Bedouins for Obama
by Susan Hack
I agree with Dinda Elliott's point, responding to President Obama's interview with Al Arabiya, that we as Americans need to listen to the world, especially when we travel.
I just got back from a trek through the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula where I met Bedouin families living in remote communities that still lack running water and reliable electricity. At night I would sit with families around charcoal braziers, and the first question people had for me was, "What do you think of President Obama?" They are fascinated that a man of African and Muslim heritage has become the leader of the United States, and they are eagerly waiting to see if his eloquent pledge to seek a "new way forward" in the Muslim world--words they follow on car radios and shared generator-run television sets--will be matched by actual deeds. Obama gave his interview to Al Arabiya, and his new Mideast envoy George Mitchell was in Cairo while I was in the Egyptian mountains. More than the new shuttle diplomacy, the people I met were interested to know whether I as an American citizen have faith in Obama and think he's for real. They made me feel that individual American travelers have a role in Obama's mission of listening and engagement.
What do you think? Can individual travelers play a role in Obama's call to listen and engage?
Susan Hack is a contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveler and an expert on the Middle East, from Dubai's booming art scene to Egypt's most famed antiquities guru. Read her piece on the changing Arab world here