All this in a part of the world where US influence and prestige have plummeted to new depths. Washington is blamed for failing to use its influence with Israel to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, in particular, to halt the spread of Israeli settlements in occupied territories.
The 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal deepened Arab disillusionment, leaving a carapace of cynicism and distrust that will be difficult for any future president to dislodge.
"Bush has been a disaster for the Arabs and anyone is better than him," says Hanna Sfeir, a young barber in Beirut. "I hope Obama wins and that he will treat the Arabs more fairly."
Many Arabs believe Obama would adopt a more impartial approach to the Middle East than McCain. "I think he is a bit more aware of our side of the story," says Eman F. al-Nafjan of Riyadh, who blogs at Saudiwoman's Weblog. McCain "makes us feel as though he doesn't even view us as human."
Still, Obama's ratings in the Arab world are a shadow of his strong European confidence ratings. Twenty-two percent of Jordanians expressed confidence in Obama, versus 23 percent in McCain, while in Lebanon, Obama got 34 percent to McCain's 26 percent. Egypt's rankings were similar, with Obama getting a 31 percent confidence rating against McCain's 23 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
In the dusty Cairo cafeteria of Hurriya, or Freedom, ceiling fans spun in lazy circles on a recent weekend morning. A few dozen men sat reading newspapers and drinking small glasses of strong tea. There was little enthusiasm for the first black US presidential nominee.