Inside the Middle East
September 20, 2012
Posted: 715 GMT

'Inside the Middle East' wrapped shooting in Morocco this week, and the team is now preparing the program's 104th episode, which airs on October 3rd.

Check with our colleagues at the CNN Press Room for more information and the air dates and times.

Here's a brief synopsis of the upcoming show:

In October, 'Inside the Middle East' travels to Morocco, the North African kingdom located on the western edge of the Arab world.

In a nation where nearly half of those between the ages of 15 and 29 are either unemployed or out of school, frustration at the lack of opportunities is mounting. Some young Moroccans took to the streets over the past year to protest these realities while others took to the recording studio to speak out – both of which come with risk. One Moroccan rapper, El Haqed, was imprisoned earlier this year because of his lyrics. Show host Leone Lakhani meets several young rappers – from Casablanca to Tangiers – to hear some of the sounds of Morocco’s urban rage.

'Inside the Middle East' also journeys to the southern stretches of Morocco's Atlantic coastline, to the traditional Berber city of Agadir. Berbers were the first inhabitants of North Africa, and many still follow older customs and practice ancestral crafts. One of these – a beauty oil made from Argan tree seeds – is quickly becoming all the rage among celebrities and high-end shoppers in the West. Lakhani meets one Moroccan who is helping to produce the oil – and jobs for women in the country.

And what trip to Morocco would be complete without tasting the nation's world-famous cuisine? The team heads north to Fes, Morocco's culinary capital, to receive cooking lessons from Lahcen Beqqi, a top chef who has figured out how to blend traditional cooking with modern techniques.

Want to see behind-the-scenes pictures from our shoots?  Become a fan of the show on Facebook.

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Filed under: General •Inside The Middle East •Morocco

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September 6, 2012
Posted: 1108 GMT

She screamed in the face of all the men in her village "Don't talk behind my back, don't play with my honor."

With the head of her rapist in her hand, Nevin Yildirim, a 26-year-old mother of two, walked to the main square of her village and told everyone about her murder.

"Here is the head of the man who played with my honor." She said after throwing the head in the middle of the square.

After continually raping her for 8 months, Yildirim, who said she is pregnant with the rapist's child, decided to take matters into her own hands and shoot the man twice and cut off his head when he died.

She said, 35-year old Nurettin Gider, threatened her with a gun and said he would kill her children, ages 2 and 6, if she made any noise.

In small villages like hers, honor is held above all else, and women carry the burden of honor for their families.

She was arrested short after the incident and now is asking for an abortion. In Turkey, abortion is only allowed during the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

The story went viral on social media and local newspapers. Some called her murder a heroic act after they said laws and society failed her.

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Filed under: General •Turkey •Video •Women

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August 14, 2012
Posted: 2157 GMT

In a city like Dubai where radars are almost in every corner, getting an occasional speeding ticket is very common.

But a Bangladeshi woman living in the UAE has received more than 250 traffic fines in just 3 months.

According to this article in Dubai based, Gulf News, the fines accumulated over the past few months and reached $54,000 most of which were speeding tickets. Traffic violations usually cost between $163 and $272.

The  police says the record was broken in the past by a Saudi man who had to pay more than $100,000 worth of traffic tickets.

In cases like this, the police department cancels the driver's license and the car's registry.

Violators are allowed to pay the fines in installments., but so far the woman has not come forward to pay her fines.

Dubai Police releases a list of the top 10 traffic violators every six months.

The second on the list wasn’t far off behind, a Syrian woman has received 288 fines ranking second with a bill worth just over $50,000.

Although two women topped the list, police says men are considered more serious violators than women.

The 500 or more radars spread across the city helped reduce the death rate of car accidents.

In 2008, 294 people died as a result of car accidents, but the number was lower last year.

According to Dubai Police, 134 people died as a result of car accidents in 2011. Police revealed that an approximate of 2.3 million traffic fines are issued per year in Dubai.

The list for the second quarter of 2012 showed that out of the ten top violators, five were Emaratis.

Speeding and not leaving enough space between cars are common violations on the streets in the UAE.

In 2008, 200 or so cars crashed into each other in what became one of  the biggest car accidents in the history of the UAE.

Police at the time said fog and cars driving so close to each other resulted in the crash.

