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Former Egyptian diplomat visits Live Oak

By Tami Stevenson

Former Egyptian Ambassador to Cuba Hamdi A.W. Saleh in front of Melody Christian Church. -SVT Photo: Tami Stevenson

During a mission trip to Cuba in 2002, an unlikely friendship between a Christian Pastor and a Muslim Egyptian Ambassador began that would last a lifetime. In a neutral area in Cuba, Reverend Frank Davis of Melody Christian Church and now Live Oak City Councilman, met Hamdi A.W. Saleh who was the Egyptian Ambassador to Cuba at the time. Saleh said he saw the humanitarian work Davis and his group were doing in helping the Christians and the others.

“He was helping everyone,” said Saleh. “I was very impressed with this,” he said.

“When we met,” Davis said, “He was very gracious and received us and introduced us to other people whenever we were in Cuba. He treated us royally and always gave me an opportunity to share about what we were doing.”

Reverend Davis became ill during one of the trips to Cuba and went to Saleh’s home for help. The ambassador introduced him to a top heart surgeon that is one of five in the nation and the doctor treated him there.

Saleh said, “So across the ocean, across the countries, we have maintained contact for 15 years and we are very good friends, which is amazing.” He added that their friendship goes beyond race and religion, they are friends as fellow human beings.

Saleh earned his doctorate at Harvard and is a Fulbright Scholar at the Center for Middle East Studies at Florida State University. His diplomatic service and distinguished career in academics, journalism and civil society advocacy spans nearly four decades. Hamdi Saleh is also a proponent of women’s rights. He said basically in most all parts of the world women are still fighting for their own rights. “They do not really achieve equal rights like we have achieved here (in America). Even here,” he continued, “You don’t have equal rights in terms of wages and so on,” Saleh said.

L-R: Live Oak City Councilman Reverend Frank Davis, Former Egyptian Diplomat Hamdi Saleh and Amanda Davis pose for a photo in front of Melody Church in Live Oak
. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

The former ambassador was preparing to speak at Florida State University about the crisis of the Islamic world and stopped by Melody Christian Church in Live Oak last week to meet with his good friend, where the Suwannee Valley Times interviewed he and Davis.

He said one of his missions is to support women throughout the world in obtaining their own equal rights in terms of their clothing, wages and the workplace and having an equal voice in public life.
Saleh is now retired from the Egyptian Foreign Service and teaches at a university in Abu Dhabi, Egypt when he is not lecturing in the U.S.

Above: Hamdi Saleh stopped for a photo with student Benjamin Jaimes and his guardian, Stacey Henderson. Jaimes will graduate Melody this year and has applied for and received a number of full scholarships but is on the waiting list for Princeton and Stanford, although he said Columbia is his first choice. -SVT Photo by Tami Stevenson

When asked what he and Pastor Davis talk about when they are together, he said they like to talk about politics and public life and to see what educational projects they can develop. They both agreed, “...There are three things we are concerned about: education, healthy communities and politics.”

Saleh said Frank and Amanda Davis are his two best friends in America because they care deeply about everything, more than anyone else he knows in the states.