For a short time in 1912 Fes was the capital of French Morocco, until it occurred to Maréchal Lyautey that the oyster-grey city, far inland below the heights of the Middle Atlas, was not a very secure location for an imperial capital.
The kingdom of Libya became independent of Italy under King Idris in 1951. Just over a decade later, Algeria finally followed after its long war of independence with France in 1962. During this period, the five countries of the southern Mediterranean coast each in different ways took control of their own futures.
So much has been written about Iraq in the last two decades that it isn’t easy to remember the time when Saddam Hussein ruled unchallenged, supported by Western governments viscerally alarmed at Khomeini’s Iran – and when very little was really known in England about Ba’athist Iraq.