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Rayak Railway

Photographer: Wael Hamzeh


Train carriages are shattered over the landscape with their locomotives battered with bushes and trees, and wrecked buildings that were used to shelter these locomotives are now covered with damaged roof tiles spreading over the factory floor.


The train station at Rayak was the Arab world’s first railway and flourishing train factory at the 1895. The track was added during the 20th century. It linked Beirut to Saudi Arabia through the Hijaz line and Istanbul through Aleppo line which was added in 1909. During World War II, the Allied Forces added a line connecting Haifa, Beirut and Tripoli. So by the end of the extensions, the railway linked the country with different Arabian countries and even with Paris, France.


But unfortunately after the outbreak of Lebanon’s civil war in 1975, the railways were deserted and passenger services were interrupted two years later. The station was occupied as a Syrian military base and visiting it has only been possible since 2005 after the departure of the Syrian army.


While the most valuable equipment was transferred to a Syrian railway museum, much of it was destroyed during the Syrian conflict.


Many Lebanese people agree that the project of renovating the train station needs to see the light someday. The heavy reliance of the Lebanese citizens on their own vehicles and the country's limited forms of public transportation makes reinitiating the train line a crucial task. However, this would be subject to political arguments and financial circumstances as a project of this kind would require large amounts of funding.