Brand Nubian Hope

With 7,000 years of rich history and noble kings, Nubians know a promising leader when they see one.

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The harsh sun was setting on the city of Aswan, an ancient trading hub in southern Egypt last week, but the city’s bazaar along the Nile still bustled with life. My wife and I strolled past old Nubian men sipping mint tea in brightly painted cafés. European tourists haggled over prices for straw baskets and rare spices. A breeze off the Nile River carried along the signature scents of Aswan: sweet hibiscus flowers, cardamom-laced coffee and fruity tobacco.

A voice called out just as I was marveling at all these sights and sounds of modern-day Nubia.

“American or British?” asked a portly street vendor with a bushy beard and a dark prayer mark on his forehead.

“American,” I replied.

“Obama!” the man shrieked with delight. “Obama good!”

We chatted for a few minutes in his broken English and my broken Arabic. One thing didn’t need translation: This devout Muslim living at the troubled crossroads of Africa and the Middle East was proud of the United States’ 44th president, Barack Obama, and he shared in the milestone victory from thousands of miles away. My wife and I bid the man goodbye and chatted about the incident as we walked through the market. Then came another shout. And another, and another. Wherever I set foot during our four-day tour of Aswan, I was received as Obama’s stand-in, the recipient of all the good wishes and prayers sent from one of the oldest black populations in the world to a black leader who will preside over the most powerful nation in the world.

“Obama!” a street vendor called to me urgently, as if the 44th U.S. president himself were walking the dusty streets of Aswan. That opened the floodgates:

“My brother!”

“My cousin!”

“Obama good!”

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