A motorcade sped them through the streets. Then, surreally, the frenetic pace was interrupted as the president paused to tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque, one of the world's oldest.
Hussain from the White House counsel's office joined Rhodes, McDonough and others trailing behind Obama.
Afterward, there was a hint that the Cairo speech achieved at least one goal -- reaching over the heads of leaders and making contact with ordinary Muslims.
Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, heard poignant evidence of that.
A friend in Cairo told Salem that on the day of the speech, he saw a little boy walking along the street, a smile on his face as he chanted in a soft, singsong voice: "Obama quoted the Koran. Obama quoted the Koran."
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Until now, White House officials had largely refused to discuss how President Obama's June 4 speech in Cairo was prepared. This account and the recollection of Obama's remarks are based on dozens of interviews with direct participants, including senior staffers, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.