Sunday, February 21, 2010

the peace envoy is watching

The hero of Tin Cup and Dances with Wolves beams down on Sana’a morning traffic. The fallen Hollywood star is part of Turkish Airlines’ latest ploy to lure unsuspecting Yemenis to the land of the Ottomans on holiday.

The ploy might work better if people knew who he was.

“Tony Blair!” grins my taxi driver, pointing at the huge sign in the middle of the road beyond the intersection. "Kevin Costner," I reply. "Yes, yes, Tony Blair!" he says. His enthusiasm is contagious.

Unlike larger Middle Eastern cities like Beirut and Cairo where massive billboards of pop stars adorn the sides of main roads, in Sana'a giant portraits are usually either of a lady in hijab advertising a sweet biscuit, or of the president.

"I think he's an American actor," I venture. "Tony Blair!" he cries.

I give up, and start squinting to find the resemblance.

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