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CONNECT THE WORLD
Day Four Of Oscar Pistorius Testimony; Interview with Former British Foreign Secretary David Owen; 91 Parliament Seats Up For Grabs In World's Largest Democracy; Humanitarian Aid for Syria; Syria's Refugee Crisis Deepens; Looking Back on First Week in UAE; Abu Dhabi's Hotel Industry; Rotana's Ambitions; Rising Emirate; Iconic Waldorf Astoria Clock With Arab Twist
Aired April 10, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.
BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: A very warm welcome. Personal messages take center stage in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial. This hour, the Olympic athlete defends himself against accusations that Reeva Steenkamp was afraid of him.
Also ahead, a new twist in the search for flight 370. What Malaysian officials knew a month ago, but have only just revealed.
And just in, these new satellite images from NATO purporting to show the Russian army buildup on the Ukrainian border. We take you to the front line and show you what we found.
It is a very windy evening just after 7:00 in Abu Dhabi. Welcome.
South African track star Oscar Pistorius returned to the stand today to defend his version of events the night he shot and killed Reeva Steenkamp.
The prosecution doubted Pistorius story and meticulously questioned him about every detail leading up to the shooting.
Now earlier the man who questioned him focused on Pistorius's relationship with Steenkamp and his history with firearms. He said he never treated her badly and that the shooting was not intentional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OSCAR PISTORIUS, PARALYMPIAN: I didn't intend to shoot. I was pointed -- my firearm was pointed at the door, because there's where I believed that somebody was. When I heard a noise, I didn't have time to think and I fired my weapon. It was an accident.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Well, CNN legal analyst Kelly Phelps has been watching the trial since the beginning, joining us now live from Pretoria.
So what did you make of what happened in court today?
KELLY PHELPS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was a day of, again, two very different parts for the prosecution. In the morning, they came out with a lot of (inaudible). They started with this character evidence, got under his skin and then managed to jump between all the different charges, essentially overwhelming him a bit, before really then grilling him on the murder charge.
But by the afternoon, Pistorius had really regained his composure, the most composed he's been throughout the trial. And then the prosecution found it a lot harder to pursue their strategy of trying to build up a track record of inconsistency. He really stuck to his version of events.
ANDERSON: This, of course, is a trial without jury, that is the South African way. How do you read how the judge is reacting to this case at this stage if at all?
PHELPS: Well, I think you can read how the judge reacts to moments of the case. That's very unlikely to -- that's very unlikely to mean that we can tell how she'll decide the case eventually, because we expect that with any judge in this country that she will diligently apply her mind to all of the evidence presented.
But certainly today you got a sense of a bit of irritation from her, actually, when she felt that Nel was being a bit unfair in his questioning. And she did actually step in on two occasions, one before his defense team actually even objected. And essentially told him to tone it down.
ANDERSON: You're live in Pretoria with us this evening later on Connect the World, thank you.
We'll talk more about the Pistorius murder trial, including just how Steenkamp's family is dealing with what is this agonizing testimony about her death. Her mother speaks about the trial and what she thinks of Oscar Pistorius's testimony, that is later in the show.
Well, search crews hunting for Malaysia Airlines flight 370 believe they are closing in on the plane's location. A patrol aircraft has picked up another underwater signal in the Indian Ocean. Search officials say it is quite possible that the sound came from the plane's black boxes.
Will Ripley is live in Perth with more details on today's discovery.
Getting closer? That certainly seems to be the sense that we're getting. What have you heard?
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Getting closer absolutely, Becky. But, you know, keep in mind here we are about to enter day 35 of this search here in Perth and still we don't have a single shred of physical evidence, not a piece of debris. We don't have any photographs of this plane, but the confidence that the search teams have is based on the increasing number of these pings that are being detected, now as you mentioned, a fifth ping. And this one not detected from that Australian ship that's towing behind the U.S. Navy's listening device, this ping coming from a sonar buoy deployed by an Australian plane the P3.
They flew over the search area and they manually dropped these buoys, they blanket the area. And these buoys have an underwater listening device that goes down at least 300 meters. And one of the buoys, we're told, detected a possible frequency that they think could be coming from a data recorder.
So at this very moment that data is being analyzed. And we expect if there is news to report that this is believed to be from a black box, we could learn that as early as tomorrow morning.
But again no physical evidence, but another promising lead as we listen for evidence from the plane.
ANDERSON: And 23:06 today, of course there. Unlikely that we'll get more information tonight now, but as Will rightly points out, hopes for tomorrow.
