Inside the Middle East
March 31, 2010
Posted: 2159 GMT
Lebanon-born Rima Maktabi has joined CNN International’s Inside the Middle East.
Lebanon-born Rima Maktabi has joined CNN International’s Inside the Middle East.

CNN International today announces Rima Maktabi as the new host of its popular ‘Inside the Middle East’ program and a key addition to CNN’s roster of anchor/correspondents covering the Middle East.

The appointment of Lebanon-born Maktabi, one of the Middle East's most dynamic and well known prime time presenting talents, signals CNN's deepening commitment to the region and continued investment in its Abu Dhabi production hub.

The hiring of Maktabi – a prime time news anchor on Arabic news channel Al Arabiya who brings with her a wealth of experience in the region – follows the recent launch of CNN Abu Dhabi, the debut of the nightly primetime show ‘Prism’, and the decision to fully localise the production staffs of the high profile ' Inside the Middle East ' and ’CNN Marketplace Middle East' shows.

The expanded CNN output is further bolstered by an extensive regional newsgathering infrastructure which today includes bureaux in Baghdad, Beirut, Cairo, Islamabad, Jerusalem and Kabul.

In a unique collaboration with Al Arabiya – for a two month period Maktabi will continue to present her Arabic prime time news show while filming throughout the region for CNN's ' Inside the Middle East ' .

Maktabi’s first appearance on CNN will be on the April 5th edition of ' Inside the Middle East ', ahead of joining CNN full time in June.

"CNN is delighted to announce the addition of Rima Maktabi to its line-up of Middle East based on-air talent as host of 'Inside the Middle East '. She is a strong talent with an impressive track record and we're pleased that this flexible partnership with Al Arabiya will allow our international viewers to get to know Rima much better as she becomes an integral part of our reporting from the region," said Tony Maddox, EVP and Managing Director, CNN International.

"CNN's appointment of Rima Maktabi is yet another acknowledgement by a highly-reputed global Newsmaker of the professional standards of Al Arabiya," said Abdul Rahman Alrashed, General Manager of Dubai-based Al Arabiya News Channel. "The fact that Rima Maktabi will first appear simultaneously on both CNN and Al Arabiya also gives this joint arrangement a greater corporate meaning and provides various audiences with tremendous added-value and synergies," Alrashed concluded.

In addition to hosting 'Inside the Middle East ‘, Rima also joins CNN's regionally based Stan Grant, Paula Hancocks and Ben Wedeman as a roving anchor/correspondent, reporting as and where the network's newsgathering needs require.

About Rima Maktabi
Rima Maktabi joined Al-Arabiya as a prime time news anchor and producer in 2005. Since then, she has covered notable regional stories such as the Iranian and Lebanese elections, the Palestinian Camp War in Nahr el Bared, the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict and the Arab summits in Doha and KSA. Rima has also covered international stories such as the World Economic Forum in Davos and The US Presidential Elections for Al-Arabiya. Her journalism credentials also include time as a reporter for Annahar newspaper and news and entertainment reporting/presenting roles at Future TV. She holds an MA in International Affairs and a BA in Communication Arts from the Lebanese American University of Beirut.

About 'Inside the Middle East'
'Inside The Middle East ' is CNN International’s flagship feature show for the region. Long one of the network’s most high profile and well received shows, it refreshed its concept last autumn with new interactive elements, a greater online presence, new titles, graphics and music.

Segments introduced into the new format include Your IME Diary a round-up of the region’s festival season including cultural, sports and business events, on TV and online, populated by viewer clips, stills and comments from key events around the world; My Middle East which takes viewers on a unique journey into the heart and soul of one of the region’s greatest cities through the eyes of regional icons from the world of film, music, fashion, business and politics to reveal the hidden treasures within their chosen city; and The Campus Forum engages university students from across the region to discuss the issues affecting today’s youth.

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •Inside The Middle East

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March 21, 2010
Posted: 856 GMT

A day in the life of Baghdad

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •General •Inside The Middle East •Iraq

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March 10, 2010
Posted: 1816 GMT

Editor's note: Inside the Middle East's Raja Razek shares her experiences of going to Oman to film the above story.

I arrived in Muscat on a cool, sunny afternoon. As a first time visitor, I opted to stay on the sea-front Corniche to be close to the Gulf of Oman.

