In 1862 Albert, Prince of Wales, toured the Middle East. At the time it was still predominantly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. As he travelled, his photographer Francis Bedford kept a detailed photographic record of the trip. In this series John McCarthy revisits the scenes of Bedford's photographs - Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Greece. He considers how the immediate physical, political and social landscape has evolved during the intervening 150 years.
Some of Bedford's photographs are of widely known locations - the Pyramids at Giza, the Mount of Olives, the temples at Baalbek, the Acropolis - others are of remote hilltops and apparently random buildings, scenes without any obvious significance. Both however hold fascinating and unexpected tales and insight.
The series will reflect on the rise and fall of empires - the Ottoman, British and French all play their part in these stories. They are now all gone, but the world's powers still seek to influence the politics of the region.
In each episode John McCarthy focuses on two of Bedford's original photographs, revisiting the sites and taking his own pictures of the same scenes today.
In the eighth programme in this series, John considers two images taken in Damascus, and the current situation in Syria today.
This radio series coincides with a major exhibition of Bedford's photographs by the Royal Collection, currently showing at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Presenter: John McCarthy
Producer: Kevin Dawson
A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4.