For 16 years I walked your Lands. 16 years.

Lands of magical places with magical names: Kandahar,Isfahan, Casablanca, Palmyra, Istambul, Babylon.

I walked the streets of Damascus, even the famous “Via Recta”, the “street known as straight” where Paul once walked before me.

I visited the bazaars of Bahrain and the Mysterious Casbah. I sailed on the Nile and walked the banks
of the purifying Jordan, the Tigris, the Euphrates, the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

I saw the ruins of the great Ba’albek and was awed
by the majesty of Persepolis, home to the great Darius and forever linked to Alexander the Great.

I sat under the Cedars of Lebanon, and
climbed the mountains of the ancient prophets.

I saw the splendor of Shiraz, city of flowers
and nightingales, and visited the magnificent
Jomeh Mosque in Isfahan.

I marveled at the hanging gardens of Babylon
and the rose red city of Petra. I sat in wonder
at the foot of the great Pyramids, and the
inscrutable Sphinx. I wandered through the
Valley of Queens and the Valley of Kings,
and dreamed of Luxor and Karnal.

I saw the sun rise in glory in Kuwait, and set in
equal glory
in Saudi.

I walked the bazaars in Teheran, and the
tortuous cobbles
of Old Jerusalem. I pondered
the mysteries of life in cool

I ate with Bedouin in the desert, and drank sweet coffee inIstambul. I was offered food with subtle spices that I hadnever heard of, but will never forget.

In the evenings I danced the dabke with your
women and
listened to the endless tales of your
men. I laughed at the
antics of Mullah Nasr Din,
and was mesmerized by the 1001stories of Scheherezade.

I was overcome by the poetry of the great Hafez
and the
fatalistic beauty of Omar Khayyam; by the never-ending soul searching of the Sufi.

I played with your children when the sun came up,
listened to your music when the moon rose.

I learned your language, and grew a new Soul.

And in all that time, with your grace and
hospitality, you never, not even once, called me "Infidel".

Until now.

To those of you, Osama bin Laden, Saddam
Hussein, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Islamic Jihad,
Hezbollah, Hamas, who now call me "
Infidel", I tell you:-

that God willing, one day I will walk your lands again, and I will look for the wonders YOU have built.

The hospitals, to care for man’s body, and
the schools to stimulate his mind.

The roads so he can travel, and the beautiful
gardens where he can rest when weary.

And the magnificent mosques, to the greater
glory of Allah.

But I fear I shall look in vain.
I fear that in your wake I will find only
destruction and
desolation as a reminder that you once passed this way.

And while great men are forever remembered
for their works, that desolation will be your
only epitaph.

You have taken what once was the Cradle of Civilisation, and made of it a funeral casket.

Perhaps your own.

Perhaps, from your miserable cave in the
afterworld, if you
listen very carefully, you will once again hear the tales of your men in the coffee shops, the singing of your women as they go about their business, and the joyous laughter of your children as they play.

And that laughter will ring in your ears,
and mock you, for
all eternity.


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