Washington DC here I come!

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I’m honoured to announce that I shall one of the speakers at a RAND Corporation conference, this time in Washington, DC:

Creative Use of the Media II: Washington, DC
February 28th, 2008
Location: The RAND Corporation

I’ll be staying for a few extra days in the area and will enjoy the sights and sounds of Washington, DC and hopefully New York City too.

Any pointers on what I should do and what to see will be appreciated.

I hope to connect with some friends there (BonsaiMark, Desert Island Boy, Silly Bahraini Girl – if they’re not too far away – and Steve all of whom are hopefully listening!), so if you’re in the area let me know. And Steve, I’ll be completely un-armed. I promise!

  • Loki
    25 January 2008

    please excuse my cynicism, but RAND are the think tank that penned most of the current administrations foreign policy. I think they wrote something about the Domino effect of Democracy in the middle east. Whereby the US overthrough’s the governments in Iraq, Syria, and Iran and that should create a momentum for “democratizing” (read making it pro US) the middle east.

  • ammaro
    25 January 2008

    sounds great! DC is a pretty city, and besides the obvious touristy things (seeing the white house, washington memorial etc) there are a few other places you should take a look at. take a look at this, might give you an idea of where to go/what to do in general:


    let me know if you want more details and ill break DC down for you.

  • sillybahrainigirl
    25 January 2008

    if your schedule is flexible .. and you still have that Canadian Visa .. come over .. I have a secret to show you!

    I will email u.

  • barry
    25 January 2008

    Good luck Mahmood!

  • Aliandra
    25 January 2008

    If it gets broadcast on the CSPAN channel, I will make it a point to watch.

    If you have time, I recommend you check out the Air and Space Mueseum on the Mall. It’s fantastic.

    New York is very cold in winter. Dress warm.

  • Natasha
    26 January 2008

    Hi Mahmood,
    Drop me a note when you get to DC. We should meet up for lunch or something. I can also come to the event πŸ™‚

  • mdc
    26 January 2008

    I’ll be looking for it too; hope you don’t freeze your you what off. It is January after all.

    Look out for all those crazy jihad Muslims of Steve’s while you’re in DC πŸ™„

  • Steve the American
    26 January 2008


    I’d be happy to meet you in Washington, have a drink, show you around.

    My recommendation, if you are making arrangements, is to fly into Reagan National Airport rather than Dulles. First, anything named Reagan is just better. Second, Reagan is just across the river from DC and has metro/subway service in the terminal. You’ll probably be taking a cab from the airport to a hotel downtown, about a twenty minute ride, but the subway system will take you nearly as well. It’s a simple subway system, not complicated like New York.

    By contrast, Dulles is way out in the sticks, west of the suburbs of DC in Virginia. It’s at least a 50 minute cab ride to downtown DC. Dulles has no metro connection.

    RAND will probably put you up at some nice hotel downtown. You’ll probably be able to walk to the White House from it. You might also head over to the Hard Rock Cafe to pick up the mandatory souvenirs for the kids.

    If you want to go up in the Washington Monument, you can make a reservation here:
    If you don’t make a reservation, it’s gonna be difficult to get a ticket. My advice is to make this the first item on your agenda for the day, so you are free to see the museums for the rest of the day. You might want to catch the 9 AM slot in the morning. The Smithsonian museums open at 10 AM. By the time you come down from the monument, walk over to the museums, take a few snapshots along the way, they will be opening.

    The Capitol, Smithsonian museums, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial are all on the National Mall. Here’s a good downloadable pdf map of the National Mall:

    The most visited museum is the National Air & Space Museum. That’s about a 3/4 mile walk from the Washington Monument. You need a minimum of a half day to see it. The good news is that they have the cheapest food court in DC, every nasty and greasy fast food franchise in America is there. No shawarmas, though.

    The Museum of American History is closed for remodelling until summer. However, the Museum of Natural History is open and worth a half day of your time. It’s got the Hope Diamond, dinosaur bones, minerals, stuffed animals, and whatnot.

    If you walk out the front door of the Museum of Natural History north up 10th Street, you will pass FBI headquarters on your right. You might wear a thobe and gutra to catch their attention and fire off a cap pistol over your head while shouting curses in Arabic. The FBI loves practical jokes like that.

    Keep fleeing north on 10th Street and the next block will have Ford’s Theatre on the right, where Lincoln was shot. It’s closed for rehabilitation, too, but directly across the street is the Peterson House, where Lincoln died. The tour lasts only about five minutes.

    You might also go over to the Old Post Office near the Federal Triangle. There is a shopping center and food court inside plus an elevator that takes you to the top of the tower where you get a spectacular view of DC, including two picture postcard perfect views of the Capitol and Washington Monument.

    You can also go to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to see the money printed: http://www.moneyfactory.gov/locations/section.cfm/20/21
    You can buy uncut sheets of bills in their gift shop.

    The Holocaust Museum is next door to the BEP.

