Richmond, Eliot, Cagle: reports from Middle East

We have three reports from cartoonists regarding their trips to the Middle East region. MAD Magazine artist Tom Richmond was part of the NCS/USO group that went to Iraq, Jan Eliot and Daryl Cagle went to Algiers for the 2009 Festival International de la Bande Dessinee d’Alger and then went on to Morocco (Eliot), Egypt and Israel (Cagle). Here are excerpts from their trips. Be sure to click through to read their full posts and see their pictures.

Daryl writes:

After Algeria, my Middle East speaking tour took me to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories. At my first event in Cairo I spoke to a group of Egyptian journalists who brought a newspaper up to me, proudly pointing out that in Egypt, editorial cartoons are often printed big and in color on the front page of the newspaper. The cartoon they showed me would make an American editor choke; it showed a spitting snake, in the shape of a Star of David; inside the snake/star was a peace dove, behind bars, and above the snake, in Arabic, were the words, “It’s not about the bird flu, it’s about the swine flu.”

Jan writes:

Casablanca has an extremely romantic association for Americans, thanks to Hollywood… and it is a great place, but not necessarily what you think. While “Rick’s Bar” does exist…

Tom writes:

We were bussed a short way to our quarters, where we discovered we had drawn a blackjack. We had been told our sleeping quarters in Iraq were subject to availability and could be tents, container housing, etc. Instead we got incredibly lucky and stayed at a facility on Speicher called “Freedom Rests”. This is like the Club Med of Iraq, only instead of a sandy beach it had a sandy…uh… sand. Freedom Rests is a place were deployed soldiers can get a 3 day pass as a reward for various accomplishments to get away from the stress of their missions and relax. It’s a giant warehouse-like building with multiple entertainment centers, games, computers, a gym, a pool, comfortable barracks and good bathrooms and showers. There is a 24 hour kitchen with full menu. Only a handful of soldiers were there while we stayed for two nights, but it can house up to 100.