Obama checks into North African-themed Vegas resort for debate prep
Is Obama tone-deaf in the extreme — or is he blatantly rubbing our noses in it?
What else could explain his bizarre decision, after weeks of violence and anti-American rioting in cities across North Africa and the Muslim world, to check into a Las Vegas resort with a North African theme?
As reported by the Business Insider, Obama chose the new Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort to do his debate preparation:
President Barack Obama arrived in Nevada last night to begin three days of debate preparation at the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort, a luxurious golf community just a few miles from the Las Vegas strip.
According to the White House pool report, the "resort is a strange mix of desert sand pits, green lawns, palm trees and new homes. We passed a replica of the Ponte Vecchio and some luxurious lakeside estates, also unfinished lots and a browning golf course. The president's hotel has a Middle Eastern theme and a view of the lake from the lobby."
Actually, that White House Pool report is inaccurate: Obama's new hotel doesn't have a Middle Eastern theme, but rather a North African Muslim theme, with an emphasis on Morocco. From the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa home page click on "Overview" -> "View Hotel Map" to access this detailed pdf of the hotel floorplan, which reveals that just about everything in the hotel or on the grounds is named after North African, Islamic and/or Moroccan places and themes. Here's the main part of the hotel grounds:
(These names are confirmed by the hotel's online list of meeting rooms.)
As you can see, most of the hotel's elements have North African, Moroccan or Arabic names, which are listed here (along with explanations):
Casbah is the name of the Old Town quarter of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. It can also refer to the oldest walled area of any North African city.
Medinas refers to the medinas of North Africa, which are the ancient maze-like urban areas mostly in Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. Medina is also of course the city where Islam was founded in Saudi Arabia.
Souk refers to a marketplace anywhere in the Arabic-speaking parts of North Africa and the Near East.
Mushrabiya is an architectural feature common in North Africa and elsewhere in the Arab world.
Baraka is Arabic for "Blessing" — and more interestingly is the actual birth name of Barack Obama Sr., who later changed his first name from "Baraka" to "Barack." So, in a sense, "Baraka" is also President Obama's first name. (How many Nevada resorts have a gambling casino accidentally name after the President?)
Tajine (usually spelled "tagine") is a traditional dish served in Tunisia, Morocco, and elsewhere in North Africa.
"Sandsabar" is a pun on the name of Zanzibar, the former Arab slave-trading center on the east coast of Africa.
Moulay refers to Moulay Driss Zerhoun, the town where Islam was introduced into Morocco, and which has a Muslims-only section.
Aleuj refers to a famous gateway in Meknes, Morocco. Interestingly, according to the link, the term "aleuj" means "apostate" and refers to the fact that the gate was built by a former Christian who had converted to Islam.
Menzeh is a place name associated with various locales in Morocco.
Majorelle is a famous garden in Marrakesh, Morocco.
Arabesque is not a place but simply an Islamic art style.
("Nuala," "Marssa," "Skala," "Andalusian" and "Sultana" just seem to be random words tossed into the mix because they sounded exotic, not because they had any unique connection to North Africa.)
Is Obama trying to send some kind of message? And if so — what message, and to whom?
After the events of the last weeks in North Africa, why - out of all the hotels and resorts in Nevada — would Obama pick the only one in an Islamic North African theme?
Pure speculation from this point on:
Many hotels and resorts in and around Las Vegas have over-the-top "themes," but it's all just window-dressing: flamboyant decorations to lure in tourists. In most cases, including the Westin Lake Las Vegas, it seems as if the designers just flipped through a book of images or place names from whichever theme was chosen, and implemented them haphazardly, without ever staying "true" to the theme. Thus, the Excalibur is not actually a medieval castle with medieval plumbing, any more than Caesar's Palace is made out of hand-chiseled white marble. Slaves did not build the Luxor.
Thus, it's not as if the Westin Lake Las Vegas is an actual North African-style hotel operating on Islamic principles; far from it. It's still a typical high-end American hotel, that just happens to have North African decorations. So, if that's the case, why choose it?
My theory is that Obama wanted to retreat into an "Orientalist" fantasy of what North Africa should be like, a dreamy, exotic and totally non-threatening resort area. Retiring to this particular hotel is Obama's way of suppressing the ugly reality of what the North Africa of 2012 has become, rife with anti-Americanism, Al Qaeda and out-of-control revolutions, and instead allowing him to drift in haze of hookah smoke through a colonialist's dreamworld of a North African Neverland.