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With one notable exception, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan seemed to enjoy guiding American journalist Peter Greenberg around her country for “The Royal Tour” TV show.
The time spent recording voice-overs that she could have done without.
“You tortured me!” the African leader needled Greenberg at a New York screening of the show, which will air on PBS stations this spring.
“The Royal Tour,” a recurring feature on PBS for more than two decades, is as the name suggests. The seasoned travel journalist, and by extension their viewers, sees a nation’s landmarks through the leader of the country. Mexico, Israel, Ecuador, Rwanda and Poland have all been in the spotlight over the past decade.
“It’s the only show where I’m not the tour guide,” Greenberg said in an interview. “I am the visitor. And it’s the one where I’m happy to be like this, because who knows a country better than the one who runs it?
Tanzania is the first royal tour since the start of the pandemic, which briefly anchored Greenberg and was a key factor in Hassan getting his job.
When the shutdown began, “I was in a bunker, like everyone else,” said Greenberg, who is at the center of his own empire as CBS News editor. He hosts the regular show “Eye on Travel” for CBS Radio and “The Travel Detective” on PBS.
His bunker was in Manhattan. Restless, he began to rediscover his neighborhood as a traveler, spotting a bronze plaque that honored a New Yorker who died on the Titanic.
Eventually he realized it was his job to get back there, to tell people how they could travel safely and navigate local COVID-19 regulations. In addition to contracting COVID, his supporters mostly feared traveling somewhere and not being able to return, he said.
So Greenberg went through the maze of paperwork and testing to illustrate how it could be done.
“In one country I had to be tested five times,” he said. “I thought my nose was going to fall off.”
In Tanzania, Hassan was vice president to John Magufuli, a COVID denier who announced in 2020 that his country was free of the virus thanks to divine intervention. He passed away in March 2021 at 61 and although it has never been officially confirmed, he is widely believed to have died of coronavirus.
Hassan resumedand ostensibly went in front of the cameras to get vaccinated.
Hassan’s royal tour schedule is unfolding like most of them. Greenberg gives a brief historical overview of a country and illustrates where it is located, and is shown arriving at the leader’s official residence for an interview. Then they admire the view.
In Tanzania, they strolled through a market and visited a primary school in Zanzibar, surveyed the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro from the air, saw the extraction of the rare gemstone tanzanite and went on safari in the national park of the Serengeti. Hassan got behind the wheel, driving for what she said was the first time in 15 years.
“The Royal Tour” is often filmed as if Greenberg and the leader are visiting near-empty tourist sites alone, but the self-aware producers sometimes pull out the cameras. In Israel, it looks like Greenberg is taking a boat ride on the Jordan River just with then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his family, until another view shows them surrounded by other boats packed with aid. , a security guard and the press.
The Israeli tour broadcast in 2014 began with Netanyahu and Greenberg playing football with local children, until the prime minister tore a tendon and registration had to be delayed for several months.
Hassan also had a more sobering shutdown, a huge government warehouse stuffed with ivory confiscated from poachers, allowing him to speak about the illegal trade that has decimated the elephant population.
Similarly, when Greenberg visited Poland for a program in 2019, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took him on a moving walk through the museum on the grounds of the former Auschwitz concentration camp of the Second World War.
To take part in “The Royal Tour,” Greenberg needs a leader who speaks fluent English, is willing to give up at least a day for filming, and cedes all editorial control — the latter requirement some potential entrants are against. get irritated.
“When I was doing it, I had no idea it would come out like this,” Hassan said in New York after watching the episode about his country for the first time.
Although not necessarily on Valentine’s Day, “The Royal Tour” offers countries that want to boost their tourism a unique opportunity to show their characteristics to millions of potential travelers.
Hassan clearly recognized this when an audience member at the screening asked him when was the best time of year to plan a visit.
June or July, she said. But don’t limit yourself.
“You can come anytime,” she said. “We can stop the rains for you.”