Inside the Middle East
December 23, 2012
Posted: 625 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •U.S.

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December 20, 2012
Posted: 943 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •Israel •Jerusalem •Lebanon •Morocco •Palestinians •Pictures •Religion •UAE •Video •Women

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December 17, 2012
Posted: 618 GMT

A look back at the highlights of 2012 covered on Inside the Middle East.

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Algeria •Bahrain •Culture •Dubai •Egypt •Inside The Middle East •Iran •Iraq •Israel •Jordan •Kuwait •Lebanon •Morocco •Oman •Saudi Arabia •Sports •Tunisia •Turkey •UAE •Women •Yemen

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November 11, 2012
Posted: 630 GMT

Kuwait's love affair with fast food has become a health disaster for its population. CNN's Zain Verjee reports.

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Filed under: Culture •Food •Kuwait •UAE

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November 8, 2012
Posted: 756 GMT

'Inside the Middle East' meets chop shop owner Hussain Salmeen, who builds and customizes bikes in Kuwait.

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Filed under: Culture •Inside The Middle East •Kuwait •Video

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October 23, 2012
Posted: 706 GMT

Here's a look at our upcoming show:

The growing epidemic of obesity in the oil-rich Gulf nations is explored in November's 'Inside the Middle East'. Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE may be some of the wealthiest nations in the world, but they have also become some of the most obese.

Host Zain Verjee visits Dubai to discover how increasing numbers of Emiratis are turning to stomach stapling surgery to shed their pounds before travelling to Kuwait, where more than 50 percent of the population are overweight. Verjee talks to the Kuwaiti people and learns how fast food, scorching year-round heat and rapid modernisation have all contributed to making this tiny gulf state the second fattest country on Earth.

Staying in Kuwait, ‘Inside the Middle East’ heads to the Iraq border where a different, but equally massive, problem is being faced by the fragile desert ecosystem. More than two decades after Saddam Hussein’s retreating troops set fire to Kuwait’s oil fields, following the Gulf War, environmentalists are still trying to pick up the pieces.

The programme also meets young Kuwaiti artist Hussain Salameen who is uniquely fusing design and technology to build some of the region’s only chopper motorcycles.

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Filed under: Culture •Health •Kuwait •UAE

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October 3, 2012
Posted: 1149 GMT

This month on 'Inside the Middle East', host Leone Lakhani traveled to Morocco's culinary capital, Fes, for a lesson in how to cook homemade, authentic Moroccan food.

In Fes, Lakhani met Lahcen Beqqi, who guides Moroccan and international tourists around his souq and kitchen, sharing his secrets to shopping, chopping, and eating like a local.  At just 32-years-old, Beqqi is already known as one of the top chefs in Morocco.

But what makes Moroccan cuisine so special?

It has to do with the nation's geographical and historical position as a crossroads for a number of different cultures and and traditions, according to Beqqi.

"Moroccan cuisine, it's a multicultural cuisine.  It brings together a lot of cultures, a lot of influences, from Berbers, Arabs, Jewish, French, and Mediterranean," Beqqi told CNN.  "It's not only food... it's history when you put on the table and see all of these influences.  It's very interesting."

And very tasty.

On the latest 'Inside the Middle East', Beqqi gave Lakhani step-by-step instructions to cook lamb tajine.  The following recipe is for a similar meal, reprinted with permission from Beqqi's "Lahcen’s Moroccan Recipes: A Collection of Easy and Light Variations on Some of the Finest Traditional Moroccan Recipes."

Lamb, Prune, and Date Tagine

This dish is a traditional Moroccan tagine. Because it is sweet and it includes dates, it is often served when a family has company over.

For 3 people

• 1⁄2 kilo of a shoulder of lamb, or beef, or one small chicken • 250 grams of dried prunes (around 30 prunes) • 6 dates (pitted) • one big red onion, sliced

• 200 grams of roasted almonds • 1 cinnamon stick • ginger • mrozia spice (ras l’hanoot) – if available • 1 pinch of saffron (pistils)

• salt (to taste) • pepper (to taste)

Wash the prunes and put them in one liter of water. Let them sit. Put olive oil and lamb into a big pot, or tagine. Cook on a high flame, turning the lamb on all sides. Add ginger, cinnamon, onion, ras l’hanoot and saffron. Turn down the flame to medium. Mix for one minute. Take the prunes out of the water and put them aside. Keep the water! Pour it into the pot with the lamb. Let the meat cook for 1 1⁄2 hours (or however long it takes to cook) on a low flame. Add salt and

8pepper. Add the prunes and dates in the last 15 minutes. Add the almonds when you serve the dish.

