THE MIDDLE EAST ‎ اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ as-salāmu ʿalaykum

MIDDLE EAST: The birthplace of civilization. From mathematics, to medicine, to writing and farming, this is where it all comes from. Many of the world’s great religious buildings, colourful souqs, snow capped mountains, ancient cities and religions. Like central Asia, traders and conquerors have sprung from here or passed through, leaving their mark- good or bad- and taking new ideas back with them. Unsurpassed hospitality. Some of the best and worst food a traveller can enjoy. Roman ruins, the great castles of Salah Ad-Din and others, the delightful sound of the call to prayer, the azan. There is so much to learn from this area blighted by the tragedies of Syria (which I have visited) and Iraq and Palestine (which I have not). While Europe was suffering through “The Dark Ages”, the Middle East was thriving, learning and exporting.

IRAN: Misunderstood. There. That is out of the way.
The Persians were once a mighty nation of conquerors. Alexander The Great popped in. The Mongols too……

SYRIA: The Syria I knew is gone. Forever. The nicest people I have come across yet. I say that without hesitation. It is sad to think about what has been destroyed in Syria. The incredible culture and history……

TURKEY: One of my favourite countries. Turkey is home to an array of mountains, beaches, food, cultures, cities, food, towns, and did I say food? Two of the world’s greatest religious buildings……

OMAN: Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. Oman is quietly going about its business in a very low key, un-gulf like way. No flash supertowers or Formula One tracks…….

LEBANON: The country that gave the world Lebanese food, for which we should all say thanks….

JORDAN: Live out two of your fantasies in a couple of days. Play Indiana Jones at Petra, and Lawrence Of Arabia at Wadi Rum. Throw in the Dead Sea, grand Roman cities like Jerash, hiking trails…..

THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES? Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. In 1971, their rulers (Emirs) joined to form a country, parts of which have since transformed in mind-boggling, nature-bending ways…….