Global Politics

Sudan's ''Barack Obama salon''

President Obama downplayed his foreign roots while on the campaign trail. Now his African heritage, and multi-ethnic family are part of the presidential narrative. Mr.Obama doesn't appear to have family in Sudan. But that doesn't mean people there aren't claiming him for their own. Some are even borrowing his name to drum up a little business. Heba Aly has the story

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Aly: In a suburb of Khartoum, a big, professional-looking sign marks the Barack Obama Salon. It has the new president's picture and his name written in Arabic.

Inside, the walls are painted deep yellow. A TV plays an American show as a barber shaves a client's head. Yassir Yagoob is the owner's brother.

Yagoob: "We opened the day after Obama was elected, Yagoob says. As soon as the results came out, we brought out the sign with his picture and hung it up. For the president of America to be an African is an amazing thing. We're proud. Not just as Sudanese, but as Africans."

Aly: Not only are they proud, but they have high hopes too.

Yagoob: "The most important thing, Yagoob says, is for Obama to bring peace to the Middle East. I hope Obama creates peace in Gaza, Afghanistan and Iraq and to help bring peace to Sudan, Darfur."

Aly: A Sudanese flag and a picture of Obama are taped to the wall. One barber wears an Obama t-shirt. A n other, Nizar Mohammed Ahmed, describes the Obama special.

Ahmed: "A lot of people wanted something of Obama. We made a haircut and called it Obama. In a day, 10, 15, 20 people come from far away places looking for the Obama haircut. It's a beautiful haircut. It looks just like Obama's cut. It's very normal. Short near the ears and a little more on top."

Aly: The barbers here say just the name has brought in new business. Some come in for a shave just because they see the sign. People driving by on the bus stick their hands out the window and cheer. But the Sudanese government isn't quite so enthusiastic about the new president.

Yassir Yagoob outside the Barack Obama SalonYassir Yagoob outside the Barack Obama Salon

Aly: Analysts say Khartoum had been hoping for a Republican administration. The perception was that Democrats would be tougher on the issue of the conflict in Darfur. Still there are signs that even the government sees hope in President Obama's message of change. Ali Sadig is a spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry. When Obama was first elected, he said he was optimistic.

Sadig: "We believe that the democrats are calling for change and we would like this change also to reflect on the foreign policy of the United States."

Aly: Back at the barbershop, Yagoob hopes his shop can contribute.

Yagoob: "God Willing, our sign and our little store can fix the relations between Sudan and America. God Willing, he says. These small things sometimes have a big impact."

Aly: For the World, I'm Heba Aly in Khartoum, Sudan

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