Will, we also learned today of some information that we believe the Malaysian authorities may have had for somewhat 30, 31 days. About what happened just after this plane went rogue? What can you tell us?
RIPLEY: Yeah, our investigative team in Kuala Lumpur has been actively working this angle since we've been on the ground there. And this new information is coming from a senior Malaysian government official and also a second source who is closely working on this case. And what they're telling us is that they believe when flight 370 dropped off military radar, because it dropped off of the radar, they believe it had to go down between 5,000 and 4,000 feet -- this is coming from those two sources.
The same sources are also telling us that in the hours after the disappearance, that the Malaysian government actually sent out search planes to look for the aircraft.
So, while this gives us some more answers, it still raises a lot of questions about what exactly the government of Malaysia knew and when they knew it and how they acted on it.
ANDERSON: Will Ripley reporting from Perth, Australia for you on the latest on that search.
Well, the trial of three al Jazeera journalists has been adjourned for yet another 12 days after what was a brief session in a Cairo court room. Correspondent Peter Greste and producers Mohammed Fahmy and Bahar Mohammed were detained three months ago, remember. They are accused of spreading false information and aiding the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt calls a terrorist organization.
Now they insist that they are innocent.
In Cairo, Reza Saya is outside the court room. Reza, what happened there today?
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Becky, today this trial continued to plod along at a very slow pace, seemingly not making much progress. For five sessions of this trial now, we've been waiting to see if state prosecutors can present any kind of evidence to link these defendants to any kind of crime or terrorist activity. And we simply haven't seen any evidence.
Instead, we've seen a number of baffling and bizarre developments. They create the impression that state prosecutors are either not prepared for this case or are simply not taking this matter very seriously.
Today, for example, prosecutors, after weeks and weeks of delay, finally presented video that they claimed showed that the journalists doctored video to broadcast false news. Every one in the court room was eager to see what this video was. However, the video turned out to be old reports from Peter Greste, the al Jazeera journalist on Somalia. There was a press conference from Kenya after the mall shooting last year. The video even included images of horses in Egypt.
Obviously this video had nothing to do with this case, and the judge acknowledged this.
The prosecution claimed they had more video, more video evidence, but they also claimed that they didn't have the proper equipment to show it today.
So you get an idea of how this proceeding is moving along and how frustrating it has to be for the family members, many of whom were in court today.
At another point in the hearing, a student who is being tried with the al Jazeera journalists, who is on a hunger strike, fainted and had to be carried out. This is a student who has claimed for months now that he has nothing to do with al Jazeera. Even so he's being tried along with these three defendants.
103 days, that's how long these three men have been in custody. For much of that time without charge. The judge today, Becky, adjourned this hearing until April 22. That means another 12 days in custody.
But the most critical outcome of today, still no evidence presented by the prosecution that links these journalists to any kind of crime or terrorist activity.
ANDERSON: Reza Sayah at seven minutes past the hour there in Egypt on the story for you.
Tonight, it's nine minutes -- sorry -- past the hour of 7:00 here in Abu Dhabi. We are here with the show, of course, our new home.
Still to come tonight, millions turn out to vote in a crucial phase of India's marathon elections. We'll have a live report from New Delhi up next.
And is Russia really gearing up to invade eastern Ukraine. We examine the evidence along the border. The show live from Abu Dhabi, stay with us.
ANDERSON: You're watching Connect the World with me, Becky Anderson on CNN. Welcome back to Abu Dhabi.
Now we are monitoring the vote on one of the first big days of India's marathon elections. More than 90 parliamentary seats up for grabs. And today's vote could be crucial for the opposition BJP, which is trying to break the ruling Congress Party's hold on the government.
But this is only one of several rounds of voting. So we won't know the final results for week.s
Here's Mallika Kapur with a look at the logistics of holding an election in a country like India.
MALLIKA KAPUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Millions of Indians are voting in 91 constituencies across 40 states, including here in New Delhi this Thursday. This is only phase three of voting. There are six more phases. Voting doesn't finish until the 12th of May.
Why is it spread over five weeks? The election commission says it's so that it can make sure there's adequate security arrangements and simply so that it can work out the logistics. There are 814 million people registered to vote in this election, that's a staggering number.
But remember this is the world's largest democratic exercise.
These women are just saying that it's important they cast their vote. If they don't case their vote, they don't have the right to ask for anything, to ask for change. They say what they really want is a government that will bring prices down. It's just too expensive to sustain themselves and their families.
"I want corruption to go down," he says. "There are too many people taking bribes these days."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My vote is definitely very much important. Why? Because I need safety."
