Train to Mecca from India for Haj pilgrims: A game-changer in India-Saudi Arabia relations

For Muslims in India, the journey to Mecca has traditionally involved air travel, which can be both expensive and logistically challenging.

train to mecca
Muslim pilgrims circle the Kaaba and pray at the Grand Mosque ahead of the annual haj pilgrimage, in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabi. (Photo source: Reuters)

Every year, millions of Muslims from around the world embark on a sacred pilgrimage known as Hajj to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. For Muslims in India, the journey to Mecca has traditionally involved air travel, which can be both expensive and logistically challenging. However, recent developments have sparked conversations about the possibility of a more convenient and cost-effective alternative: direct train services from India to Saudi Arabia.

The Emergence of Direct Train Services

The idea of facilitating Hajj travel through direct trains gained traction after discussions between India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Saudi Arabia regarding a railway infrastructure project. These discussions aimed to improve transportation links and enhance connectivity between the countries involved. The proposal received widespread attention due to the potential it holds for easing the Hajj pilgrimage for Indian Muslims.

Feasibility and Advantages

The feasibility of direct train services from India to Saudi Arabia is bolstered by several factors. The success of high-speed train projects in various countries, coupled with advancements in railway technology, makes the concept more attainable than ever before. The introduction of high-speed trains specifically designed for Hajj pilgrims would significantly streamline the journey, providing a host of benefits.


Direct train services would offer a more economical option for Hajj travel, reducing expenses for Indian pilgrims. Air travel often involves hefty ticket prices during peak pilgrimage seasons, making it financially burdensome for many. Trains could potentially offer more affordable fares, enabling a broader spectrum of individuals to fulfill their religious obligation.

Enhanced comfort and convenience

Trains provide a more spacious and comfortable mode of travel compared to airplanes. Pilgrims would have more room to move around, recline their seats, and perform religious rituals during the journey. The possibility of longer journeys would also allow for ample rest and relaxation.


Train journeys foster an environment conducive to social interaction and community-building. The shared experience of traveling together by train would enable pilgrims to form connections, share stories, and forge lifelong friendships. Such interactions would enhance the spiritual experience of the Hajj pilgrimage.

Reduced travel time

While the exact travel time for a direct train journey from India to Saudi Arabia would depend on factors such as distance, track infrastructure, and train speeds, the potential for high-speed trains could significantly reduce travel time compared to air travel. This efficiency would enable pilgrims to dedicate more time to their religious obligations in Mecca.

Challenges and Considerations

While the concept of direct train services for Hajj travel from India to Saudi Arabia holds significant promise, several challenges must be addressed. These challenges include:

Infrastructure development
The construction of a railway infrastructure connecting India and Saudi Arabia would require substantial investment and extensive planning. Factors such as land acquisition, track design, and cooperation between countries would play critical roles in the success of the project.

Geographical Challenges
The railway line will run through some of the most difficult terrains in the world. Hot-burning deserts, plateaus, and mountain ranges. Crossing rugged terrain of Balochistan and Zagros mountain range in Iran would be a big challenge. The extreme heat in the Arabian desert poses another risk.

Border crossing procedures

The efficient movement of passengers across international borders can be complex. Streamlining border control procedures and ensuring smooth transitions would be essential for the seamless operation of direct train services.

Security and safety

Ensuring the safety and security of passengers throughout the journey is paramount. Robust security measures, both onboard the trains and at stations, would need to be implemented to protect pilgrims.

The possibility of direct train services from India to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage represents a significant step forward in improving the travel experience for Indian Muslims. While there are challenges to be overcome, advancements in railway technology and international collaborations make the concept increasingly viable. Such a railway infrastructure project has the potential to enhance affordability, convenience, and comfort for pilgrims, while also promoting community-building and religious harmony.

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First published on: 22-05-2023 at 14:56 IST