BEAM ME DOWN, SCOTTY

This week's random co-ordinates chosen by the computer are: 31 11' N 43 13' E

FIRST REACTION

I could have sworn I just saw a pile of weapon-grade plutonium.

COUNTRY AND REGION

You have landed in southern Iraq, specifically the southern desert region of An Najaf.

NATURE OF THE TERRAIN

Relentlessly flat and featureless desert, stretching deep into Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, interrupted only by the occasional limestone hill.

ALTITUDE

About 250 metres.

NEAREST SETTLEMENT

The oasis town of Al Ma'aniyah lies near the Saudi Arabian border, about 40km to the south west.

POSSIBLE HAZARDS

Putting heat-stroke and sunburn aside, you are in danger of being arrested on suspicion of being either a spy or an escaped weapons inspector (assuming that you don't have a visa).

USEFUL LANGUAGES

Arabic.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER

Like it or not, Saddam Hussein is still the president.

LIKELY WEATHER CONDITIONS

Horribly hot in the daylight hours. The average summer temperature is often in excess of 38C with practically no chance of precipitation.

REASONS FOR HANGING AROUND

Unfortunately you have come down at least 100km from the historic area of Mesopotamia, between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. If you can get that far, you'll see lots of shady date palms. You should also visit the cities of Kerbala and Najaf, holy to Shi'ite Muslims.

GETTING THE HELL OUT OF THERE

Walk the 40kms to Al Ma'aniyah and hitch a ride in a four-wheel drive or pick-up truck to the provincial capital of Najaf to the north east. From here, there are major road links to Baghdad and the rest of the country. Because of the air embargo, you'll have to exit the country by road; the nearest airport is Kermanshah in Iran.

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