A proposal raised on rail connectivity between India and Saudi, after recent discussions between India, Saudi Arabia, USA and UAE on a Railway Infrastructure Project has received much attention. This is due to the high potential it holds for easing the travel of pilgrims to Saudi for Umrah and Hajj.
As reported in some sections of media, the recent developments arising out of discussions on the Railway Infrastructure Project have sparked positive conversation of a path breaking, highly convenient and cost-effective alternative for pilgrim travel between India and Saudi.
Hajj is the annual Islamic pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the five pillars of Islam and is mandatory for all able-bodied Muslims to perform at least once in their lifetime. Hajj takes place during the Islamic month of Dhu al-Hijjah and is an expensive journey.
Muslims around the world save money and plan a budget for this trip.. The cost includes transportation, accommodation, meals and other associated expenses. Air travel being the only alternative (earlier there were ships as well), the cost is substantial and makes up for a large part of the total cost.
Direct train from India to Saudi Arabia will be path breaking and beneficial in many ways. The idea of direct train has gained attention from across the world. This move of Saudi Arabia aims to improve transportation links and enhance connectivity between the countries involved. Other possible reasons are the developing railway technologies in various countries and the success of high-speed train projects. Direct train service will offer more economical options for Hajj travel and will reduce travel expenses for Indian pilgrims. Of course, there will be challenges in the form of cross border paperwork and procedures, geographical challenges arising out of changes in terrains across the journey, heat and the resultant infrastructure development. However, all these issues will be solved with time and patience and of course engineering and technology. The onset of the idea and a positive dialog between the statekholders was imperative and has set the ball rolling in the meanwhile.
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