Some people like to watch birds. I like to watch Arab tourists in the US. Most amusingly, they take the strangest photos. As a rule of thump, Arabs prefer not pictures of food, as so many Americans do abroad; nor do they point and click at everything like their Japanese brethren.
Here is what I see Arab visitors snapping away at where I live, in Washington, DC.
- Cars, nice cars any cars really, but especially any late 1980s Corvette or Camaro.
- The McDonald’s golden arches. Pizza Hut’s red roof caricature and the KFC bucket logo—because they remind them of home. Taco Bell is ignored.
- Anyone in uniform—a policeman, a firefighter, a security guard, a postal worker.
- Blondes—real or fake, it does not matter.
- Servers @ Hooters, and the pics are only to be shared with the dudes back at home. It’s like a strip club for the dudes from conservative countries.
- Hookahs. Nothing screams I am keeping it real as blowing smoke, plus they can ask people back home to guess where the picture was taken, since nothing is crazier than a shisha place in NYC.
- Anything that comes on time. It’s worth taking its picture since this concept is non-existent back home (and in many places in the US). OK, this does not really happen, but it should!
- Homeless folks with their coin jars who tell jokes about poor Americans and give unsolicited advice to tourists. When you expect to visit such a rich country, nothing is more novel than a homeless dude. In the Arab world, homeless isn’t rare, but public begging is outside of the massive cities. Getting mobbed by kids selling crap is a bigger phenomenon for tourists.
- Mosques and Arabic churches are like the Arab McDonalds, super exotic and therefore photo-worthy.
- Government offices. In DC so many look ancient Roman or Soviet in architecture, so it’s like time travel. But yeah, take a picture of the symbols of American power while it lasts.
- Airplanes, we really cannot help by take pictures of those flying beasts. I have no idea why.
- Bridges, dams and those damn FBI undercover agents, well if no one warned them what NOT to do in the US.
- Segways, those silly mobility devices, because the roads back home make such vehicles impossible and people just look ridiculous riding them.
- Extremely obese people walking, talking, moving on scooters. Although for Gulfies, the sight of fat people may no longer be so interesting.
- Anybody that looks like a rapper, which for the lighter Arabs is just about any black person. And yes, many think the average black guy “looks like” some celebrity. That can lead to embarrassing moments.
- People in exercise outfits. Sorry we do not exercise. The closest thing we have to exercise is reproduction activity, and we’re not wearing anything.
- Any protest, whether by paid union protesters, or the nuts camped out by the White House, is a great subject for Arab cameras.
Arab tourists like taking photos of the surprisingly familiar, as well as the exotic. Most important is they show everyone back home what they were up to on the trip. Aren’t Arabs so strange!