The Middle East 1st January 2019

Countries across the Middle East face political turmoil following the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and the ongoing one in Syria. Libya will remains highly unstable due to inter factional fighting & criminal activity, including kidnapping that is on the rise. The British Embassy closed in July 2014 due to security concerns and FCO is advising Against All Travel to Libya. The FCO also advise against all travel to Syria, unrest will continue and the country in now in a state of civil war. Lebanon remain relatively stable and Beirut is a wonderful city to visit but the general level of unrest in the regions is putting strains on the country. In Egypt the Army removed Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi after millions protests against the government and the country is unstable and generally tense although calmer than a year or so ago.  Whilst some of the Red Sea tourist destinations are operating as normal and tourist numbers have picked up considerably in 2017, there remains a high threat from terrorism across the country. Travellers should follow the FCO travel advice. President Sisi was re-elected president at the end of March 2018, there wasa no efffective opposition candidate. 

Israel is a stable modern democracy but with the constant threat of violence due to its relationship with the Gaza and the West Bank,  Tension is high in Jersualem following a number of sectarian murders throughout 2016 and 2017. However, many young travellers visit both Israel and Jordan, both are friendly and very interesting countries and are recommmedned destinations - just pay attention to the news as the situation can chenge quickly, especially in Israel. Regional tensions between Iran and Israel are worsening as Iran increases its presence in Syria and its support to the radical Shia group Hezbollah. The US moved its embassy to Jerusalem in May 2018 prompting violent protests in the border with Gaza. However, Israel, the Oman & Jordan are a popular destination for young travellers with so much to see and are generaly safe if care is taken. Fierce clashes have occurred on the brder between Gaza and Isreal in the summer of 2018 and in August 2018 rocket attacks on Israel by Hamas resumed on a sporadic basis but there is a very high threat of an escalation.

Following the 2 terrrorist attacks in Tunisia in 2015 the FCO advised Against all but Essential travel to the country. However by the summer of 2017 the situation had improved and only the border areas with Algeria and Libya do FCO travel restriction apply. Tourist charter flights from the UK resumed in Feb 2018. A map can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/tunisia

Iran is opening to trade and tourism following the successful conclusion of the nuclear energy talks and is looking to improve relations with the West.  Anyone who has been generally loves the country, very friendly with wonderful sites and topography. British and US visitors requite a guide/escort when travelling and the visa authorisation process will take weeks so plan well ahead. A vehicle borne expedition will need a Carnet De Passage, in the UK this can be obtained from Cars UK. The British Embassy has reopened in Tehran & BA fly direct from London. President Rouhani won the presidential election in May 2017 with a commmitment to continue to improve relations with the West. Opportunities to travel in Iran are likley to increase. Traveller however should be aware that if they visit Iran and then plan to go to the USA they will need to apply for a visa as they will not be able to enter the US on the ESTA scheme having visited Iran.The Rial has steadily been collapsing against the US$ causing a worse economic situation & the government is cracking down on the Black Market, arresting dealers - so take care changing money. Unrest against the government may increase. The USA is introducing more sanction on Iran on 4 Nov 18, targettted at oil exports, which will put further pressure on the economic situation.   

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