Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid and the Train Project
Al Hejaz Railway Project
– Built by the order of Sultan Abdul Hamīd II of the Ottoman Empire.
– Mukhtar Bey was the engineer appointed by the Sultan.
He saw that the path of the camel caravan from Shaam to Madinah and vice versa is suitable for the train railway.
– It started on September 1900 and took seven years till it was completed.
– The 1st train to reach Al Madinah Al Munawwarah was on August 23 1908.
– The length of the Hejaz Railway is 1320 km. 705 km inside the Saudi Lands.
– There were 40 stations inside the Kindgom.
– 25 stations inside Madinah and 15 stations in Tabuk region.
– The length between two stations is approx. 20 km.
– There were 3 main stations inside the Kingdom: Madinah, Al Hajar and Tabuk.
– It continued to operate until 1916 and was destroyed during World War One by rebels led by T. E. Lawrence/Lawrence of Arabia.
When people would call him the ruler of Makkah and Madinah – he would say,
‘I am nothing but a servant of Makkah and Madinah.’
When he began the Hijaz railway project in Madinah, he made the workers wrap the end of their hammers with leather in order to avoid noise – for he feared disturbing Rasūlullāh ﷺ.
Likewise, the train tracks were covered in a special material which prevented excessive noise. And all heavy labour work was done out of the city – out of adab/respect for the Master of Madinah.
Abdu’l-Ḥamīd placed a great degree of significance on the Holy Sites – Makkah and Madīnah.
This started with renovations of the sites themselves to prevent flooding, and then the routes for Ḥajj were looked at and hospitals and barracks were built along the routes for pilgrims.
His flagship policy however was the Ḥijāz Railway.
It would begin in Istanbul travelling through Syria, Palestine and much of the Arabian desert and end in Makkah.
The aim was to better connect the Holy sites with Istanbul, and also make the pilgrimage easier.
Experts state that a journey from Istanbul to Makkah would now take only 5 days.
It was designed to strengthen the empire militarily and their control over the Arabian peninsula.
Soldiers could reach the Holy Sanctuaries in no time if it were to come under attack.
Such was his desire to protect these sites, that it was decided the railways themselves should be slightly narrower than the standard European ones. Why?
If Istanbul were to ever fall to European imperialists, he wanted to make sure they could not use the Ḥijāz Railway with European trains to easily invade Makkah and Madīnah.
Sadly, the Ḥijāz rail network was never completed and it did not reach Makkah due to the outbreak of World War One. Nonetheless, it did reach Madīnah; a great deal of care was taken completing the final stages of the route to Madīnah, each hammer was covered with leather and similarly, the trains wheels were also covered with felt to avoid excessive noise out of respect for the Prophet ﷺ .
When Madīnah finally fell to forces loyal to Ibn Sa’ūd many sacred relics such as the Prophet’s ( ﷺ ) rings were transported for safekeeping via the Ḥijāz Railway and currently reside in places like Topkapi Palace.