As we took the winding road from the airport, I noticed the mountains were dotted with traditional houses, mostly painted white. The contrast of the blue skies, brown mountains, and white buildings made for what looked like a beautiful painting.

An Omani friend of mine says he thinks of Oman in colors.

Salalah down south is, surprisingly, green like the vegetation on its lush mountains. Sur in the East is blue in honour of the long tradition of fishing and ship building in that part of the country. Musandam to the north is brown like the color of the bare mountains that you might more typically expect to find in the Gulf country. Muscat, the country's vibrant, multi-ethnic capital is violet,  a combination of all the colors.

The minute I arrived, I rushed to see the "Jewel of Muscat" - the replica 9th century Omani sailing ship I had come to shoot a story about - at the port.

Captain Saleh Al Jabri and his crew were preparing for the big day. "Jewel" was to set sail in the morning and they were tired, excited, and nervous.

Their planned journey will retrace the trading route between Oman and Singapore that their ancestors would have traveled along. It may be nostalgic, but it is also dangerous:  They will be traveling using 9th century navigation techniques, have limited water, and will have live animals on board for food!

Jabri gave me a tour of the ship and we go below deck to were the crew will sleep and supplies are stored. The limited space is obvious. They put their supplies on their beds and rearrange it all every night when they go to sleep. I ask the captain, how they plan to stay dry and have room aboard for all 17 members. He says, it is tough, but “this is the life at sea. This is the life at sea.”

In the evening, I went to the souk on the Corniche. It sells souvenirs, traditional silver jewelry, clothes, and anything else you can think of that a tourist would like. I opted for the jewelry shops. It was interesting as they sell hand-crafted Omani jewelry and other items from the Far East. A few precious stones are imported from Singapore and made into necklaces. Of course I bought a necklace: What better way to remember my visit to Muscat to cover the launch of the "Jewel of Muscat's" journey to Singapore!

Early next morning I headed to the port to see the ship set sail.

There was a big crowd there: press, dignitaries, and families with their children holding flags and waving goodbye. Many of us followed on boats to see the ship off and the "Jewel" looked absolutely beautiful in the middle of the sea.

With the sun beaming down, it was very easy to understand how limited water can become a problem. I was dehydrated in no time but, luckily, not too far from shore. While sitting in the sun looking at the ship with the sailors onboard, I thought how this must be such an adventure for the sailors, as well as a tribute to their sea-faring ancestors.

As we waved goodbye to the captain and his sailors, I couldn't help but wish I was going with them to sail the great sea to Singapore.

Filed under: CNN Coverage •Culture •Inside The Middle East •Oman •Video

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Posted: 722 GMT

Hosted by Zain Verjee from Oman

We take you through Oman’s diverse terrain – sailing the seas in a sleek racing boat and driving through oasis towns en route to the rugged mountains of Jabal Al-Akhdar.

Omanis’ relationship with the sea goes back generations as sailors have traveled and traded for centuries. We were there for the launch of the Jewel of Muscat, a reconstruction of a 9th century wreck of a hand-sewn plank ship made of handmade coconut fiber ropes and wood without a single nail. The Jewel of Muscat will follow old trading routes stopping in India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia before arriving in Singapore in July. Inside the Middle East goes on deck with the captain ahead of the ship’s historic launch...

We bring you highlights of the Tour of Oman where Tour de France cyclists rode for 6 days on a 700 km route in a race that is the first of its kind in Oman. Meanwhile, at a Muscat art gallery we meet contemporary artist Hassan Meer as he describes his abstract paintings and photography. We also explore the exotic scents at the House of Amouage where CEO David Crickmore gives us a tour of the luxury perfumery. Finally, from the UAE we bring you the flavours of Gourmet Abu Dhabi as we report from the kitchen...

MY MIDDLE EAST – My Beirut with Zuhair Mourad
Drawing inspiration from the blue of the Mediterranean and the green of Lebanon’s valleys and mountains, fashion designer Zuhair Mourad has made his name internationally in couture. His celebrity clientele includes Beyonce, Paris Hilton, Kate Walsh, Shakira and Whitney Houston. Mourad says he is inspired by the many civilizations that have left their mark on his country – from Phoenician to Byzantine, from Ottoman to French colonial. Originally hailing from ancient Baalbeck, Mourad shows us around the city where he was raised, Beirut.

