Aleppo and Damascus in Syria claim to be two of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world; Aleppo has a sweet, authentic-feeling souk and a pretty Christian quarter, and the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus is an alluring blend of the Islamic with Pagan roots.

Krak de Chevaliers is the most finely preserved medieval castle in the world, the ancient ruins of the caravan route at Palmyra – an oasis in the middle of the desert – bleed pink at sunrise and sunset, and the Cities of the Dead are a spooky reminder of the temporal nature of man’s creations.

And the food: delicate mezze and fruity kebabs, washed down with arak and a bubbling water pipe, will make you wonder how you ever managed to rush a meal in your life.