‘Queen Carla’ draws crowds in Arab-Israeli village
Villagers in the Arab-Israel village brace the scorching sun to catch a glimpse of French first lady and cheer excitedly when she drives by.24 June 2008
ABU GHOSH - A small crowd in the Arab-Israeli village of Abu Ghosh braved the scorching sun on Monday to catch a glimpse of supermodel-turned-singer Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and her husband, the French president.
"We heard she is beautiful," Yussef Khaled said of the French first lady.
President Nicolas Sarkozy, in a dark suit, and his wife, sporting an elegant blue pantsuit, travelled from nearby Jerusalem to lunch in the village's French-owned Benedictine monastery that was built during the crusades.
French showbiz celebrities including crooner Enrico Macias and Parisian star Regine accompanied the presidential couple.
To their chagrin the villagers only got the briefest glimpse of the visitors. But they did cheer enthusiastically as the motorcade of armoured vehicles swept past.
Children and teachers pressed against the school gates to get a look. "We didn't see much, but it's a super visit for the village," said Khaled.
"Everyone wants to see them. He and his wife are very famous."
Khaled admitted that like many others in the village, it was really the first lady he wanted to see.
Bruni and her tailored outfits have received more press than the French president since the pair arrived in Israel on Sunday.
"Crazy for Carla" was the headline on a double-page splash in the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily, which featured 10 photographs of the first lady.
On the front page the paper announced: "Queen Carla, the first lady from France, arrived yesterday with her husband. It was an opportunity to see what she wears and how much it costs."
Not everyone was impressed, however. "You know we've seen a lot of people here, the wife of George W. Bush, German presidents..." said Nidal Abu Gosh, who nevertheless joined other villagers hoping for a Carla sighting.
The paparazzi did not see much of the fashionable French singer either.
"It's a strictly private visit. The president wants to have a convivial moment without facing pressure from journalists," said Father Louis Marie, the monastery's prior.
What was for lunch? The cleric maintained a monastic silence. "I have vowed not to say anything."
Abdelatif al-Tilbani, who owns a restaurant just a few steps away from the monastery, had little interest in the presidential lunch.
"What do I care?" he grumbled, sitting alone in his establishment. "I got nothing out of it, quite the opposite. Police closed the streets. Look at my restaurant - it's empty!"
A short while later as the motorcade rolled out of town a hand appeared behind the presidential car's smoke-tinted windows and Bruni gave a little wave to the cheering crowd.
[AFP / Expatica]