No, a Muslim prayer corner wasn’t set up in a British train

A prayer carpet in a London train? What this image really shows.
A prayer carpet in a London train? What this image really shows.

A photo said to show a prayer corner for Muslims in a British train has been shared more than 4,000 times on Facebook since July 31. But it turns out this photo was actually taken in Saudi Arabia several years ago.

The post, made on an Arabic-language Facebook page for professors of Islamic studies, shows a large prayer rug, tucked behind rows of seats and set apart by plastic barriers. The post claims that this is a special area set aside for Muslims to pray on a British train.

It’s not the first time that this image has been circulated online. Three years ago -- back on July 3, 2016 -- an extremely popular French-Algerian journalist with Al Jazeera, Khadija Benguenna, shared the same photo.

Caption: "A prayer corner in a train in England (Great Britain)"

"A corner set aside for people who want to pray on a train in Great Britain during Ramadan. Trip between Leicester and London Saint Pancras,” Benguenna posted.

The post by the TV presenter -- who has 10 million Facebook fans -- was shared more than 17,000 times.

Why it is false

If you run this picture through a quick reverse image search (check out our article to find out how), then you’ll soon come across a post from five years ago with the same image but a totally different caption. This post, on a French page for people planning a pilgrimage to Mecca, explains that the picture was taken 6,000 miles away from London -- in Saudi Arabia.

This post provides a clue to the true origins of the photo. After a little more digging, our team came across the Twitter account of self-proclaimed “train geek” @AndyBTravels, who posts all about his travels by rail all over the world. Andy B posted a photo of the same carriage, which he says is on the train from the Saudi capital Riyadh to Damman, a city that sits on the Persian Gulf.



Photo postée par @AndyBTravels, le wagon est identique
Photo postée par @AndyBTravels, le wagon est identique


If you compare the original image with Andy B’s, then it is clear they were taken in the same spot. The patterns on the rug are identical, as are the barriers, the windows and the seven rows of seats with red and grey covers.

When contacted by the FRANCE 24 Observers team, @AndyBTravels said that he took the photo himself and that it was a designated prayer space.

There’s more information about this train online. On the website of the Saudi Railways Organisation (SRO), a public company that operates the train between Riyadh-Damman, it says that one of the "passenger services" offered on the train is a GPS service indicating the exact direction of Mecca for prayer.

This article on the website International Railway Journal, an industry journal, talks about the SRO’s new trains, which it says include a prayer zone.

Do you want to know more about how to verify images online? Check out our guide by following this link!