Online Encyclopedia

HEJAZ (H1JAz)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 218 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HEJAZ (H1JAz), a Turkish vilayet and a province of Western Arabia, extending along the Red Sea coast from the head of the Gulf of Akaba in 29° 30' N. to the south of Taif in 20° N. It is bounded N. by Syria, E. by the Nafud desert and by Nejd and S. by Asir. Its length is about 750 M. and its greatest breadth from the Harra east of Khaibar to the coast is 200 M. The name Hejaz, which signifies " separating," is sometimes limited to the region extending from Medina in the north to Taif in the south, which separates the island province of Nejd from the Tehama (Tihama) or coastal district, but most authorities, both Arab and European, define it in the wider sense. Though physically the most desolate and uninviting province in Arabia, it has a special interest and importance as containing the two sacred cities of Islam, Mecca and Medina (q.v.), respectively the birthplace and burial-place of Mahomet, which are visited yearly by large numbers of Moslem pilgrims from all parts of the world. Hejaz is divided longitudinally by the Tehama range of mountains into two zones, a narrow littoral and a broader upland. This range attains its greatest height in Jebel Shar, the Mount Seir of scripture, overlooking the Midian coast, which probably reaches 7000 ft., and Jebel Radhwa a little N.E. of Yambu rising to 6000 ft. It is broken through by several valleys which carry off the drainage of the inland zone; the principal of these is the Wadi Hamd, the main source of which is on the Harra east of Khaibar. Its northern tributary the Wadi Jizil drains the Harrat el Awerid and a southern branch comes from the neighbourhood of Medina. Farther south the Wadi es Safra cuts through the mountains and affords the principal access to the valley of Medina from Yambu or Jidda. None of the Hejaz Wadis has a perennial stream, but they are liable to heavy floods after the winter rains, and thick groves of date-palms and occasional settlements are met with along their courses wherever permanent springs are found. The northern part of Hejaz contains but few inhabited sites. Muwela, Damgha and El Wijh are small ports used by coasting craft. The last inherit as parceners, and made but one heir. at common law), but by and their capital Deraiya in Nejd taken by Ibrahim Pasha in 1817. Hejaz remained in Egyptian occupation until 1845, when its administration was taken over directly by Constantinople, and it was constituted a vilayet under a vali or governor-general. The population is estimated at 300,000, about half of which are inhabitants of the towns and the remainder Bedouin, leading a nomad or pastoral life. The principal tribes are the Sherarat, Beni Atiya and Huwetat in the north; the Juhena between Yambu' and Medina, and the various sections of the Harb throughout the centre and south; the Ateba also touch the Mecca border on the south-east. All these tribes receive surra or money payments of large amount from the Turkish government to ensure the safe conduct of the annual pilgrimage, otherwise they are practically independent of the Turkish administration, which is limited to the large towns and garrisons. The troops occupying these latter belong to the 16th (Hejaz) division of the Turkish army. The difficulties of communication with his Arabian provinces, and of relieving or reinforcing the garrisons there, induced the sultan Abdul Hamid in 1900 to undertake the con- The struction of a railway directly connecting the Hejaz Hejaz railway. cities with Damascus without the necessity of leaving Turkish territory at any point, as hitherto required by the Suez Canal. Actual construction was begun in May 1901 and on the 1st of September 1904 the section Damascus-Ma'an (285 m.) was officially opened. The line has a narrow gauge of 1.05 metre= 41 in., the same gauge as that of the Damascus-Beirut line; it has a ruling gradient of 1 in 5o and follows generally the pilgrim track, through a desert country presenting no serious engineering difficulties. The graver difficulties due to the scarcity of water, and the lack of fuel, supplies and labour were successfully overcome; in 1906 the line was completed to El Akhdar, 470 M. from Damascus and 350 from Medina, in time to be used by the pilgrim caravan of that year; and the section to Medina was opened in 1908. Its military value was shown in the previous year, when it conveyed 28 battalions from Damascus to Ma'an, from which station the troops marched to Akaba for embarkation en route to Hodeda. The length of the line from Damascus to Medina is approximately 82o m., and from Medina to Mecca 28o m.; the highest level attained is about 4000 ft. at Dar el Hamra in the section Ma'an-Medina.
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