In the far north east of the Red Sea are two settlements. Eilat belongs to Israel and was once of strategic importance. Subsequently Israel got access to the Suez Canal and since then the place has declined in importance. You can get there overland through the Negev Desert, travelling past the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the planet. It’s interesting to see the advances which Israel has made in greening the desert and using brackish water for irrigation. Indeed I suggested in an article in the Salisbury Review that Israel’s growing population could be accommodated here to augment the current population of 400,000.

Aqaba just a few miles away from Eilat is the port that Lawrence of Arabia captured. It is one of the best ports in the Middle East and sits beneath the impressive Hejaz mountains. Saudi Arabia is a few miles to the south and Egypt is opposite. It’s possible to get round quite a few countries in a short space of time. At Aqaba they still fly the flag of the Arab Revolt , mounted on one of the world’s tallest flagpoles. Lawrence’s own book telling the story of the revolt: The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a case of great title, not so great book. Michael Korda’s excellent biography of the man: Hero is worth a look. Personally I’d recommend Lawrence and the Arabs by Robert Graves. He was the author of I Claudius and a much better storyteller than the man himself.Aqaba

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