Obama in Arab garb: The stuff of right-wing e-mails – and one tiny shop in Yemen

A shopkeeper in Sanaa, Yemen, makes some of his money selling posters of Western leaders in traditional Arab garb and regional landscapes.

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    Ahmed al-Harazy displays his poster of President Obama.
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• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Tucked away in a tiny shop at the base of a centuries-old gate to the ancient city of Sanaa, Ahmed al-Harazy sells propaganda posters that are typical to most Arab countries – pictures of the nation’s leader, in this case Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, looking dapper and poised.

However, Mr. Harazy makes money from another niche market as well: blown-up images of Western presidents in traditional Yemeni dress set in south Arabian landscapes.

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He proudly sells customers a poster of President Obama smiling broadly with a turban on his head and a Yemeni-style dagger.

“I wanted to show the strong relationship between Yemen and the West,” says Harazy, who fancies himself a cultural ambassador. “I only use the Western presidents who want a unified and peaceful Yemen.”

Harazy has been producing these posters for about 15 years. Harazy says that the posters are popular among his foreign clientele despite the severe drop in tourists due to the growing Al Qaeda threat in the country.

After flipping past a picture of German Chancellor Angela Merkel pasted above a shot of Sanaa’s old city, Harazy holds up an image of Obama and President George W. Bush in front of a scene from Socotra, an island off of Yemen’s coast. “Bush needed to say hello to Obama,” he says with a laugh.

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