SACRED CITIES TO BE LINKED BY RAIL AND WIRE (Mar, 1924)
SACRED CITIES TO BE LINKED BY RAIL AND WIRE
Mecca and Lhasa, the sacred cities of the Moslems and the Buddhists, may soon break through the isolation of centuries, a native syndicate having been formed to finance a railway between Medina, the burial place of the prophet, Mohammed, and Mecca, the city of his birth. There are, of course, other so-called sacred cities, such as Kerbela in Mesopotamia, and Meshed, in Persia. While it was possible for a Christian to enter the last named, and even to penetrate into Kerbela, provided he was accompanied by a Moslem guide, until comparatively recently on no consideration were they allowed to approach Mecca or Medina, while, up to the present, Lhasa has also been, in reality, a closed city. Not very many Europeans have made safe journeys to the sacred cities. Mecca lies in a valley some 70 miles from Jedda, a port on the Red Sea, and 248 miles from Medina, and the construction of a railway between these two points will prove difficult, as the country is rough, barren, and mountainous. Another sign that the traditions of ages are breaking down is seen in the action of the Grand Lama of Lhasa, the headquarters of the Buddhists, in Tibet, in ordering that his capital be connected with India by telephone. Lhasa is situated in a lonely valley, surrounded by tall mountains, and is dominated by Potala Hill, on which stands a single huge edifice where dwell thousands of red-robed monks. In the center of the city is the Jokang, the most sacred temple in all Lhasa, for there is housed the most famous idol in the world, an immense statue of Buddha. It is said to be a faithful image of the great teacher. He is shown in a darkened recess of the cathedral illuminated by innumerable butter lamps and having for his companions two great gilded idols of other gods. It wears a crown of gold set with precious stones, while across its breast are many necklaces of gold, also set with jewels.