Wednesday 10 March  Doha: 1130, 2030, CET: 1030, 1930
Saturday 13 March Doha: 1030, 2100, CET:  0930, 2000
Sunday 14 March Doha: 0730, 2030,  CET: 0630, 1930
Monday 15 March Doha: 0600, CET:  0500

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February 27, 2010
Posted: 806 GMT

A new public relations campaign ask Israelis if they are tired of seeing how they are portrayed globally. CNN's Kevin Flower reports.

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January 16, 2010
Posted: 523 GMT

By Octavia Nasr
CNN Senior Editor, Mideast Affairs

Arabs worried, wept, prayed and even had a moment of silence in honor of Haiti’s tragedy and its victims. My measurement came from Twitter as Arab media left much to be desired in that department.

Death tolls continue to rise from the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti.
Death tolls continue to rise from the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti.

In 140-character messages many Arabs on Twitter and other social media expressed their sadness over the tragedy and offered advice on donations and activism. Some were worried about friends who were in Port-au-Prince on business; they expressed their anguish to an audience that listened and tried to help. Later, a select few came back to express relief that they found their missing while others dipped in a larger pool of sadness.

This one in particular caught my attention. Someone with a distinctly Lebanese name asking another person inside Haiti about his relatives:

@ziadsaliby @RAMhaiti Hello sorry 4 disturbing u do u know annything about Fouad Abd or his family? he has a SM called emile abd market

When my colleague Jack Gray suggested that he should check with the Lebanese Foreign Ministry, Saliby didn’t need 140 characters to express his desperation and loneliness in this daunting process.

@ziadsaliby but lebanon doesn't provide any information... that's why were trying to find info sololy.

Sana Tawileh is a Lebanese mother and professional who is active on Twitter. After posting messages of concern, she came back with this message:

@SanaTawileh We finally got news, so glad that my friends in Haiti are safe!!! It's a real disaster there...Prayers for everyone in Haiti...

Tawileh organically took on the role of moderator on things “Haiti” for a small community of Tweeps that follows her updates. Among other things, she encouraged them to be active, make a difference and warned them of scams if they decide to donate money.

Tawileh is now in Muscat, Oman, where she wrote me, “Haiti is mentioned in the newspapers on the cover page; but no buzz on the subject.”

Tawileh, who describes herself as a “humanitarian” says that a group of her fellow Lebanese are interested in helping Haiti and she will try to assist them through her contacts in Haiti and in the United Nations. Her answer to why she volunteered her voice for Haiti she said, “I always shout out for humanity, for Lebanon, Palestine or Haiti. It’s not political, it's just Human.”

A young Sudanese peace activist reached out to me to tell me what his group is doing to help people in Haiti.

Mohab El Shorbagi (@Mohabkady) serves as Peace mediator and the Secretary-General of the U.N. Youth Club. He is now in Raffah to assist in a “relief mission to Gaza and to promote the Arabic Text of poems by Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire.” He says he’s coordinating with other members of his group around the world to head to Haiti within the next few days to focus on children.

With his other group, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, he will be organizing a blood drive around the Middle East especially for Haiti. The absence of an official response to the devastation in Haiti does not stop him from being appreciative of the west. “I should like to think that such a genuine and well-founded reverence for life corresponds to the Western people intrinsic nature” he said in his message to me. He does not hide his disappointment with Arab countries that “lack strategy and unification” he says. So, he takes it upon himself to take action and he feels that his role at the UN affords him that luxury.

As far as the official actions on the ground, here is what we could gather today:

Jordan loaded a military plane with canned foods and bid farewell to a medical team heading to Haiti. Prince Rashid Bin Al Hassan, head of Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization said the following, "We, in Jordan and under His Majesty's directives, join the international community in expressing our sympathy to the people of Haiti. And we, as the Hashemite Charitable Organization of the Jordanian Armed Forces, will take our part in the international effort to bring aid to the people of Haiti, as we have done all over the world whenever we have been asked to do so."

We learned from a local news agency that Qatar sent a plane loaded with 50 tons of humanitarian aid.

According to a news item in local media, the United Arab Emirates head of state, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has ordered that his country’s Red Crescent start a humanitarian aid bridge to assist the Republic of Haiti and “lend a helping hand to the victims.” The report also said that Sheikh Khalifa has directed the Red Crescent to work with the various charities in the country to determine the kind of aid they will be contributing.

