EGYPT: Obama speech great news for Cairo University

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Over the last couple of weeks, Cairo University has been at the center of the Middle East’s attention. The university, which will be hosting President Obama’s anticipated June 4 speech, is undergoing major renovations.

The Egyptian government is installing a first-class press and media center near the main hall, where Obama will make his address. The main hall itself is getting a new Egyptian flag – instead of the old torn one –along with air conditioning, lighting and sound systems. Campus roads are being refurbished and swept, and the university’s famous dome is being polished by hand.


Many areas around the university campus also are having renovations. A number of neighboring streets will be covered in flowers when Obama arrives, a scene that didn’t even occur when Cairo University celebrated its centennial last year.

Cairo University has been a main pillar in Egyptian higher education for generations. But until it was chosen as a venue for the speech, the university had looked pretty much the same for the last 30 years.

It was thought that Al-Azhar Mosque was a main contender as the site for Obama’s speech. Now Azhar officials are looking at Cairo University with envy. Their mosque missed out on a great redecoration opportunity.

Watching how Cairo University and its surroundings are being transformed in a fortnight to one of the tidiest and most beautiful spots in the country may make Egyptians hope the U.S. president visits more often.

-- Amro Hassan in Cairo