Laura Bush visits Middle East in goodwill tour

Monday, May 23, 2005

Press Secretary Susan Whitson with Laura Bush in front of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, Egypt
White House photo of First Lady Laura Bush

U.S. First Lady Laura Bush visited Jerusalem and Egypt on a five-day tour of the Middle East hoped to mend the United States' image in that region.

While in Jerusalem visiting several holy sites, including the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall, she was heckled by protesters. Mrs. Bush said she was expecting protests and was in fact welcomed by most people.

"As we all know, this is a place of very high tensions and high emotions," said Mrs. Bush, as she stood in the garden courtyard of the Church of the Resurrection. "And you can understand why when you see the people with a deep and sincere faith in their religion all living side by side."

Mrs. Bush's approval ratings have remained very high, above 80%, even as her husband's have recently dropped below 50%. "Part of this is just that she's so much more popular than the president at home. What's not to like about Laura Bush?" said professor of political science Barbara Burrell to the Christian Science Monitor.

During her visit, she participated in recording an episode of the Egyptian Arabic version of the Sesame Street television program. The Muppet characters are similar to the U.S. version, but have Arabic names, such as Khokhah, a peach-colored little Muppet girl. Mrs. Bush emphasized the importance of learning to read in her appearance, which is probably to be broadcast on the show's next season.

Among her other activities, Mrs. Bush is having lunch with Suzanne Mubarak, wife of President Hosni Mubarak. She also plans to tour the pyramids and the library at Alexandria. Mrs. Bush is a former librarian from Texas.

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