Batn al Ghul station/cut is located south
of Ma'an where the railway drops down to the lower desert. Building
this was a real challenge, and it was apparently a very interesting
ride, as recorded by the Dominican Fathers in 1909. Their account
of Batn al Ghul is recorded below. You can read more of their
account by clicking here.
55 kilometres south of Maan, Qalaat el-Aqaba - that is not to
be confused with the place of the same name on the Red Sea -
enjoyed a certain fame because of its position. Regardless of
the administrative divisions, that have changed a lot, from the
point of view of the physical landscape, it was the last post
in the lands of esh-Sham [Syria]. There, the Syrian pilgrims
camped for the last time in their own country, and prepared themselves
to confront a desert longer and more terrible than the one they
had already crossed. Indeed, its entrance was not reassuring.
Having wandered some time in the hills with restricted views
on all sides, they would fall into the Batn el-Ghul, the 'belly
of the demon'. That is the name given to what is indeed a demonic
pass by which one descends to a lower level that marks the beginning
of the Hedjaz. The engineers had to build a railway through this
precipice. They managed by means of detours and cuttings, but
the slope is still considerable and we descend with alarming
speed which inspires legitimate fear. There have already been
some derailments. Luckily the train drivers learn little by little
and the passenger becomes absorbed by the beauty of the countryside.
We travel amidst variegated sandstones of all colours, but dominated
by yellow with black of a steely grey tint. The spectacle is
splendid and the wildness of the place adds to its charm. (Mission
The account of the trip taken by the Dominican
Fathers of the French Ecole d'Etudes Bibliques (School of Biblical
Studies) in Jerusalem on their way to the Nabataean site of Medain
Saleh in 1909 was translated by Dr Geraldine Chatelard of the
Institut français du Proche-Orient, Amman. Thank you Dr.
Chartelard for sending this to us.
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