Hejaz Railway Station, Damascus
Rail travel may not been quite as well established in the Middle East as it is in Europe, but it’s not for lack of trying. During the Ottoman period, and again under British and French Mandates, colonial powers sought to connect the Middle East to the European rail network. The Ottomans built tracks all the way into the Hejaz (modern day western Saudi Arabia) and Damascus and Aleppo were connected to a network that made it possible to travel from the Levant to the Channel. Today, rail travel is again gaining momentum (pardon the pun) in some countries, but it remains a historical curiosity in Syria. In Damascus, the railway station erected on the Hejaz line laid by the Ottomans is today a tourist attraction at which the tracks have been removed. The wooden floors and the coloured glass windows are still there for all to marvel at, as is the ticket counter, but today the interior is filled with stalls that sell books. Outside there is the sort of antique train car that so attracts children, but it is clear that this particular remnant of Ottoman rule is not viewed as one of the prime tourist attractions by the civic authorities in Damascus.
The Railway Station is an attractive building that caught my eye. Although trains still run to Aleppo, the railway is actually historic. In 1903 the line tan from Turkey to Damascus and by 1908 to Medina in Saudi Arabia The purpose was to carry pilgrims. So it was called the Hejaz railway.
The facade of the station allows one to get a glimpse of the beauty within as the stained glass windows project bright colours out.
A beautiful building and worth a short visit.
It seems that only the entrance hall is open for visitors. A book fair was held there the day I visited.
The interior is beautifully decorated, especially the ceiling.
The place has a nostalgic feel to it.
One of the most beautiful late Ottoman buildings to have survived in Damascus, the "neo-Islamic/Baroque" Hijaz Railway Station was completed in 1913 shortly before the fall of the Empire. It was built as the terminus for the newly constructed, strategically important railway that transported pilgrims to Medina, in the Hijaz region (western Arabia). Pilgrims had traditionally gathered in Damascus from all over the Empire, and as far as Constantinople, before the Haj season and made the long trip by land. The railway cut the travel time tremendously and was eventually to be extended to Mecca. Unfortunately, the railway's life was ephemeral for it was blown up by T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies during WWI in an effort to weaken Ottoman control over the Hijaz region. Although some trains continued to operate into Jordan after WWI, the importance of the station immediately diminished and the trains were eventually diverted elsewhere in Damascus. Nowadays, the Hijaz Railway Station serves as a neglected exhibition hall, but there are new plans to incorporate it into a giant commercial complex to be erected behind the edifice, where the rail tracks once were (see attached photos).
The hejaz railway station is the old train station of damascus and a very nice building from the osmannic times.
it was build in 1917, mostly as part of a train line to mecca that pilgrims could use.
Today the station is little used as they have a build a bigger station outside the center of Damascus, but it´s a building worth checking out for it´s fine architecture.
The Hejaz Railway Sation, built in 1917, stands incongruously in the heart of the modern city. It was once the northern terminus of a railway line that took pilgrims all the way to Medina in Saudi Arabia. However, almost as soon as the line was completed it was blown up by Lawrence of Arabia, to prevent it from being used by Turkish and German forces.
The track has now been dug up. The station is still an attractive building, however, and in front of it stands a 1908 steam engine.
The railway was constructed in 1907-1917 in order to connect Damascus to Medina and transfer the people for the annual pilgrimage to Mecca. During the war of 1914-1918 it was attacked many times by the famous Lawrence of Arabia. The station platforms are closed because they are undergoing renovation, but still the place is worth a visit just to sense the history.
Built in the last days of the Ottoman empire as the terminal for the Hejaz railway that ran from Damascus to Medina, the Hejaz railway station now sees few passengers and its elaborate ticket hall, with its stained glass windows and painted ceiling, is mostly deserted these days.
Whilst there is still a twice-weekly service to Amman, buses and service taxis are far quicker and more comfortable so just about the only tourists who come to the station do so for the building rather than to catch a train.
The journey on the narrow gauge railway to Zabadani may be a more attractive option for train buffs, though it does take 3 to 4 hours to make the 50km run. The train only runs once a day in summer, leaving at 0800 and returning 3 hours after its arrival in the hills.
A small cafe operates on the station platform.
Yes, there can be beauty in a train station - the Hejaz train station - now no longer in use - is a real winner! Great architecture... it looks more like a palace than a train station - in fact it took me a couple of days to figure out that it was one. Admittedly I'm slow - since there's an old steam locomotive parked outside - but I was too taken in by the building itself to see it. At night - inside - there was a book fair - although I don't know if it's on year round or not. Still, it's a lovely building worth seeing...