KAPUR: Once people vote, they get an ink stain on their fingernails, a sign that they voted. Many people say it's a sign of great pride and of empowerment.
ANDERSON: And Mallika Kapur is live in New Delhi with more on today's vote.
Mallika, what was the turnout like?
KAPUR: You know, Becky, but all accounts the turnout was simply put it was fantastic. Let me run through some of the numbers for you. Here in Delhi itself, 64 percent of the population, of the registered population came out and voted today. 64 percent, that's a huge, huge number.
Of course, you can put into context, you know, the population of Delhi, the population of India and that'll give you a sense of just how many people came out to vote.
Down south in the state of Karala (ph), 74 percent came out and voted.
And just a few days ago when we had polling in Nagaland (ph), 82 percent of people came out and voted.
So the turnout has been absolutely fantastic. And these are all figures which represent that many more people are voting in this general election than they did last time. Delhi is up 12 percent from last time.
And to put it in a global context, if we compare it to the U.S. Presidential elections, that was in 2012, that was 53 percent. So we're looking at a huge turnout here in India.
And I must say today when we went out to the polling station, it was very peaceful, very civilized, very orderly.
ANDERSON: Mallika, these numbers are absolutely staggering. Let's just go through some of the other figures that we have for this, because I think this is important. This is, as you say, the largest ever democratic exercise. There are more than 814 million eligible voters, an increase of more than 100 million people from the 2009 election.
This is key, the biggest increase is among 18 to 19-year-olds. They make up 2.9 percent total voters, up from less than 1 percent in the last election.
And to accommodate voters, 930,000 polling station have been set up around the country, that's up from about 830,000 in 2009.
How big a role, Mallika, does social media play in this election?
KAPUR: A huge role, Becky, a very, very huge role. And it's mainly because of the youth, you know.
India has the world's largest youth bulge. More than half of India's population is made up of young people. And of course the internet, then, becomes a really powerful tool in their hands. And just today, you know, we talked about people getting their fingernails stained with ink, that's something which happens at a polling booth once you've cast your vote.
And I saw so many young people the moment they came out, you know, taking pictures of that. Everybody took out their cell phones and they were taking pictures of that. And very quickly one of the top trends on Twitter today was a trend which said #getinked. Everybody was posting pictures of their fingernails with that ink stain to show that they've voted.
It is a matter of great pride for many, many Indians. And it's almost like a right of passage. It's something that you do as you grow up in India. You know, when you become 18, when you're allowed to vote.
So this, you know, social media has played a huge role in encouraging people to come out and vote. And it has definitely been led by India's youth, Becky.
ANDERSON: Fascinating stuff. Hashtag #getinked is what's been trending in what is this incredible democratic exercise. Mallika, we'll be talking as the weeks continue, because of course there are something like another five weeks to go until we get a result in this election.
Mallika Kapur for you in India on the Indian elections tonight.
Not only are these the world's biggest elections in terms of voters, the campaign is also focusing on a host of issues, one of them is something that we have covered extensively on Connect the World and that is violence against Indian woman.
Head to CNN.com/international, there's a number of articles there, but particularly one about how a majority of Indians see combating violence against women as a political priority. CNN.com/international.
Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. At about 18 minutes past 7:00.
Coming up, Ukraine's acting president offers to pardon pro-Russian demonstrators, but there is a condition.
Also, David Owen played a key role in trying to negotiate peace in the Balkans. I'm going to ask him why he thinks sanctions against Russia are not the way to go. That, coming up.
ANDERSON: Well, the wind has dropped.
You are watching Connect the World live from Abu Dhabi. And it is a very pleasant evening.
Welcome back, I'm Becky Anderson.
Ukraine's interim government is offering an olive branch to pro-Russia protesters occupying state buildings in the east of the country. Its message, disarm and depart and you won't be prosecuted.
Well, Russia has warned of civil war if Kiev uses force to disperse the demonstrators. But the U.S. says Russia itself is the threat, accusing the Kremlin of dispatching 40,000 troops to the Ukrainian border. NATO agrees there's been a buildup of combat ready troops and has released these images showing tanks in the area.
But when our Phil Black traveled through parts of the border region, this is what he discovered.
PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORREPSONDENT: Our journey started at the most southern point of the Russian-Ukrainian border. And there we found a border crossing, keep going, hang a left, you end up in Crimea. But at this border crossing itself, it was pretty quiet, just some cargo trucks coming through.
