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Reporters on the Job

March 24, 2006



Desert Correspondent: Rafael Frankel is the only journalist riding with a caravan of unlikely characters crossing the Sahara. He's not perched on a camel or traveling on foot. He's riding in one of two vintage 1960s supply trucks outfitted with oversize tires.

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For the past week, he's dined mostly on cucumber, tomatoes, and pita bread. Occasionally, he heats up a can of spaghetti on a gas stove.

Rafi says that he tries to stay out of the story himself by pitching his tent as far away as possible from the participants when they stop for the night. But his presence is felt. Thursday, for example, the entire caravan was forced to come to a halt while he aligned his satellite phone to transmit his story.

"Even as I was sending it, another camel caravan of traders went by about 300 yards away. I was struck by the juxtaposition of old and new; sending information via satellite while this centuries-old mode of transport was carting goods through the desert," he says.

The expedition is sponsored by a German conflict-resolution group, which seeks to promote peace through individual cooperation and understanding.

While the participants are mostly good-natured about his presence, Rafi says that one Iraqi doesn't hide his disdain for the media. Latif Yahia, a former Uday Hussein body double, often greets Rafi with, "Hey, what did you mess up today?"

"He's joking. He tells me that he likes me and what I've done on this trip. But in general he doesn't trust the media. He's had too many interviews where his words have been twisted or misrepresented. And, he says, journalists always want to dwell on his past as the body double of Saddam Hussein's son," says Rafi.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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