As a long-time visitor and resident of the Middle East, I often feel a twinge of sympathy for visitors who might not be as inured as I have become to the rough-and-tumble of a region where religious, political and cultural sensitivites permeate every aspect of daily life, where arguments can blow up from the seemingly trivial and where, confusingly, remarkable levels of co-habitation and co-existence still show up against this explosive backdrop.
Pope Benedict, with his army of advisers and counsellors, is better prepared than many visitors for what the region might hold in store during his week here. But he must be acutely aware of the delicate nature of his trip - and that any gesture, word or act could become a major international issue
The atmosphere in the region in the build-up to the visit has been typical of this part of the world - intense security preparations, high expectations, huge media coverage of a VIP visitor who puts the region back at the centre of world attention where everyone here thinks it belongs, some folk rolling out the welcome mat, other folk saying 'Go back to Rome', and, of course, spin doctors from all sides filling up my e-mail inbox with explanations of how the Pope's visit categorically backs up what they've been saying all along.
Stepping in to this cauldron for anyone can be daunting - when you're the leader of the world's largest religious denomination it's a tightrope act of, dare I say it, biblical proportions.