From there, we came to another crossing point. Here, we got into a little bit of trouble. Local security rules say journalists aren't allowed within a 5 kilometer zone of the border, about 3 miles, unless they have special permission from the federal security service. So we were detained for about three hours. And we got a very stern talking to.
Up until that point, we'd seen no military presence whatsoever. That all changed in a very small village of Chikalava (ph). There we came across a huge, really quite expansive training ground. There was an air strip. Locals told us that large numbers of paratroopers have been conducting exercises over that ground last month. That had since all gone home.
And it certainly did not look like a place that was at a very high state of readiness.
The next border crossing we came to was in the Russian town of Donetsk, not to be confused with the big Ukrainian city of the same name. Video cameras are banned in this town, but what we saw was a big border crossing facility with very few people using it. Outside, lots of surly taxi drivers who told us the Ukrainian authorities at this border crossing were not letting any Russian men beneath the age of 55 cross into Ukraine.
But these taxi drivers say they hadn't seen any soldiers or any sort of military present building up in this region.
ANDERSON: OK. Well, that was Phil Black.
Russia defending its annexation of Crimea, pointing to NATO's intervention in Kosovo in the 1990s as proof of the west's hypocrisy.
Well, one man who knows all about that chapter in history is David Owen, now Lord Owen, who has written widely about Russia's claim to Crimea and spoken out against western sanctions. We're going to do that a little later.
First, he's joining me from London. And Lord Owen, you've been talking about the Crimea situation in a way that is almost contrary to what is the official line coming out of London and Washington. You have said, and I quote, the referendum in Crimea has no standing in international law, but the history that lies behind it cannot be brushed aside.
Explain what you meant by that.
DAVID OWEN, FORMER BRITISH SECRETARY: Well, the Russians have had a naval port in Sevastopol in the Crimea for over two centuries. Think Guantanamo. You've had a base in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for over 100 years. You have it permanently. You pay a small rent, but the property belongs to Cuba. So the map doesn't change, but you control the military base. And that sort of arrangement might be able to be negotiated for the Crimea.
The Crimea is a very different. It was given back to Ukraine when Ukraine was really part of the Soviet Union by Khrushchev in 1954. So it's very different what we're talking about in terms of eastern Ukraine.
ANDERSON: What -- this dialogue I'm listening to, this rhetoric I'm listening to, is very reminiscent, isn't it, of the sort of Cold War period, the sphere of influence if you will, countries that follow your ideology and allow you to use your military bases.
Are you feeling this same sort of rhetoric building here? And does it worry you to a certain extent, that what you're hearing between Washington and Moscow at this point?
OWEN: Well, I think Washington should remember the Monroe Doctrine and the fact that you intervene when Khrushchev put missiles in Cuba, quite rightly, because it was in your sphere of influence. It was a really serious threat. And so we have to take some understanding of this. There is those people who seem to long to go back to the Cold War. The very interesting article today by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times reminding us of what George Cannon -- nobody has a stronger record in American diplomacy of being against Soviet Communism than George Cannon, but he reminded us in 1998 that the ever increasing expansion of NATO was effectively encirclement.
He thought it was a great mistake then. He warned that it would adversely have a reaction on Russian policy if it continued. We were very fortunate we didn't take Georgia in when the Georgia crisis brew up. It would be in my view very wise if we don't take NATO enlargement further than it currently is.
ANDERSON: Interesting that the Baltic states have been asking for physical feet on the ground, as far as NATO is concerned. What we'll see what...
OWEN: Well, that's quite right. I strongly support that.
ANDERSON: OK. All right.
Well, let me talk to you about sanctions finally, because this is what you've said and written about sanctions. And I quote, territorial disputes are solved usually after long, hard negotiations. Tit-for-tat sanctions are no substitute, you say, for nitty gritty negotiations and compromises.
We've heard the word sanction used a lot from Washington and the EU against Moscow of late. I'd go so far as to say what happened to date has been action rather than sanctions. You don't want to see further sanctions. I mean, these would be quite punitive, one assumes, going forward.
OWEN: Well, I think that the talks between Secretary of State Kerry and the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov is the right way to proceed and they're discussing in Eastern Ukraine can there be a degree of autonomy for the Russian-speaking part in eastern Ukraine. You have that in your states. You're a federal state. The governor of a state is elected. They have considerable freedom of policies.
But I think that the other thing to remember is this, Yeltsin brought in a market economy, under our persuasion. And the business is the way to start to break down barriers and talk to each other and negotiate together and effectively do business together. And that myself, I believe, is the right way to change attitudes.
