Friday, June 5, 2009

Obama at Cairo University

Weeks ago, when we heard Obama was coming to Cairo, The Boss Man asked Number One Son (who worked for the campaign a year and a half) of the possibility of being able to attend. As VB packed her bags, back in the States on Monday, she thought, "Should I take something nice to wear?" Then the thought occurred to her, that if it were to be, she would already know. Obama would be speaking three days later, and you'd think she'd know by now. So, no she did not pack anything nice.

Tuesday afternoon after being dropped off at Boston Logan and checking in, The Boss Man called and said, "We got in." Gee, that's nice - what to wear, what to wear! VB was so excited she couldn't sleep on the flight to Frankfurt. Normally, the combination of antihistamines for ear pain, and the alcohol at dinner make her pass out. Not on this flight. She was too psyched!

VB arrived in Cairo Wednesday afternoon, with a few short naps on both legs of the flight. Just a note, she had to fill out a card with name, address and phone number in Cairo, and then get photographed with a thermal device, before she could get her bags, to make sure she didn't have H1N1. (Isn't that panic passe' by now?)

VB promised herself a good night's sleep, as it was planned to leave at 8:00 AM to avoid traffic and the mad rush to get in to the hall. According to the invite, "Doors open at 10am." And on a typed note enclosed, "For security reason, please arrive by 10:30 a.m. Late arrivals are not guaranteed entry." Hmm - a half an hour to admit everyone, and in Cairo. Who TF are they kidding!?

We arrived around 8:30 AM to much emptiness. Our driver dropped us off in front of the gate to Cairo University. Below, the rotunda (that's what VB's calling it), as we enter. There was security at the gate, just like airport security. At the door of the rotunda, more security. Invite and IDs were checked and double checked. Since the idiot who filled out our invite used our nicknames, and proceeded to spell our last name wrong, the Egyptian guard had us wait to confirm our nicknames were really short names for what our passports had. Then inside, another security clearance, just like the first. This time we had to turn on our cameras to show they worked. Fortunately VB had the photo below as proof, and convinced The Boss Man to take a photo, as well. Security was uber high.

We heard the speech would be given at 12:10 PM. We were in the hall just a bit after 8:30 AM. Bored we started to take photos of just about anything. This is the dome, which is beautiful.

(Below): You can see how empty the place is. All those suits are security. We were told to sit on the left. VB picked the first row, back left, and began to sit on the aisle, when she was told that was for security. They immediately hustled one of the dudes from the front to sit there. The man behind him, also security, gave VB the stink eye every time she took a photo.

(Below): Just a bit after 9:00 AM the center starts to fill. Not sure how they designated seating, but eventually a few late comers got left out (and pissed.)

(Below): The back first level balcony was filled with the pros. We just kept an eye on them to tell where the action would be taking place.

(Below): After hours of waiting, the Presidential Seal arrives, and is put in place - perfectly. (Anal retentiveness pays off - sometimes.)

(Below): 1:00 PM, Robert Gibbs, Obama's Press Secretary peeks out from the side stage. We were sitting next to two other Americans (most likely we were the only white faces on the ground floor), and speculated that Obama would enter from the side stage, and walk to the main stage - you know, for a much grander entrance. Besides, Gibbs is pointing. You have to wonder, is he talking to Obama and showing him the path from the side stage to the main stage.

(Below): A few minutes later the White House Staff shows up, and just after Hillary makes her entrance. As VB took the photos, she noticed that no one in the audience noticed what was taking place. Of course, we know who Gibbs, Axelrod, and Rahm are. Most of the audience members - probably not.

(Below): While everyone gave Hillary a standing ovation, Obama enters. Here's he's into his speech. Unfortunately, at this point, VB was pretty wiped out. The excitement, lack of breakfast, and jet lag begin to st in. Yes, she heard the speech, and tried desperately not to fall over sideways into The Boss Man, from jet lag induced sleep. How can this happen? One of the most important speeches ever, and VB is almost comatose?

(Below): After the speech, a standing ovation, waves, and the "Obama" mantra got a start, but never really got going.

(Below): The limos stretched long and wide, line up for those worthy. Diplomats had to line up near the gate for their cars.

(Below): Protesters outside the gates.

(Below): Since the road rules changed from pre-speech to post-speech, chaos ensues. No cars are admitted into the area. The road we planned on taking on our walk to meet our driver was closed to pedestrians, as well. We were not the only ones left without a ride.

(Below): The police barricade. VB is starting to think that every young Egyptian man dreams of one day becoming an officer. There seemed to be more police, and security personnel than attendees.

(Below): As we begin our trek to meet our driver, VB takes another shot of the rotunda.

(Below): Buses of all sizes line up to gather their passengers.

This is not the end of our trek. VB will try to compile a slide show of the end - Inshallah. And, no, VB will not provide opinions or commentary on the speech. Unless you're living in outer space you have either heard, seen, or read it for yourself, and can make up your own minds. VB is just thankful that we now have a president who can speak proper English, is intelligent, understands complex matters, and believes diplomacy trumps military might. BTW, for more photos, go to VB's flickr set.

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