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The Hijaz-Palestine Railway and the Development of Haifa

Contributed by Toine Van Teeffelen on 24.11.2007:

Johnny Mansour


Jerusalem Quarterly

Fall 2006

Issue 28

Connecting the holy sites in the Hijaz to Istanbul via railway was a project that came to light during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdel Hamid II. He sought to demonstrate his strength and power practically by applying the concept of a greater Islamic community to a series of projects within the Ottoman Empire. He thus announced the Hijaz railway project as facilitation for Muslim pilgrims travelling to the Hijaz.

Sultan Abdel Hamid II was well versed in the tools of propaganda and media available at that time. He exploited those tools to present this railway project as an important symbol in confronting Europe and its influence in the Middle East, a region that was still largely subordinate, directly or otherwise, to the authority of the Ottoman Empire.

Sultan Abdel Hamid II’s need for a railway, like his prior need for telegraph lines, was that they would allow him to tighten his grip on distant Ottoman states far from the centre of his rule in Istanbul, and to send military forces should a rebellion or revolution need quelling. Yet he also needed a railway to emphasize his role as the guardian of Islam, both as a religion and culture, through his concern for the movement of pilgrims to the Holy Kaaba in Mecca and all other holy sites of Islam located in the Hijaz.

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