

The Hijaz Train StationTogstasjonen i Damaskus

Dette er langt på veg på tide. Jarnbana vart aldri skikkeleg gjenbygd etter at Lawrence of Arabia og venene hans sprengde store delar den under første verdskrig. Sidan då har det i tillegg vore svært lite trafikk på denne berømte jarnbanestrekka. Til no har det berre vore to delar av bana som har vore i bruk. Strekka mellom Amman og Damaskus og strekka mellom Ma’an og kystbyen Aqaba. Amman-Damascus har vore open for passasjertrafikk, men dette tilbodet skal vere svært treigt alternativ til taxi (tog: ni timar, taxi: tre timar) i tillegg til at ein må byte tog på grensa til Syria. Ma’an-Aqaba har for det meste godstogtrafikk.

I følgje Wikipedia skal det ha vore gjort forsøk på å opne opp bana att sør for den jordansk-saudiske grensa på midten av  60-talet, men på grunn av seksdagarskrigen i 1967 vart ikkje dette noko av. Grunnen til at ein ikkje prøvde å opne opp bana før 60-talet var at grensa mellom Jordan og Saudi-Arabia i området der Hijazbana gjekk,  ikkje var avtalt og at denne var forbode å krysse. Saudi-Arabia hadde til og med lagt krav på store delar av sør-Jordan (Aqaba og Maan). Dette ordna seg i 1965 då båe partar fekk i stand ein grensebyteavtala som forma grensene slik vi kjenner dei i dag. Det var sikkert som ei følgje av denne at dei prøvde å opne den opp att.

Jordan Times hadde ein artikkel om jarnbana for nokre veker sidan: Initiative to place Hijaz Railway on tourism map. I august i år var det forresten 100-årsjubileum for jarnbana, eller nærmare sagt 100 år sidan bana og det første toget med pilegrimar nådde Medina. Dette skjedde åtte år etter byggestart.

Eg vil takke Per A. Christiansen, Midtausten-korrespondenten til Aftenposten stasjonert i Amman, for ein interessant artikkel som alltid. Men eg vil likevel ønskje han velkomen etter sidan eg skreiv om akkurat dette på bloggen min allereie i april i år på bakgrunn av ein artikkel i Jordan Times. Eg håpar verkeleg at Hijazbana blir gjenopna, og om den blir det, kjem det til å vere ei togreise eg gjerne vil ta. Sidan eg ikkje er muslim kjem eg ikkje inn i korkje Mekka eller Medina, men på vegen dit ligg Mada’in Saleh.

During the first world war the British forces, under the leadership of General Edmund Allenby, had tried and failed twice to take and hold the area of Transjordan. The goal had been to break the lines of the Ottoman Empire between Damascus and Medina. After two failed attacks with many casualties, Allenby shifted focus. Allenby’s new strategy was take Damascus by breaking the Ottoman lines in coastal Palestine and thereby bypassing the Ottoman forces in Transjordan. The rush for Damascus started in September 1918. The Arab Army, under the leadership of the Hashemite Sharif of Mecca, Hussein b. Ali, had been held in check by the Ottoman forces, but moved camp to Azraq Oasis to participate in the rush. To cover this operation up Allenby came up with a plan to fool the Ottomans:

Allenby feigned a new attack on Transjordan to cover his troop build-up on the coast of Palestine by pitching an empty encampment in the Jordan Valley, making some 15,000 dummy horses out of canvas, and driving mule-drawn sleighs to raise dust.

At the same time the Arab Army draw the Ottoman’s attention away from Palestine by attacking the Hijaz Railway line. The plan worked and the heavily outnumbered Ottoman forced in Palestine were defeated and their defenses collapsed in six days. The Arab Army and Allenby’s forces now raced each other to Damascus, a race the Arabs would win.

This small moment in history is picked from Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire by Eugene L. Rogan. For more detailed information about the campaign see Setting the Desert on Fire by James Barr.

Damascus - Hijaz Train Station

*Click here for a larger picture*

Ever since I was in Syria in September I have had a small wish to see the Hijaz railway station. I have read a lot about the railway and wanted to see its train station in Damascus even though I had been told it was not much to see. I got my chance when I went to Damascus a second time in late November.

The station lies in the end of al-Nasr Street, a straight walk from the entrance of the famous Souq al-Hamidiyya by the Citadel. After quick walk I came to the only building that could be the train station. The building looked older than the surrounding buildings and a big train was parked outside. It was not the most impressive building in the world, but interesting enough. The inside however offered a small disappointment. The building had been turned into, or contained, a small and not very impressive book shop. The book shop only offered titles in Arabic and did not have the biggest selection of books. A book cover picturing the head of George W. Bush as the dot in a question mark offered however a minor amusement. The windows of the building saved some of the the impression. They were made up of glass in many colours and gave the inside of the building a very colourful atmosphere.

I was also allowed to see the back of the station where I had a tiny hope of seeing some railroad tracks. In stead I gazed upon a huge hole, garbage and a small unimpressive bridge in the horizon. I did not ask anybody, but I guessed there were plans to add another section to the building, apparently not a very small one either if I should believe the displayed model. According to my slighty outdated Lonely Planet guide book for the Middle East will this new terminal be the terminus of a new Damascus-Beirut railway line.Model of the new station– The current old station is the small building in the front.In the back of the station– In the back of the station where the new terminal will be built.

If you want to learn more about the railway see this website.