Right now, more than 48 hours after the devastating earthquake struck the Island of Haiti, the only official Arab reaction came from Lebanon where Prime Minister Saad Hariri expressed his nation’s “solidarity with quake-stricken Haiti” and pledged to “contribute to international aid.” In a statement Hariri said, "This human tragedy pushes us to comfort Haiti’s people and participate in international efforts to remove the traces of the disaster."

With the exception of Lebanon’s print media which for the most part highlighted Haiti on front pages, Arab media made modest mentions of the devastation and human tragedy. On larger channels such as the Doha-based Al-Jazeera and the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya, the earthquake and its aftermath were dealt with as a news item alongside regional and international developments. In Jordanian newspapers, the death of three Jordanian Peacekeepers was the headline introducing the Haitian tragedy. A similar case in Tunisia which lost one national who worked for the UN in Port-au-Prince.

As for Arabs on Twitter and other social media, they continue to try to help as they move on in their daily routines.

On the discrepancy in Lebanon’s reaction versus the rest of the Arab world, Sana Tawileh believes a sense of “Freedom” is leading Haiti’s official and public expression of support in Lebanon. While Mohab El Shorbagy is not counting on any officials to act let alone tell him what to do. He’s just confident that he’s heading to Haiti to help first hand. In our exchange, he quoted Nobel Peace Laureate Albert Schweitzer to express how he really feels:

@Mohabkady: "whenever a man turns he can find someone who needs his service & Arab leaders turn to staying in power 4 a long time.”

Filed under: CNN Coverage •Media •Science & Technology

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January 8, 2010
Posted: 648 GMT

Sanaa, Yemen (CNN) - A terror suspect in the attempted bombing of a U.S. jetliner was radicalized in Britain, but did meet with a radical Muslim Cleric in Yemen, a top government official said Thursday.

Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab has now been charged on six counts by a U.S. Grand Jury
Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab has now been charged on six counts by a U.S. Grand Jury

The meeting between Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab and cleric Anwar al-Awlaki took place in Shabwa, about 290 kilometers (180 miles) southeast of the capital, Sanaa, according to Yemen's Deputy Prime Minister for Defense and Security Rashad Al-Alemi.
No other details about the encounter were immediately available.

U.S. intelligence officials have been evaluating whether al-Awlaki played a role in the botched attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines passenger jet en route from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Detroit, Michigan on Christmas Day.

The attempt to ignite explosives hidden in AbdulMutallab's underwear failed to bring down the plane.

A federal grand jury indicted AbdulMutallab Wednesday on six counts, including an attempt to murder the other 289 people aboard.

If convicted, the 23-year-old Nigerian national faces a sentence of life in prison. Read full article

Filed under: Christmas •CNN Coverage •U.S. •Yemen

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October 30, 2009
Posted: 909 GMT

All of us at CNN are counting down the days to the launch of our newest bureau and production facility. After Atlanta, London and Hong Kong – Abu Dhabi is set to be our fourth broadcast hub when it launches on November 3rd. We will have a nightly newscast from there called Prism hosted by Stan Grant so be sure to tune in!

We'll bring you a behind-the-scenes look at how the bureau came together on the next IME airing November 4. Meanwhile, here's a sneak preview!

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August 12, 2009
Posted: 830 GMT

Special to CNN

Editor's note: Reem (whose last name is withheld for security purposes) is a 22-year-old student living in Gaza City and a participant in Mercy Corps Global Citizen Corps, a nonprofit initiative that helps youth build leadership skills and act to end world poverty. Reem and the nonprofit are part of an upcoming CNN special event, "Generation Islam" with Christiane Amanpour that premiers Aug. 13th 9 p.m. ET, 2 a.m. GMT. Here, Reem writes about growing up in Gaza.

(CNN) - I have vivid memories of childhood. The 5-year-old girl with endless questions; she wanted to discover the secrets of the entire world within minutes. She dreamed of being a doctor once, an engineer another time, and a mother of lovely kids. A dreamer, this is how I would describe the little girl Reem.

CNN. Reem is a 22-year-old student living in Gaza City.
CNN. Reem is a 22-year-old student living in Gaza City.

