Covid has been and is making many people desperate to be able to sort out a satisfying holiday away from it all. OK, I get that nowhere is a safe haven away from coronavirus, but would you fancy choosing to take that hopefully virus-evading vacation in a war-torn country in the Middle East? Well, some people are hoping that you might.

The photo on the home page shows the Syrian coastal resort of Latakia under aerial assault from Israeli forces. I mean, I like fireworks as much as the next guy (and obviously more so than Guy Fawkes), but that would be giving me serious second thoughts, even assuming I had ever entertained the first one. Which I haven’t.

The mosques and some other buildings are undamaged by the years of destruction inflicted on Syria, both from within and without the country

Two British-based travel companies, Lupine Travel and Untamed Borders, will be offering holidays to Syria next year. Latakia is among the listed destinations, as are the capital, Damascus, and Aleppo, where Islamic State first established itself as a violent political force. It is rather horribly ironic that the policy introduced in 2000 by President Bashar al-Assad to promote inbound tourism to Syria, thereby spawning boutique hotels in the more desirable urban locations but leaving the working-class areas to rot, was a catalyst that helped to inspire the civil war that has raged for most of the past two decades.

But then perhaps I am simply too risk-averse. I read a story earlier this month about 12 Syrian Jews from New York who had gone on holiday to the country, among other things taking in a visit to a synagogue in Damascus. One of the group characterised the trip as feeling “extremely normal”. I’m not sure that ‘extreme’ can ever be an adjective that belongs alongside the world ‘normal’, but I’m not going to argue. On the other hand, I should point out that the UK Foreign Office advises against all travel to Syria. And that has nothing to do with ‘red-list countries’ or covid protocols. So good luck with the travel insurance.

Happy New Year to you all!