Conserving and interpreting the Hijaz railway in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
واصفات البياناتعرض سجل المادة الكامل
The Hijaz Railway was constructed in the early part of the twentieth century to link the Levant with Islam’s Holy cities of Madinah and Mekkah. The railway was never completed beyond Madinah and its operational life was cut short by the First World War, never to be revived again. Today only a few sections in Syria and Jordan still function. The significance of the ‘route’ as it passes through the Hijaz, however, lies not just in the railway but in the many other activities that it has supported.. Prior to the emergence of Islam the same artery was used by Frankincense traders moving from Oman to the Eastern Mediterranean ports. Later the same route was used by pilgrims travelling from Egypt, Turkey, Syria and Jordan, a function it continues to fulfil. Today in Saudi Arabia, the track bed remains a palimpsest in the desert landscape. Most of the railway buildings lie abandoned, with the exception of Tabuk station, a depot near Al Ula and the terminus building in Madinah, recently converted into a Railway Museum. This paper considers the potential role of the Hijaz Railway as a ‘cultural route’ in stimulating heritage tourism in Saudi Arabia. In doing so the paper considers how the wider Islamic and pre-Islamic cultural heritage of the route can be better preserved, interpreted and developed.