You can reach Beqqi through his website for more recipes or additional information.

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August 12, 2012
Posted: 854 GMT

Remember the story about the world's most expensive cupcake in Dubai?

Bloomsbury’s, a boutique cafe in Dubai, made headlines earlier this year for selling a chocolate cupcake – the 'Golden Phoenix' – for around $27,000.

Since the cupcake first made its debut, the store has reportedly only sold two.  And now, the shop's owner has said that part of the proceeds on sales will be donated to the United Nations World Food Programme, according to local newspapers in the United Arab Emirates.

Here's the Abu Dhabi-based National newspaper on the cupcake:

The creators of the world's most expensive cupcake now say they will donate 50 per cent of the profit from it to the World Food Programme.

Ashraf Hamouda, of the World Food Programme, pointed out that the income from a single cupcake could feed at least 1,850 children.

He described Bloomsbury's charitable gesture as "formidable generosity".

"This unique partnership is evidence that behind the biggest talents and business ideas, you often find the bigger hearts," Hamouda told the National. "As I would put it, a golden heart behind every Golden Phoenix."

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Culture •Dubai •Economic crisis •General •Health •Inside The Middle East •UAE •United Nations

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August 7, 2012
Posted: 1046 GMT

In Amman, Jordan, our team met the women of Jordan's national boxing team, the first female boxers in the Middle East. Nineteen-year-old Baraa Al-Absi is hoping her tenacity in the ring will lead to fighting on a bigger stage, like the Olympic Games. Except for one thing – Al-Absi is not technically allowed to box while wearing her headscarf, or hijab. Like many Muslims, Al-Absi wears the hijab for religious reasons. She’s not willing to take it off for anyone – even if it means quitting her team.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Culture •Inside The Middle East •Jordan •Palestinians •Women

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July 19, 2012
Posted: 1636 GMT

Ramadan decorations are hung outside a shop in the West Bank city of Hebron on July 18, 2012, to welcome the upcoming Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. (HAZEM BADER/AFP/GettyImages)

Muslims around the world begin fasting on Friday in observation of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam when the faithful abstain from eating food or drinking water from sunrise to sunset.

If, that is, Ramadan actually begins on Friday.

Every year, identifying the start of Ramadan is like a waiting game; Islamic scholars must see the new crescent moon in the night skies before the holy month officially begins.

Unlike the Gregorian (or Western) calendar, the Islamic calendar is based on lunar patterns.  And the lunar month begins with the sighting of a new moon.

This annual – and greatly anticipated – announcement is typically made by Islamic authorities in each country (although many countries in the Middle East follow the moon sightings of scholars in Saudi Arabia).

But with all the technological advancements of the 21st century, why can’t scholars predict the exact date the moon will appear?

They can – astronomers have the technology to actually see the shape of the moon in broad daylight, even with high humidity, pollution, and even sand in the air.

But some Islamic jurists and clerics refuse to announce the arrival of Ramadan until they have seen the new moon with their own eyes.

Additionally, the validity of these high-tech methods is creating a debate among Muslim scholars and jurists, according to astrophysicist and astronomy professor Nidhal Geussoum, of the American University in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

Adding to the confusion: in some countries, like Sweden or Norway, the sun does not set at all in the summer.

Muslims in countries like those have two options, according to Geussoum.  The first, he says, is to go with whatever date is announced in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, considered to be the holiest city in Islam. The second is to begin Ramadan with the moon sighting nearest to them, Geussoum adds.

Here in the UAE, many Muslims are still waiting for an official announcement from the local religious authorities, who will most likely also coordinate with religious authorities in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Many here still don't know when exactly Ramadan will start.  And most conversations around this time of the year all begin and end the same way:

‘So, when does Ramadan start?’

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Islam •Religion •Saudi Arabia

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