In January 1902 the German group holding the Anatolian railway concession was granted a further concession for extending that railway from Konia, then its terminus, through the Taurus range and by way of the Euphrates, Nisibin, Mosul, the Tigris, Bagdad, Kerbela and Nejef to Basra, thus establishing railway communication between the Bosporus and the Persian Gulf.
Another important route is that taken by the Persian or Shia pilgrims from Bagdad and Kerbela across the desert, by the wells of aina, to Bureda in Kasim; thence across the steppes of western Nejd till it crosses the Hejaz border at the Ria Mecca, 50 m.
Those to the south and south-west comprehended almost every province in Persia, including Bagdad, Kerbela and Kurdistan.
Early in 1848 he again returned to Arabia, avoiding the long desert journey by landing at Muwela, thence striking inland to Tebuk on the pilgrim road, and re-entering Shammar territory at the oasis of Tema, he again visited Hail; and after spending a month there travelled northwards to Kerbela and Bagdad.
These religious sectaries attacked and plundered all Mussulmans not conforming to their peculiar tenets; they overran Kerbela and the Hejaz, sacking the holy cities and closing the pilgrim routes.
Between the Euphrates and the Arabian plateau lie the sacred cities of Kerbela or Meshed-Hosain, and Nejef or Meshed Ali, with a population of 20,000 to 60,000 each, while a number of towns, varying in population from 3000 to 10,000, are found along the Euphrates (Anah, Hit, Ramadieh, Musseyib, Hilla, Diwanieh and Samawa) and the Tigris (Tekrit, Samarra and Kut elAmara).
The Kerbelese resisted, and Kerbela was bombarded (hence the ruined condition of the old walls) and reduced with great slaughter.
Shammar was crossed without difficulty, and the party was welcomed by the amir and hospitably entertained for a month, after which they travelled northwards in company with the Persian pilgrim caravan returning to Kerbela and Bagdad.
Formerly Kerbela was a self-governing hierarchy and constituted an inviolable sanctuary for criminals; but in 1843 the Turkish government undertook to deprive the city of some of these liberties and to enforce conscription.
On the accession of Yazid, Hosain refused homage and raised an army, but was slain at Kerbela (680).