If the weather is clear, you can see it all from the cabin of a jet airplane 30,000 feet up.
You’ve left Rome or Athens headed east toward the land that has lured travelers for centuries. you skip across the island-dotted Aegean Sea, streaked with Silver in the morning sun, and soon the saw-toothed Coast of Turkey rises before you, you encountered with the Middle East has begun
You fly east over the high, wide table of central Turkey With mountain ranges on your left and right.
Now you are over a jumble of craggy ridges, where villages hang like eagles’ nests from the mountainsides and shepherds herd their flocks in lonesome valleys.
Up ahead tower the twin volcanoes of western Asia’s tallest peak, Mount Ararat, port of call for Noah and his famous ark.
Before you know it, you’re over Iran. Below you lies the breadbasket of the nation, a dry but fertile plateau dotted with wheat fields and fruit orchards.
Your plane makes a right turn and you’re in Iraq over a V-shaped plain formed by two of the world’s most historic rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates.
From your bird’s eye perch, there seems nothing special about this plain fairly ordinary patchwork of farms and orchards and barren, open land.
Yet was here, more than 50 centuries ago, that restless men made the desert bloom and became the first to tell the tale in writing.
To the west yawns mile upon mile of empty desert. Political borders come up faster now Jordan, a narrow slice of Syria, then Jordan again, and Israel.
In the distance, off to the right, in the Mediterranean Sea, and along the coast stretches a narrow ribbon of farmland dotted every few miles with cities, towns, and villages.
Below you lie the Holy Lands where two of the world’s great religions first Judaism, then Christianity were born and a third, Islam, won many followers.
Next, it’s on across the Sinai Peninsula, a triangle of desert land which links the continents of Asia and Africa.
Then you come to the silent waters of the Suez Canal, the route normally used by oil tankers as they make their way between the oil fields of the Arabian Peninsula and the shipping lanes of the Mediterranean Sea.
Although you’re now over Africa, the
The scenery remains much the same. All you can see is a blur of desert scrub and an ocean of sand.
You’ll be refueling in Cairo,* capital of the United Arab Republic (Egypt), so you begin to descend.
Approaching the city, your plane tilts its wings, allowing you a closer look at the world’s longest river, the Nile. Here, 100 miles south of the Mediterranean, the