The Hejaz Railway was built 100 years ago to carry pilgrims from Istanbul to Medina but was blown up by Lawrence of Arabia during World War I. Stretches of the line are still used today by passenger and goods trains with engines and carriages from another era.
The railway was also used to maintain Ottoman rule in more distant provinces
My first encounter with the Hejaz Railway was in clouds of steam along with a pungent smell of hot grease, at Kadem station in Damascus.
A veteran steam locomotive built in 1914 chuffed past, hauling a goods train towards the Jordan border.
From the driver’s cab, two soot streaked faces leaned out to see the iron road ahead.
It was like stepping back a century in railway history.
But I had to remind myself that this was not history, this was now!