Politicians are fixed in the past. They seem to want to go back to Cold War rhetoric on both sides, that doesn't help. Just keep going ordinary people trading off each other, selling goods to each other, working with each other in the markets of the world, that's the Russia that made great strides from 1990 all the way through until just recently. And Putin may not like it, but that's the best way to improve relations between Russia and the west.
ANDERSON: Always fascinating to talk to you, Lord Owen, thank you very much indeed for joining. This is Connect the World with me Becky Anderson in Abu Dhabi for you where, of course, we are now housed, as it were, our new home here in the UAE.
The latest world news headlines are just ahead. Plus, growing numbers and growing despair, the Syrian refugee crisis pushes those who flee and those who take them in to breaking point.
ANDERSON: You're watching CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson. The top stories this hour.
Australian officials say a search plane has detected another possible signal from Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. That's in addition to sounds picked up by the ship Ocean Shield earlier this week. Search officials say they are trying to determine whether the new signal, did it come from the missing plane's black boxes?
Well, it's a big day in Indian's marathon-style election. Up to 110 million voters are casting their ballots in the capital and 13 other states today. This is just the third phase of the country's parliamentary election, which will last five weeks.
Prosecutors in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial questioned him about his relationship with Reeva Steenkamp, his history with firearms, and his account of events leading up to the shooting. Pistorius said that while he and Reeva argued from time to time, he never treated her badly and that the shooting was an accident.
Robyn Curnow joining us live from Pretoria with more on what happened in court today. And published comments by Reeva Steenkamp's mother, I believe, Robyn.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. We heard Reeva Steenkamp's mother in a published newspaper article talk about how she wanted her eyes to bore into him, she wanted him to know that he was being watched by her.
It was some revealing sense of her own personal health. She basically said, I do look at him too much. It's upsetting her. So, there is the sense that she's trying to get a connection with him to remind him that he took away her daughter.
ANDERSON: "I keep thinking, let me see how he's taking this. He is being dramatic, the vomiting and the crying." She continued, "I think he's just about keeping himself together. I don't know whether he is acting." Robyn, were you surprised to see these comments?
CURNOW: No, I don't think so. June Steenkamp has been pretty stoic through all of this, and you do wonder what she's thinking. And I do get the sense that she's been quite sort of single-minded in the way she's dealing with this court experience. To read some more from her, she talks about how it doesn't make a difference to her if he goes to prison for 25 years or if he's allowed to walk free. "I'm not a person who wants to punish him. I want my daughter back, but that's not going to happen."
And I think that deep sense of anger comes through if you watch June Steenkamp in court. And remember also, imagine how disarming it must be for Oscar Pistorius. Of course, he knows, he's apologized to her and the family, he tried to look her in the eye at the beginning of this.
But at the same time, she kind of dismissed it and said, the apology really unmoved her. She was expecting it, her lawyers had briefed her. So there is this sort of separate drama playing out, this physical connection between these two people, of course, who were both -- both shared Reeva Steenkamp.
And when we're talking about eye contact, Becky, which I think is very fascinating as well. When you're in court, there's one thing about this side drama between Oscar Pistorius and, perhaps, Reeva Steenkamp's mum.
But also, during the cross-examination, Gerrie Nel, the state prosecutor, is of course very aggressive, very probing. And he's constantly probing and pushing and needling Oscar Pistorius for hours and hours.
And not once has Oscar Pistorius looked over at him. Every single answer during cross-examination, Pistorius gives it to the judge in front of him. So, he's effectively ignored the state prosecutor for the past few days as he's been on that stand. It's quite impressive to watch, actually. He's been absolutely single-minded in not connecting or having eye contact with the state prosecutor.
ANDERSON: Fascinating. All right. Robyn, thank you for that. Robyn Curnow is in Pretoria in South Africa for you.
For the first time since last June, almost a year ago, humanitarian aid is getting to a besieged area of Aleppo, a hot point in Syria's three- year-plus civil war. Two truckloads of food, medicines, and other supplies were unloaded on the outskirts of the city on Wednesday.
The United Nations Refugee Agency and Syrian Arab Red Crescent made that delivery thanks to a temporary cease-fire agreement from the government and from opposition forces.
Well, the UN estimates that 6.5 million Syrians are displaced within their own country. It says an other 2.5 million are refugees, mainly in neighboring countries. Senior international correspondent Arwa Damon visited Arsal, where one of the many new refugee camps are popping up on Lebanon's border. She found the crisis growing and it is deepening.
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Arsal, once a sleepy Lebanese town, now in the crosshairs of the Syrian War. Any open space, empty lot, filled with the tents of Syrian refugees, whose lives are no longer recognizable. Their homeland, a mere ten-minute drive away.
