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Opinion: A dream over a century in the making - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Marmaray is a new manifestation of an old dream, one that began nearly 150 years ago during the time of Sultan Abdul-Majid, and put down on paper by Sultan Abdul-Hamid as plans to construct a tubular bridge nearly a century ago. The project came into existence in 2013 during the era of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who said that this is not the project of the age, but is one of all ages.

Numerous geologists said Russia and Europe used to be one before they were separated due to natural geological change. Many historians have repeatedly said that the conflict between the Eastern and Western civilizations provoked a state of antagonism that lasted until today. Yet, it is a fact that the Justice and Development Party government in Turkey has launched the project to link the Asian and European continents with strong ropes run under the waters of the Bosporus Strait, between Asian at Oscodour and Europe at Serkgy.

At the time when the European Union was being prepared to publish its annual report on the course of Turkish-European relations, to remind the Turks that the dream of their membership in the EU still requires some time to come true—despite the fact that Turkey has already had to wait for 60 years—the Turks were putting the finishing touches on a huge concrete block to serve as a bridge between the East and the West.

In August 2013, Erdogan made an inspection tour and gave the green light to the inauguration of the project. The tour coincided with Turkey’s celebration of the 90th anniversary of what it the modern republic founded by Ataturk. Erdogan seems determined to prove to Ataturk’s adherents, secularists and also the Islamists, that it is the Islamists who are defending and advocating the concepts of development and modernity more than any others in Turkey, through the construction of huge development projects of this sort.

What does “Marmaray” mean? It is a cylindrical tunnel 3000 meters in length and 60 meters below the sea bed, nine meters in height and 15 meters in wide. Over a million people will benefit from the project on a daily basis on their way back and forth between Istanbul’s two shores.

Four minutes will be sufficient to travel a distance of 1.5 kilometers by train to link the two sides of the Bosporus Strait. This is the project’s first stage, with a cost of USD 5 billion, the objective of which is to save time and energy in a bid to solve the traffic jams and crowd in one of the world’s busiest cities.

The project has been delayed for four full years, not for financial or technical reasons, but because an invaluable historical treasure was found under the Bosporus waters. The treasure incorporated dozens of merchant ships found on the seabed of the Bosporus after more than a thousand years. From inside these ships nearly 40,000 rare antiquities were picked up and put on display in a museum built in Turkey especially for this purpose.

Turkey is no longer eager to organize national celebrations, as is the case with several other states, that show off with their weapons and military units. Instead, Turkey competes by showing off and impressing others with the number of huge projects has it carried out domestically and regionally, projects that could be rivaled only by its peers in around the world in terms of the quality of services and development projects.