The idea of common citizens trying to organize for change was impossible.
"There's no social activism. You go to jail if you get involved in something like that," Sabrie said.
While American democracy might not be working flawlessly right now, to say the least, he remains impressed.
"There's always problems, but it's something you can speak about at a minimum. And you can even organize and take action and change things for the better."
The nation's capital also has some powerful images for Muslim Americans. In the Supreme Court building, lawgivers from throughout history are carved into its walls — including the prophet Muhammad, along with Moses, Confucius, Solomon and others. The Sabries saw in the Library of Congress the copy of the Koran owned by Thomas Jefferson.
"That put in perspective for us that this is a country that kind of put together perspectives of all people and all ideology," Sabrie said.
Although those sorts of lessons were the purpose of the trip, Sabrie also made sure his daughters had plenty of opportunity for the traditional activities of a summertime cross-country family trip. There was swimming in hotel pools, visits with cousins to shopping malls, a stop at the National Zoo, a chance to see the dinosaurs at the Smithsonian's natural history museum, paddle boat rides on the Tidal Basin ... .
"Oh yeah!" Samira said, remembering the latter. "We started splashing water on each other. And you guys got stuck!"
The bigger lessons stuck, too.
"Executive, judicial and legislative," Sumia answered when Wardah quizzed her on the three branches of government. And then she explained what each branch does.
So what does the legislative branch of county government do? You know, the county board.
Six-year-old Sarah had the answer for that one: "They just talk and talk."