DAMON (on camera): Each time we come back here, more and more of these makeshift camps are dominating the landscape with the influx of refugees, especially when the violence intensifies just across the border. As one doctor said to us, in both cases, people are facing death.
Inside Syria, it's because of the inexplicable levels of violence. And out here, it's the struggle of having to survive each day living like this.
DAMON (voice-over): A regime offensive into this strategic Syrian border town of Yabroud saw the most recent surge of refugees. An additional 10,000 arriving here in just a week, overflowing into a limestone quarry.
(MEN ARGUING IN ARABIC)
DAMON (on camera): People here are understandably very frustrated and angry because they've come, this is what they've found. This is one of the newer makeshift camps that have opened up here, but there's really no other support system for them, especially after the nightmares that they've fled inside.
And they're just telling us about how difficult it is and how angry they are with the international community, with the United Nations, with all of the organizations that they basically feel have effectively utterly and completely abandoned them.
DAMON (voice-over): "If we were animals, the world would have more compassion," they say. The flow of refugees has tripled Arsal's population, numbers it simply cannot sustain.
Dr. Kasem Zein was a gastroentorologist, hardly trained in treating war wounds. Known to us in the media and the world mostly through YouTube videos from the Syrian town of Qusayr, putting out impassioned pleas for help for the innocent victims. But none came.
When Qusayr fell back to the regime over the summer, he fled to Lebanon, where he still struggles to save lives.
"People died because we couldn't get them out of here," he says. That's because Hezbollah, which is fighting across the border in Syria with the regime, also controls territory around Arsal. And those refugees we meet say they may as well be dead. The war in their homeland may not have physically killed them, but it's left them emotionally destroyed.
Arwa Damon, CNN, Arsal, Lebanon.
ANDERSON: Well, the war in Syria is being closely watched from this part of the world, as you might imagine. That's why we've dedicated a section on arabic.cnn.com focusing on the conflict in Syria and how it's affecting neighboring countries. All that at arabic.cnn.com.
Well, that was the week -- that was, we have come to the end of CONNECT THE WORLD's first five days here in the UAE, and it's been a wonderful introduction too this country on the rise, its people, its culture, its politics, and its potential.
I was on Saadiyat Island, which is, I don't know, a couple of kilometers from here just along the coast earlier on today, soon to be home to Abu Dhabi's cultural quarter, with a new Louvre and a Guggenheim, amongst other attractions. It is the perfect place, I thought, to reflect on the changes afoot in this exciting part of the world.
ANDERSON: Well, it has been an extraordinarily busy week. Perhaps one of the conversations that I've enjoyed the most was about the youthful ambition here in the UAE. I had some students join me for the show in Dubai, and we talked about their home and their vision for the future.
Well, this is an age-old region steeped in tradition with what is a can-do, will-do modern approach to the future. And the skyline behind me bears witness to that. The authorities here hope and believe that they have got a strategy for a diversified and sustainable future.
This is a global hub, and it fits the show's philosophy absolutely perfectly. Beyond these sand dunes and the Gulf is Tehran. And we'll be covering Iran's reintegration into the global community in the coming weeks.
And beyond these fairly calm waters, just a three-hour flight or so away, Cairo, Damascus, Beirut. We've seen the Arab Spring. Expect a summer of reckoning. We're going to be on that story for you.
And it's not just about the Middle East, of course. As tens of millions of Indians start voting in what is the biggest experiment in democracy, it has been a very busy week.
ANDERSON: And one of the other things I did this week, I thought you'd enjoy this, is got an environmental project here at Saadiyat Island, where they are making sure that the marine area's turtles are conserved.
So, I've got myself a turtle. It's named Crocus, I've decided. And that's my marine turtle conservation project, and this is what you get when you sponsor a turtle.
I'm Becky Anderson, that was CONNECT THE WORLD. Thank you for watching. MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST with John Defterios is next. I'll be back with the headlines after that.
JOHN DEFTERIOS, HOST: It's a homegrown hotel chain up against the bit international brands. What's the strategy? A day in the life in the Rotana CEO Omar Omar Kaddouri.
And no, it's not Dubai or Abu Dhabi. It's Ras al-Khaimah. Why this quiet emirate is emerging into the rising emirate as the UAE's new tourist destination.
Welcome to MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST. This week from the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. This is a city which has been in an explosion of hotels over the past year. Sheraton, Hilton, and the Intercontinental have been here for years. But one of the latest is the St. Regis in the Nation's Tower behind me. It joins some homegrown brands as well, such as Jumeirah and Rotana.
