Wednesday, April 29, 2009
As British troops approach the end of operations in Iraq, Sky's defence correspondent Geoff Meade has been to Basra province to find out what they leave behind.
The Garden of Eden doesn't look much like the land of milk and honey portrayed in the Bible.
The concrete picnic tables that now litter the legendary site look more like a lay-by off some east German autobahn.
But at least Iraqi families can enjoy lunching under the 800-year-old shade of what Muslims revere as the Tree of Adam safe in the knowledge they are unlikely to become sacrifices themselves in a war that finally really seems to be waning.
The border town of al Qurna stands at the junction of the two great rivers Euphrates and Tigris.
Hence the belief that it was once the playground of Adam and Eve.
But being just nine miles from the Iranian frontier has cursed the place to be not only the frontline of the bloody Iran-Iraq war, but a main route of smuggling for the Tehran-sponsored uprising that followed the defeat of Saddam in the 2003 US-led invasion.
Today, though, a minor miracle seems to have been wrought.
Soldiers saunter through busy streets passing the time of day with shopkeepers selling everything from air conditioning to wedding gowns.
It's a getting-to-know-you patrol from the local troops who now police these streets alongside the Americans who are taking over mentoring them from UK forces.