The subject of the annual Parker family holiday has become one of grim fascination for friends, intrigued by my fevered attempts to devise adventures to keep our teenage offspring coming away with us. “Where are you going this year?” asked a friend, glancing up from a coffee. “Helmand province?”

“It’s a tour of the Levant,” I protested, lapsing into defensive travel-speak. “Well, to be more precise, it’s a tour of the Middle East, starting in Beirut, heading down to Jordan, then across into Israel by the Red Sea and finishing up in Jerusalem.”

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