    If you have a car, you can go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in north DC (where the wounded from Iraq are taken) and visit the National Museum of Health & Medicine: http://nmhm.washingtondc.museum/
    They have a collection of Civil War wounds there; Minie balls embedded in skulls and legs, plus bits of Lincoln.

    The big planes of history are kept out by Dulles Airport at the Udvar-Hazy Center:
    They’ve got the Space Shuttle, Concorde, SR-71, etc. You might combine a half day there with a trip to the Manassas Civil War battlefied about a half hour south of it:

    If you are travelling between DC and New York, I’d forget about flying and just take the train. You can take the metro from your DC hotel to Union Station where you can board Amtrak to New York Penn Station. It’s about a three hour ride for about a hundred bucks for regular coach, more if you want to take the faster and more comfortable Acela express.

    Amtrak is infinitely more pleasant than flying. You get a big seat and a big window and go to the club car for drinks and snacks. It’s how civilized gentlemen travel. You’ll get a view of America through that window, too. Most of it will be the industrial underbelly and some of the depressed areas but also some nice views. There is an airfield in New Jersey to the right of the train which features a tarmac full of A-10s a couple hundred yards from the tracks.

    You make your reservations on the Amtrak website:
    You’re travelling between Washington – Union Station (WAS) and New York – Penn Station (NYP).

    (For the cash-starved students reading this, the cheapest way to travel between DC and NYC are the Chinatown buses for as little as $35 round trip: http://www.chinatown-bus.org/
    I have ridden them many times. They are perfectly safe and legit. They are usually full of college kids.)

    Once you get to Penn Station, you just hop on the New York metro, which is a level of complexity greater than the DC metro. That will take you anywhere in Manhattan. Taking the A train downtown will get you down near the tourist sites. Or you can skip it and take a cab.

    You might get a hotel room down on 42nd Street and take in some shows:
    You can get half-price tickets if you go to Times Square and stand in line around 11 AM or so. They sell the cheap seats that haven’t been bought yet. Cheap means at least $70 for a $140 ticket.

    You might just want to walk around Central Park and see the Metropolitan Museum of Art (http://www.metmuseum.org/) and/or the American Museum of Natural History (http://www.amnh.org/).

    It’s pretty cold here, Mahmood, down in the freezing range. You better have a coat, gloves, and cap or you will suffer.

  • Jocko
    26 January 2008

    Make sure you make a visit to the Smithsonian in DC, hit the Bronx zoo, visit little italy & china town. Go to time square at 3 in the morning, that is quite a scene never stops moving.

  • mahmood
    26 January 2008

    Thanks all for the tips, and Steve particularly for the excellent guide, Ammar too. I’m now looking forward to the trip even more!

    SBG I don’t think we’ll (bringing the wife too, I think) have time to hop over this time, and the Canadian Visa expired a long time ago unfortunately.

    Natasha, thank you, I shall. And it would be brilliant if we meet at the event.

    Warm clothes, I hate warm cloths, but I guess if I don’t want to freeze my butt off I’d better bring some with me!

  • Desert Island Boy
    26 January 2008

    Ahlan wa sahlan!

    It would be the most delightful honor to spend some time with you. I will email you my cell number. I do believe I have yours.

    Steve gave you a good rundown. There’s also Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s estate (unfortunately you’ll need a car).

    Ah, forget that, knowing you Mahmood, the best amber liquids are at Elephant & Castle http://www.elephantcastle.com, or in Georgetown.

    After that you can hop on the Metro over to Bethesda,MD for some of the best pub crawling. Some of the folks in Arlington VA or in Old Town Alexandria might beg to differ, but I’ll let you be the judge. But the best night life in the district, which I find to be the closest in atmosphere to Manama, is in Adams Morgan. (I’m not saying that it’s like Manama, I’m just saying it’s close)…. just saying…

    Of course there is always Annapolis, or as we like to call it, A drinking town with a sailing problem.

    I highly recommend the US Bureau of Engraving. It’s a little bit of jaunt from the Washington monument, but the tour is a hit with everyone I’ve known to take it.

    Don’t forget the Jefferson memorial, I’ve always found it inspiring.

    We just got back from a quick weekend in New York, so I could give you a rundown of how to most efficiently squeeze in the sights. If you’re not driving or flying to NYC, I recommend the bus over the train. It’s faster, it’s a straight shot and you can catch some shut-eye. US trains are nothing like European ones.

    If you do make it to New York, get to Canal St, or the Bargain District, wa’allah, it’s just like the Old Souq.

    Can’t wait to see you my friend!

  • gardens of sand
    26 January 2008

    Hi Mahmood, I live in Fairfax, a little town outside of DC. If you have time, I would love to get together for dinner or drinks. If you need a ride anywhere or an airport pickup, please let me know.

    You should tour Capital Hill. It is simply awesome. However, to get a tour, one has to go through their representative’s office and give a two week notice. It is worth though and so very informative. Let me know if you are interested and I will make arrangements.

