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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 16:38 GMT
Heritage: The Hejaz Railway
First broadcast January 2006

The Hejaz railway once carried hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the Middle East to Medina. It was completed almost a century ago, replacing the centries-old method of going on pilgrimage: travelling across the desert by camel caravan.

The railway was destroyed in parts by Lawrence of Arabia during the First World War, but the sections that survive are still in use. Even now, ancient steam locomotives billowing dark, acrid smoke still run on sections of the original line between Damascus in Syria and Amman in Jordan.

In this four-part series, presenter Malcolm Billings traces the route and history of this 'phantom steam trail'.

Part Three: Impact

Before the Hejaz railway, Amman was little more than a village. Within four years of the tracks being laid, over a million people had come through the city. This secured its place first as a bustling pilgrim town and then as Jordan's capital city.

But not all the effects were positive on Jordan. The ruined palace of Qasr al Mushatta was further despoiled when its intricate carvings were removed and given by Sultan Abdul Hamid II to the German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Even today treasure hunters continue to search for Ottoman Empire gold, which legend has it is buried under the tracks.

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