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Mr. Obama, Cairo U. is ready for its close up.

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CAIRO – Cairo University is prepping for its close-up.

Water the grass? Check.

Paint the broken concrete curb a shiny new black? Check.

Polish the giant dome? Check.

More police check points? Check.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will take the stage at Cairo University to deliver a long-awaited address to the Muslim world in which he is will attempt to smooth relations after years of tension.

There are high hopes in the Arab world, in particular, that the American leader will unveil a new Palestinian-Israeli peace proposal. Some Arab leaders – such as Jordan’s King Abdullah II – see this US administration as offering a new window of opportunity.

Initially, both the US and the Egyptian government had planned for Mr. Obama to speak at Al Azhar, a 1,000-year-old mosque and university that claims to be the world’s oldest. Thousands of students come here from around the Muslim world to attend Al Azhar.

But, reportedly for security reasons, a site on the other side of the Nile was chosen: Cairo University.

The university is one of the oldest secular institutions of higher learning in the Arab world. With 200,000 students, it is also the largest university in Egypt. And its often the site of pro-democracy demonstrations.

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