RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- President Obama, on the first leg of a Mideast trip, said Wednesday that he is confident the United States and Saudi Arabia can "make progress on a whole host of issues of mutual interest."
Shortly after his arrival Wednesday in Saudi Arabia, Obama and King Abdullah went to the Saudi ruler's farm for a welcoming reception. The two leaders met privately afterward.
Obama said he was "struck by his wisdom and his graciousness. Obviously the United States and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship. We have a strategic relationship."
"And as I take this trip -- and I will be visiting Cairo tomorrow, I thought it was very important to come to the place where Islam began and to seek his majesty's counsel and to discuss with him many of the issues that we confront here in the Middle East," he added.
Obama leaves late Wednesday for Cairo, Egypt, where he is to address a mostly Muslim audience Thursday (6 a.m. ET).
His plans to improve America's image among Muslims have been in the works since his first week in office.
"My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect," Obama said in a January interview with Al-Arabiya television network.