June 5, 2009— -- As President Obama made his first presidential visit to the Middle East and spoke from Cairo University, Chris Cuomo anchored "Good Morning America" live from Cairo, Egypt. Read his reporter's notebook about the trip below.
6:50 p.m. NYC:
The show is over, the wife and kids are kissed, the bags are packed ... wheels up! Eleven hour flight to Cairo on Egypt Air (motto: our planes smell like Camels. The cigarettes).
I used to dread long flights, but now I sleep. Cairo is seven hours ahead of New York City, so my internal time clock may be a little off-kilter. But in these situations you hit the ground running ... shooting, writing, etc.
I love being on the road and am excited to arrive. I'm a "coverage guy," despite my law and investigative background. The real perk to media life is being a witness to history. This event could be memorable. I've got a copy of Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse Five," the classic depiction of a prisoner of war witnessing the Dresden bombing. I've read it before but am reading it again for texture.
"Obama Addresses the Muslim World" is a surreal headline -- are there really different worlds? But it's always a good time to talk peace.
12:20 p.m. Cairo/ 5:20 a.m. NYC.:
Kee-Feck Cairo! (that's hello here) We landed! I couldn't wait to get out and stretch my legs. I slept 9.5 of the 11 hours, so it wasn't too bad. My body is telling me it's the early morning ... I'm no stranger to that feeling. Got my taste of some (very strong) Turkish coffee and got my caffeine fix for the month.
I met up with a fixer (a journalist or local who knows an area and ideally knows something about the story you are covering -- a good fixer is key) named Aya, and a local driver named Taher, who were able to help me navigate Cairo.
On the agenda: Walk the city, shoot some interviews, read some local press, work some scripts, but mostly, make calls on Janet Greer, the American mother who traveled to Egypt in search of a reunion with her daughter, who had been taken there 12 years ago.
2 p.m. Cairo/ 7 a.m. NYC:
"Good Morning America" is just starting live on the East Coast. I'm not on today, but I could've been. ...That's OK, plenty of work to do.
I'm staying at the Marriott in Cairo. I just checked into my room and am about to meet up with my producer Clark Bentson (total pro, lives in Italy, teaches me a ton every time out) and crew (shooter is Bart Price, the best) and head off to our first interview.
3 p.m. Cairo/ 8 a.m. NYC:
I just finished an interview with a representative from the Consular's Office at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo regarding the Janet Greer case. Not sure if everyone remembers this story about the American mother whose daughter was taken to Egypt by her father when she was 3 years old and Greer hasn't seen her since. It has been 12 years, and Greer's struggle still continues. I'm here to try to help get answers on why her most recent request to see her daughter, Dowsha (Sarah in English), has been suddenly denied. As a parent, the idea of not seeing your children for 15 years is really upsetting. I'm hopeful that Greer will get to meet up with her daughter someday, but the legal system is different here, so who really knows. I have another interview in 30 minutes -- interviewing some students at a downtown cafe in Cairo. First is Usman Naeem. He is Pakistani, lived in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Canada, Dubai and now is at AUC. Next is Hatem el-Akkad. He is Egyptian, very eloquent and smart. He plays the guitar and is in a band -- overall a good representation of Egyptian youth. Another student is Mennatallah Yousef. She wears the Islamic headscarf and is studying mass communications. She is a moderate Muslim and represents mainstream Islam in the Arab world. Last is a Palestinian student named Yasmin from Gaza. Her family is there. She is studying here and speaks great English. Was president for nearly three years of the Al-Quds Palestinian Club at her University.