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Orient Express luxury on show

Paris exhibition allows visitors a taste of life aboard the luxurious train

22 April 2014

HAVE you ever wondered what it was like to travel on the Orient Express? A new exhibition in Paris has the answer.

Three restored carriages from the most celebrated of trains are on show at The Arab World Institute. Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the unique atmosphere that made the train the last word in elegant travel and inspired authors such as Agatha Christie and Graham Greene.

Everything in the carriages is laid out just as it might have been in its heyday. Plush, upholstered seats in the wood panelled compartments are the first sign of the comfort to which passengers were accustomed while old newspapers, card games and cigarettes lie on the tables.

The train first steamed out of Paris’s Gare de Strasbourg en route to Istanbul 130 years ago.

The brainchild of Belgian engineer Georges Nagelmackers, the Orient Express - operated by his Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits - used the latest 19th century technological advances to supply an unprecedented level of luxury for its well-heeled clientele.

At a time when many in Europe's capital cities still lived in slum conditions, passengers on the Orient Express enjoyed central heating, hot running water and gas lighting.

The last return voyage to Istanbul ran in 1977 while the final Orient Express service, by then pared down to an overnight journey between Strasbourg and Vienna, ran in 2009.

Today, the Orient Express brand is the property of France's SNCF national railway.

It owns seven original Pullman carriages, which have national historic monument status in France, including the three that are on display at Paris's Arab World Institute until the end of August.

The “Once Upon A Time There Was The Orient Express” exhibition at the Arab World Institute runs until Sunday, August 3.

© AFP/Connexion

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