• Mountain View of Lebanon's History: Correspondent Nicholas Blanford hadn't been to the village of Shebaa, Lebanon, for a while. It's remote from Beirut, at least by Lebanese standards, he notes: a two-and-a-half hour drive (see story).
It's an area with a strong tradition of Arab nationalism. But it's also a poor area and quite neglected – like much of south Lebanon, Nick notes. But, he adds, "it's stunning countryside, surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Mt. Hermon, Lebanon's second-highest mountain, is on the Lebanese-Syrian border there. Shebaa clings to a very steep valley, almost looking as if it is defying gravity."
Nick says that there appear to be efforts to make the area into something of a tourist attraction. "They're putting up signs that read, 'The Old Shebaa Route.' There's not a lot to see, but there are a couple of restored mosques and some old houses," he says.
On this trip, Nick stopped by the UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) position to say hello. "The building was [former Palestine Liberation Organization leader] Yasser Arafat's home in the 1970s. His office was in southern Beirut, but he would come out now and then to check on his fighters," Nick notes. On a previous visit, Nick had lunch there with some Indian UNIFIL officers. "It was interesting to be having a bit of lunch in the room where Arafat used to eat and sleep."
Deputy world editor