STYMIED AT THE SUMMIT: Journalists can often get access to world leaders, or at least top officials, during a diplomatic summit by hanging out at the same hotel. But not at the Arab summit in Amman, Jordan (this page) this week. "It was one of the most organized, and therefore most frustrating summits I've covered," says the Monitor's Cameron Barr. When he (and other journalists) attempted to get beyond the lobby of the Marriott Hotel, they were shunted aside by burly security guards. "We were put in a little cordoned-off corner, marked 'press,' and ignored."
HENNA HANDS IN MOROCCO: The Monitor's Elisabetta Coletti had only seen henna-decorated hands twice before - on a relative and on Madonna, the pop singer. But that was enough to intrigue her. "I went over to the Oudayia, the massive casbah fortress used by pirates during their reign of terror on the Mediterranean. Girls dressed in hijabs wait outside the gates with syringes of the gloppy, green-brown henna-water-lemon gunk and try to win you over. Prices all have to be negotiated, and it gets tiring." Finally, Elisabetta settled on a henna artist and handed over 20 dirhams ($1.90). "I stuck out my palms and watched as grey-green swirls of flowers and leaves emerged on my palms and fingers. Cool! But it has to dry. No one told me that!"
It's now 5:30 p.m. At 6 p.m., Elisabetta is due at the Royal Palace to interview His Majesty King Mohamed VI's chief adviser. "I have no time to get back to my hotel and change into my suit - even if I could with this stuff all over my hands. I start walking through the medina with my hands out like C-3PO." By 5:45 p.m., Elisabetta decides the henna won't dry in time. "I start swiping my hands, rubbing them like I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, leaving brown flakes in my wake." The interview went fine. Later, she recounted the experience to a Moroccan official. But it wasn't the henna story he found amusing. "He thought it was hilarious that I had been admitted to the palace in pants!"
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