Days passed fast. Reem couldn't remember a lot of them, but she had some moments left in her memory - usually the happy moments of her life - and those memories were the basis for today's Reem, the 22-year-old girl who is ME.

I remember how happy I was when my teacher announced to the school that I was first in my class. I remember my mother's voice singing to me before I fell asleep; I remember my father running behind my kite when I lost it in the air, and I remember me asking my parents for a real monkey as a pet.

I can't forget the day I finished high school; I felt so grown up. I remember the day when the school announced the exam results and the tears of happiness my mother shed when I received a grade of excellent, and then I decided to enroll in the college of Business Administration.

I can call Gaza City the city of qualifications, where a lot of youth are qualified for good jobs. I am one of those youth who is volunteering in organizations, participating in community service activities, getting trained in various skills and getting more qualified day by day. But many young people like me cannot find jobs. See perspectives from Palestinian youth »

Sometimes, I feel disconnected from Gaza, but whenever I see the photos of Jaffa, I realize that it's where I and a thousand refugees belong. I find myself crying, missing a place I have never been to, but it's where my parents and my grandparents lived. I remember all those bedtime stories my grandmother used to tell me about the land, the fence of roses they had, and her climbing trees and cutting fruits. How I miss that place.

But life must go on. My day starts with the smile of optimism and the plan of my day. Waking up early to go to my university; I have to attend all of my lectures even though some are boring. My friends are a big part of my day. We start with our updates and then go to courses where we can develop our skills. When I arrive home, I feel so exhausted, but still I continue working and studying hard. I am always looking for chances for personal development, whether through volunteer work or at school.

I was offered a great opportunity to volunteer with the aid organization Mercy Corps as a founding member of the Why Not? youth program, and then I had the pleasure of seeing this program blossom into the Global Citizen Corps, or GCC, a cultural exchange between Palestinian and American students. I believe this program is deeply important because it changes the negative impression of Palestinian youth that is too often spread by media.

All my friends and 1,000 others are engaged in this program, which develops our personalities, our skills and serves the community. We use digital media as a tool to express what we feel and what we do. We make changes in ourselves, in our community, and we pave the way for global change. We are thinking globally and acting locally.

My ambition is to be a researcher in business studies all over the world. I finished my B.A. and a diploma of business studies, and I hope to obtain a scholarship to do graduate work in media and development. I am also interested in the field of project management and human interaction management. I know it is a good ambition to be Ph.D. holder and a worldwide researcher, but as Palestinian girl, I have fewer opportunities, not because I am not qualified or hard-working enough but because I am Palestinian.

Usually Palestinian students have fewer opportunities than others to get scholarships, because it's hard for them to leave the Gaza Strip, as all of the borders are closed. But I have not lost hope, and I will not. I will keep trying to pursue my dream of being the researcher I want to be.

It's true that I am a girl, and girls face some challenges in our society. For example, I can't stay a late hour at work. But I am so happy and honored to be a Muslim; putting the scarf on my head is something that I love. To many foreigners, it might seem to be against women's freedom, but I can tell that when a lady is convinced of it, it becomes part of her self-esteem, her self-confidence and her protection each day. I feel sad when the world gets angry at Muslim girls while they are peaceful and happy, enjoying their choices and freedom.

I found that I'm not that different from Catherine, who lives in the United States and whom I contact through the Global Citizen Corps. I have realized how similar Palestinian youth are to youth all over the world. Catherine likes some of the food I like, and she loves swimming just like I do. There are also lovely differences between us: I tried to cook what she taught me once, and she is learning Arabic now.

Maybe our lifestyle is different. I focus on my own development; I spend most of my time working to become a more qualified person with more knowledge and skills. I do not work hard because I am super girl or I aspire to be one but because I always want to be ready for the worst situation. In Palestine where I live, surprises can happen at any time, and I don't want to be caught off guard. I want to make my future secure by being a really good person. I deserve to live.

I enjoy my life as it is now, but I hope that when I find a scholarship and live in the West, I will not be obliged to take off my scarf and won't hear negative comments about me because I am Muslim. I consider religion a personal freedom that is related to your beliefs and what you feel in your heart. I love letting others live in peace. ... Why can't we enjoy peace, too?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

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Filed under: CNN Coverage •Gaza •Palestinians

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August 6, 2009
Posted: 1015 GMT

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