Middle East: Cleaning Up after Lawrence


"A terrific roar, and the line vanished from sight behind a spouting column of black dust and smoke." So wrote T. E. Lawrence, in Seven Pillars of Wisdom, of his World War I dynamiting raids on the Hejaz Railway, the 782-mile "pilgrim express" whose single track linked Damascus with the Islamic holy city of Medina. Lawrence of Arabia reduced most of the line to a snarl of sprung steel and splintered ties. Nearly half a century of desert winds and systematic depredation have done the rest. Bedouins ransacked the abandoned stations, pried loose wooden ties for cooking fires. In...

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