Rotana opened its first hotel in Abu Dhabi more than 20 years ago. It has a dozen in the capital, including this one, the Khalidiya Palace on the water. It has major expansion plans under its new CEO, Omar Kaddouri, who's chasing growth in the emerging markets.
OMAR KADDOURI, CEO, ROTANA HOTELS: Morning, Katchas (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Morning.
KADDOURI: Hi, Emmy. Morning, Hashi (ph). How are you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
KADDOURI: I was just calling to check to see if all OK in Salalah.
DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Meet Omar Kaddouri, the new face of Rotana Hotels.
KADDOURI: Hello, how are you doing? Good to see you. All OK? Yes?
DEFTERIOS: An Abu Dhabi-based chain with 50 properties around the globe. In January, he took on the role of chief executive of the group, which was led by its co-founders, Nasser Al Nowais and Selim El Zyr, for just over two decades.
KADDOURI: All those years ago, everybody looks so much younger.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You look better now.
KADDOURI: There's our owner, Sheik Zyr. Our chairman, Selim.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right, yes.
KADDOURI: These are the people that started the company.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
DEFTERIOS: Rotana had a modest start with two hotels in 1993. Kaddouri joined the group five years later on.
KADDOURI: Are we ready for the meeting?
DEFTERIOS: Iraqi-British Kaddouri graduated from a Swiss hotel management school in 1986, meeting resistance from his father, who thought he was making a wrong turn.
KADDOURI: I remember, I told my dad I want to be in the hotel business. He said, "What? You're not going to be a waiter. No son of mine is going to be a waiter. You're not going to be -- all this money I'm going to spend, and you're going to be a waiter?"
And I said, "It's not like that," you know?
Francesca, how are you, good to see you.
DEFTERIOS: Today, he's at the Park Rotana Hotel in Abu Dhabi to refurbish a well-known restaurant, Teatro.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's the central --
KADDOURI: Yes. So, you can never -- once it's damaged, you've got to do the whole wall again. So, that's not what we're looking here to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it's a good quality, this one.
DEFTERIOS (on camera): Your background is in food and beverage.
KADDOURI: That's right.
DEFTERIOS: So, you have your hands all over this type of business.
KADDOURI: I'm very passionate about food and beverage. And when you have hotels to work with and so many hotels with so many outlets, it's like a kid in a candy store.
DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Rotana is a homegrown brand in the Middle East, giving it a comfort level to go in where others may hesitate. It was the first to open a five-star hotel in Erbil, northern Iraq.
KADDOURI: At the building stage, we're just trying to make sure that we have as much efficiency as possible.
DEFTERIOS: Now, Kaddouri has his sights on Iran and its nearly 80 million consumers.
KADDOURI: I think a big watch out for Iran, I would say. Not that I want the competitors to come rushing into Iran. We want to be the first one on the ground, and I think we will be the first on the ground.
But there are certain elements that need to be stabilized before we can feel really, really confident. But we're hoping that by the end of next year, beginning of 16, we should see our first hotel open in Iran.
DEFTERIOS: The bigger plan is to more than double the number of cities where Rotana has a presence to 40, and the number of hotel rooms or keys by 2020 to 28,000. Kaddouri is going east where there is growth.
KADDOURI: We're talking to people in southeast Asia, in India, in Australia. I just came back from a trip to Australia and I visited several major cities that are in need of hotels. And OK, Rotana? Who are Rotana? I know all of the other big guys.
That's when we have to sell ourselves. That's when we have to say, come on over to our part of the world. We can show you what we have. And there's always some smart investor that's going to give the new kid on the block a chance.
DEFTERIOS: To build out, Kaddouri says it is important to know where the brand was born. The Beach Rotana was the chain's first property. It remains a meeting point in the UAE capital. When he's not busy touring the properties, there's one other place he'd like to be.
KADDOURI: I love this hole. I think I didn't so much get the hole on the golf course.
DEFTERIOS: But even there, he's keeping an eye on developments. The latest Rotana on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, is under construction.
KADDOURI: Well, it's looking like its about 30 months away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. OK.
KADDOURI: It's going to take from the time we start he shorting and then the foundations, we're looking about 30 months. So, two and a half years we'll have beautiful property nestled in between these two. And it's going to be one of the premier resorts in the region.
DEFTERIOS: For Kaddouri, there may be parallels to management and golf. Keep on advancing by avoiding the rough, but look to improve a little bit on each round.
KADDOURI: You've got it! One up!