    Old Town Alexandria is a fun place to walk around, very charming. Since you love gardening, you really should visit the Botanic Gardens (http://www.usbg.gov/). It is such a nice change from the same old museums, and the amount of plants they have there is amazing.

    Try to book a lunch or dinner cruise on the Potomac river (I recently went on Spirit cruises-a lil crazy but fun). And gotta do Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate (www.mountvernon.org/).

    Bon Voyage and safe trip.

  • mahmood
    26 January 2008

    Thanks again!

    I think we’ll be there for less than a week, so we’ve got to be practical on what to see and what to miss. The “normal” sites (Capitol Hill) would be definite including the botanic gardens I think!

  • ammaro
    26 January 2008

    i think steve pretty much covered it there. get some reasonably warm clothing, a weekly bus pass, and some good walking shoes.

    any idea where you’re staying yet, or will you be making the arrangements yourself?

    i think there’s one thing to add; if you can sort out a visit to the pentagon, that would be perfect. they do have guided tours, but you need schedule well in advance, and is subject to specific criteria. give them a call or send a message before arriving in DC. http://pentagon.afis.osd.mil/

  • mahmood
    26 January 2008

    I think I’ll be presenting AT the Pentagon, or close to it anyway!

  • ammaro
    26 January 2008

    no need to arrange for a tour, then. let me know if you havent arranged a hotel/tickets and ill help out

  • Nawaf
    27 January 2008

    Don’t miss M street in DC. It’s an amazing street!

  • Lee Ann
    27 January 2008

    I had the distinct pleasure of being on the last plane that landed at the airport in New York during the Storm of ’96…anyone remember that? Worst blizzard to hit the east coast in forever…anyhow…planes were down so had to take the bus to D.C….then the train to Montana but had some time to kill so got a taxi for a tour…i do believe my cabbie holds the record for the fastest DC tour in recorded history…he was flying down the snow covered streets rattling off info while I was doing my version of a windshield wiper trying to see left and right at the same time while objects of interest were whizzing by…hilarious if somewhat frustrating. At least I can say I was there πŸ˜€

    Have a safe and enjoyable trip Mahmoos…I envy you…I do miss the snow.

  • Lee Ann
    27 January 2008

    Mahmood…sorry 😳

  • mahmood
    27 January 2008

    Oh I’m so looking forward to this.. had it been delayed for just a month I would have caught the cherry blossom festival too, but I’m sure I’ll find plenty to compensate.

  • romster
    27 January 2008

    I hate you , I hate you…..and yes I hate you. I hope it will be so cold that you’ll get stuck in your hotel room with a broken down T.V..
    R 😈

  • mahmood
    27 January 2008

    MMMWAAAH. Does that make you feel better? I promise to bring you something though!

  • Steve the American
    29 January 2008

    Lee Ann: “I do miss the snow.”

    Nobody who has ever shoveled it misses snow. I wouldn’t mind a few palm trees myself.

  • J.M. Heinrichs
    29 January 2008

    Too bad you’re only coming half-way:A Ski Hill


  • Bonsaimark
    29 January 2008


    It will be a true pleasure to see you again my friend!!!!!!!!!!!! Either in DC or in Beantown or BOTH!!! I will give you a call in a couple of days! πŸ˜›



  • Aleta
    29 January 2008


    If you have time and would like a VIP tour of the great Yale University (in New Haven, Connecticut, about a ninety minute train ride from NYC), let me know and I will set it up for you. I read your blog regularly and would love to meet you and to introduce you to some of Yale’s excellent students from the Arab World.

  • underthepalmtree
    30 January 2008

    Hi Mahmood, congratulations on being invited to speak at Rand.

    I am excited for you as Washington DC is one of my favorite cities in the world.

    Please eat at The Old Ebbitt Grill it’s just steps from The White House and museums in downtown Washington. Established in 1856, it was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers. They are famous for their steak salad. Yum, Yum!http://www.ebbitt.com/main/home. It is NOT expensive.

    I love to walk “The Mall” or sit under a tree by the National Gallery of art. The people watching here is fabulous!!

    The National Portrait Gallery is another one of my favs. Stately pics of all the Presidents.

    I have lived and spent alot of time in DC and my sister worked on the hill for years so if you have questions drop me a line.

    Kind regs…

  • moclippa
    6 February 2008

    Great to here you are coming down, I’ve sent you an email with all my contact information around here. Hope to see you soon!

  • Ibn
    9 February 2008

    Youre coming to Washington DC Mahmood!?!

    Ahh, sweetness! I live in a town called Arlington which is only 5 mins away from DC – oh, theres so much to do dude – M-street (aka Georgetown), Adams morgan… well, might not be your scene – hey, want me to arrange something for you and the Arab Student Association here at George Washington University? And where is your talk?

    Ill just shoot you an email.

    Yaaaaay!! :mrgreen:

    P.S. Oh and Mahmood… I DO miss those gulf dates…if you could smuggle some through customs… 😈


  • T.J. Neruda
    9 February 2008

    I have some Ibn, and they are yummy! 😎

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