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Rumbling Through Modern Jordan, a Railway From the Past

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Amman, Jordan — A historic train honked a horn to announce its departure, straddling a 100-year-old railroad track through the metropolis of modern Amman. The sound puts food bags, coffee pots, soda coolers, grills, hookers, and lots of kids into action, spurring families to scramble iron ladders and settle into wooden cars on the train. rice field.

However, the party had already started on car 9. There, a group of women and dozens of children applauded to an Arabic pop song from a battery-powered speaker with a flashing disco light.

The train honked again, rejuvenated and surprised the party attendees. Party attendees recovered and applauded as they saw the world outside the window slip through.

So, from Amman, the capital of Jordan, he began his recent trip on the last functional zone of the former Hejaz Railway, the most iconic train in the Middle East.

Built by the Ottoman Empire at the dawn of the 20th century. Bombed by Lawrence of Arabia And arab fighters During World War I,and”The mummy is back“When syrupy Arabic music video about Lonely loversRailroads are a relic of the past dream of regional unification, before services were abolished by war, borders, and more sophisticated means of transportation.

Sultan Abdulhamid II’s pet project, Railroad, was completed in 1908 and traveled over 800 miles through the mountains and deserts of Levant and Arabia, taking pilgrims from Damascus to one of the most holy Islamic cities now in Saudi Arabia. I carried it to a medina. .. From there, they moved to Mecca, the focus of the pilgrimage, by other means.

The secondary line continued to Haifa, now the major city of Israel, and Beirut, the capital of Lebanon on the Mediterranean coast. There was a plan to connect this line to Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire in the north, and Mecca in the south, connecting a wide area of ​​the Ottoman Empire.

However, only six years after the train first defeated Medina on September 1, 1908, World War I broke out and the empire and the new border collapsed. The Haifa line went out of service around 1948, when the Israeli creation left it in the war with its Arab neighbors. The Beirut line stopped at the beginning of the 15-year civil war in Lebanon in 1975.

Currently, narrow-gauge tracks remain, but railroad trunks cross the three countries of Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, and their leaders have shown little interest in the revival of the project.

Saudi Arabia welcomes pilgrims to Mecca. Luxury airport terminal Shuttle around modern sanctuaries High speed train.. After the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, rail traffic in Syria suddenly stopped.

Therefore, only Jordan remains. Jordan offers a 50-mile leisure trip from Amman to Ardiza Station, south of the town, with a four-hour lunch break along the way.

Riders go on a journey because no one goes where they need it — and feel nostalgic.

“I love the train because it reminds me of Agatha Christie’s novel,” said 36-year-old Islamic Daud, who sank in a luxurious red chair and stared out the window.

She said she first got on the train as a high school girl. Her air conditioner wasn’t there and the car was dusty, but her memory remained with her.

“What I liked was that the windows were open and I was able to get my head out,” she said.

The train departs in the morning from Amman Station, a handsome ivy-covered stone building built during the first decade of the 20th century.

There were two original passenger cars in the train yard, but the one that Abdullah I, the great-grandfather of the current king of Jordan, boarded the city when he became the ruler of the territory in 1921. Is also included.

7 people were parked nearby Huge black steam engine With red wheels. They are all still functioning, but they take hours to ignite and are only used for special occasions because they are severe pollutants, and are train conductors and railroad officials hosting the trip. Nader Malkawi said.

On a recent trip, the train was towed by two diesel electric locomotives manufactured in 1976. Some parts of the car were original, but most were Japanese tanker cars that Jordan converted into wooden passenger cars in 2005.

The upgrade also added lighting, air conditioning, and electricity for speakers that pipe Arab pop music to the car while traveling.

Railroad enthusiasts in Jordan also have another option. The line that carries phosphate to Aqaba, Jordan’s only coastal city, went out of service in 2018, Markawi said. However, the line passes through Jordan’s scenic Wadiram.There tourists can sometimes see it on a short ride A band of locals on horseback Reproduce Bedouin’s attack by wearing period costumes.

The trip from Amman is longer, but there is no theater. Tickets are $ 7 for riders over 12 years old and less for children. Those under the age of 3 can ride for free. Trains include snack cars and VIP cars with luxurious seats, burgundy curtains and crowns on the doors.

The trip was different than it was thirty years ago, said Fidaa Abu Safia, 38, the first passenger to board the same truck when she was six.

She said there was no music and the wooden seats were uncomfortable and hot, but the train still felt magical. She remembered passing by a tree with yellow flowers that fell in the window.

“It was the best trip of my life,” said Absafia.

There were no flowers to see when the upgraded train passed through the chaotic spread of the scorching blocks of southern Amman. Instead, many industrial warehouses, junkyards, and mechanics appeared, huge failed shopping malls, and lots of garbage scattered along the railroad tracks.

There are no crossing guards on the railroad to stop traffic. The police are supposed to do that. However, there was no evidence that day, so as the car or motorcycle ran across the intersection, the conductor slowed down as he approached the intersection and leaned against the horn. Until the last moment..

There was also the problem of a boy throwing stones and breaking windows on the train.

According to Marcawi, railroad workers tried to distract them by throwing candies to stop them, but it didn’t work. So they took pictures of the boys and gave them to the police. Police summoned parents and signed a vow that the children would not target the train. The tactic worked pretty well.

The lack of scenic views did not bother the soldier Hussum al-Khatib who knew about the trip. on facebook And he brought his wife and their three sons. Everyone was the first train rider.

He said Jordan didn’t have much public transport and the scenery wasn’t great, but he felt it was important for Jordanians to know their country.

“We are proud of the sight of Jordan,” he said.

Outside Amman, the landscape was widespread with golden wheat fields, greenhouses full of tomatoes and eggplants, flock of sheep, occasional flock of camels, and barking dogs chasing trains.

In front of Alziza’s station, where passengers stopped by for lunch, the train passed Amman’s international airport, from which jets took off overhead, transforming the train from state-of-the-art transportation into historic curiosity. It reminded me of technology.

At the station, running the engine from end to end of the return train, the family insisted on a shaded area under the hinoki and eucalyptus trees, and while the kids ran around the sandy playground and climbed the charcoal grill. An abandoned box car that fired a water grill.

The train then honked and the rider returned with a photo taken next to the car.

The return journey was quiet, and the sun, squeaky cars, and the stable clicking of the train put many children and some adults to sleep.

However, Hebaal-Shishan refused to miss it. She also took snapshots with a smile while gazing at the scenery, reminding her of her childhood journey. On her ride, the train had to stop because the nomads had to connect the sheep to the railroad tracks and move the sheep before proceeding with the trip.

“These are experiences I will never forget,” said Al Sishan.

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