URSULA SCHULZ-DORNBURG
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The Stations of the Hejaz Railway. 2003

 

Eighty-five years after the end of the First World War, German photographer Ursula Schulz-Dornburg retraced the Ottoman railway line that once linked Damascus and Medina, sections of which were blown up by Arab guerrillas during the war. The Hejaz Railway was one of the great engineering projects of the Ottoman Empire. When work began in 1900, it was intended to run between Mecca and Damascus, ultimately connecting to the empire’s capital in Constantinople. The railway would therefore serve pilgrims to Mecca, but also strengthen the Ottomans’ administrative and military hold over the Arab region. By the outbreak of war in 1914, the route from Damascus to Medina was complete, but it became a prime target for bands of Arab guerrillas that famously included T.E. Lawrence. After the war, as the Ottoman Empire itself disintegrated, the project was abandoned. Following the path of the Hejaz Railway in 2003, Schulz-Dornburg discovered that while much of the track has been destroyed, the station buildings remain, standing purposeless and empty in the desert. Her photographs memorialise the relics of a vanished empire.



Shoair Mavlian

 

From exhibition catalogue "Conflict. Time. Photography." Tate Modern, London, 2014
© Ursula Schulz-Dornburg