Two Months in the Middle East #6
Matkesh Ramon – July 29th, 2000
This is the other side to the Middle East. A side that has nothing to do with religion or conflict. Sitting on the rim of the biggest natural crater in the world watching the sunset is an awe inspiring experience. The scenery in this part of the world is the main reason that the Middle East should be on everyone’s must see list. From Mt Bcharre in Lebanon, to Petra in Jordan to the Negev desert in Israel, this area of the planet offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world.
Some might be put off due to the tensions here, but like everything the dangers have been exaggerated by the media. In reality there is no real need for concern. It would be a shame to miss out on one of the most beautiful and fascinating places in the world due to some pre-conceived notion of the Middle East as some sort of battleground. This is patently not true and having come here for three years in a row now, I can safely say there’s nowhere else like it.
Dublin, Ireland – September 10th, 2000
Three months on from the Israeli pullout and the Middle East is a very different place. UN troops are finally being allowed to assert control over the border areas. Ehud Barak, Israel’s leader, so feted after the successful withdrawal in May, is now on the brink of being ousted. Palestine is on the agenda now as Barak tries desperately to save his government from collapse.
Syria, so determined to use South Lebanon as a leverage for the Golan Heights, has turned inward following the death of Assad. His son Bashar has a lot more to worry about then South Lebanon. For once the Lebanese are being allowed get on with rebuilding their country. Whatever changes the election results will bring, we have to hope that the people of Lebanon will finally be allowed to control their own destiny.