DEFTERIOS: Omar Kaddouri, navigating the course as CEO of Rotana. Well, the hotel group was born in Abu Dhabi, has presence in Dubai, but also, Ras al-Khaimah right now. When MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST continues, we take a look at the so-called rising emirate and why so many hotel rooms are going up.
DEFTERIOS: Welcome back to MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST. As you can see, Abu Dhabi and Dubai continue to attract visitors to its pools and beaches, but there's another emirate on the rise called Ras al-Khaimah. It has a pristine shoreline and wants to drive value to its customers. It wants to be an upcoming tourist destination in the UAE.
DEFTERIOS (voice-over): This is how those inside the UAE remember Ras al-Khaimah, a weathered fishing port on the waterfront. For centuries, a strategic trade outpost along the ancient Silk Road. Ras al-Khaimah, or RAK, is the northernmost of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
DEFTERIOS (on camera): The emirate in the last few decades has built a reputation for its industrial prowess, specifically in ceramics and cement. It's a global player in both. But now, the ruling family is making a big push in the tourism sector, particularly as a satellite destination of Dubai.
DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Barry Ebrahimy leads sales and marketing for the Al Hamra Village.
BARRY EBRAHIMY, SALES AND MARKETING, AL HAMRA VILLAGE: To our right, we have the apartment buildings and Al Hamra Marina. In front of us, we have the 32 chalets at Banyan Tree, and to our left, we have the brand-new Waldorf Astoria.
DEFTERIOS: It is the Waldorf Astoria, opened by Hilton last August, that has put Ras al-Khaimah on the map. Locals refer to Ras al-Khaimah as Hilton Island, since it was the anchor hotel brand for a dozen years.
But times are changing. These are the Marjan Islands, which will be home to 1500 hotel rooms. Nearly half of those will be at the newly-opened Rixos Hotel, a Turkish hospitality group.
To help fill the new rooms, Air Arabia, a fast-growing low-cost carrier, will move in to replace a struggling local airline.
STEVEN RICE, CEO, RAS AL-KHAIMAH TOURISM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY: They understand Ras al-Khaimah, the understand the destination, they understand the potential. And the access they give us to market like India, like Saudi Arabia, is fantastic.
DEFTERIOS: Steven Rice, and online travel veteran, arrived two months ago and is fine-tuning a new master plan. His job is to ensure that demand is aligned with all the new hotel and residential inventory coming on stream.
Back at Al Hamra Village, more than 1,000 villas have been sold out, and there are more on the way. Seems pricey, at up to $3800 a square meter, but general manager Benoy Kurien said he's maintaining a sizable discount versus Dubai.
BENOY KURIEN, GENERAL MANAGER, AL HAMRA REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT: Twenty to thirty percent cheaper rates per square meter for any property that you buy, whether it's an apartment or a villa. And that's significant value without compromising on the quality.
DEFTERIOS: And that is the value proposition for what is a quiet but rising emirate.
DEFTERIOS: As you saw there, the Waldorf Astoria is part of the emergence of Ras al-Khaimah, but perhaps you didn't know this: the brand has one common feature no matter where you go, and that is the iconic clock in the lobby. In the case of Ras al-Khaimah, it's been adapted to the Middle East culture.
The general manager, Andre Herrenschmidt, tells us more.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDRE HERRENSCHMIDT, GENERAL MANAGER, WALDORF ASTORIA RAS AL-KHAIMAH: It comes from the iconic Waldorf Astoria clock in New York, but this clock, we have given it an Arabic touch. We have the five Muslim prayer times. At our reset every day at midnight and give you the exact time of the next 24 hours five Muslim prayers. And then on top, you have the iconic clock.
It's the first time that a clock like this has been created, combining a New York symbol of the clock with the Muslim prayer times.
The clock was a $1 million investment. And it was ordered especially by His Highness to have the most stunning clock at the entrance of the hotel.
Everything that looks gold is gold. The clock took six months to manufacture at Smith's of Darby, which is one of the oldest manufacturing clock makers in the world. And it was specially flown here, and it took a month to assemble and set it up, and they come every six months to maintain it and keep it in perfect working condition.
People are fascinated by this piece of art, so they come there, and then you have the coziness of being around the clock. And then when you are sitting there, you can see anyone entering the hotel or leaving the hotel, so it's a very interesting point to sit down and sit for coffee and just watch the world go by.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DEFTERIOS: A regional twist to a brand that's starting to make its presence known in the Middle East. And that's all for this edition of CNN MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST. I'm John Defterios, thanks for watching. We'll see you next week.