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Filed under: Dubai •General •UAE

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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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July 12, 2012
Posted: 1137 GMT

Fans of the late-1970s "Star Wars" movies probably know that Luke Skywalker, a reluctant hero battling his way through the film's evil Galactic Empire, was raised on the windswept plains of Tatooine, a desert wasteland planet located on the outer rim of director/writer George Lucas’ fictional galaxy.

In reality, Skywalker’s house - known as the Lars homestead - is actually located in southern Tunisia. The whitewashed ranch was constructed on an outdoor movie set in a desert region known as Tozeur.

And after more than three decades of blowing sands and extreme Saharan heat, Skywalker’s domed home was beginning to fall into disrepair.

That’s where "Star Wars" superfan Mark Dermul comes in.

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Filed under: Culture •General •Science & Technology •Tunisia

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July 11, 2012
Posted: 901 GMT

This month, 'Inside the Middle East' aims for Olympic gold, exploring stories of adversity, faith, and triumph in the world of Middle Eastern sports.

In the United Arab Emirates, we meet 17-year-old Khadijah Fahed Mohammed, the first Emirati woman to qualify for the Olympic Games outright. But competing during the holy month of Ramadan – during which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset – will pose challenges for Mohammed. With both Ramadan and the Games right around the corner, she still hasn’t decided: should she fast, or not?

We also head to Jerusalem, where Maher Abu Rmeileh is also preparing for his journey to the Olympic Games in London.  Abu Rmeileh has the honor of being the first Palestinian to qualify for the Olympics on merit.  The 28-year-old judoka explains to the program why winning a gold medal would mean everything to him – and his family.

The program also heads to the shores of Oman, a nation pinning its future chances for Olympic glory on one small group of female sailing instructors.  Just outside the capital, Muscat, twenty-one women are teaching Omani children how to sail, and helping to revive their country's rich maritime heritage.

Finally, in Amman, Jordan, 'Inside the Middle East' meets the women of Jordan's national boxing team, the first female boxers in the Middle East.  They might not be heading to the Olympic Games, but Jordan's female boxers are challenging gender stereotypes in a region where many perceive women as the weaker sex.

Want to see more?  Become a fan of 'Inside the Middle East' on Facebook for all the latest photos and news from our shoots.

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Filed under: General

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May 30, 2012
Posted: 1555 GMT

Arab clients smoke waterpipes after breaking their fast at a Ramadan tent in a five-star hotel in Dubai on September 16, 2008. (MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

Smokers in the United Arab Emirates may soon be feeling the squeeze.

Dubai is set to mark World No Tobacco Day this Thursday by banning tobacco sales for 24 hours, according to the UAE-based newspaper Gulf News.

More than 200 companies – including restaurants, gas stations, and supermarkets – have reportedly elected not to sell tobacco products for the day.

In the past five years, the UAE has banned smoking in closed public places, increased the price of cigarettes, and soon will cover tobacco-related products with graphic warning labels.

But banning tobacco altogether may be tough for some:

A pack of cigarettes in the UAE costs under $2, but the nation's rulers are intending to change that.  Measures such as a tax increase on cigarettes are just one example of  the country's plan to discourage smoking – especially among the younger generation.

“It is never too late for the smoker to consider quitting regardless of the type, amount or duration of smoking. Whenever you have the will, there will always be a way,” Dr. Abdul Razzak Al Kaddour, a cardiologist at the Sheikh Khalifah Medical City in Abu Dhabi, told the Khaleej Times.  The Sheikh Khalifah Medical City is putting up breath-analyzing booths on Thursday to help motivate smokers to quit.

Dubai residents welcomed the news on social media, but some noted that the day-long ban might not go far enough:

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Dubai •General •UAE

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February 1, 2012
Posted: 1825 GMT

Fashion designer Zeina Abou Chaaban has found inspiration in Jordan's largest Palestinian refugee camp, Baqa'a.

Watch the video below - and follow Inside the Middle East on Facebook to see behind-the-scenes pictures from our shoot in Jordan.

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Filed under: General

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January 11, 2012
Posted: 1632 GMT
New houses are seen in West Bank Israeli settlement of Qedar, on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Getty)
New houses are seen in West Bank Israeli settlement of Qedar, on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Getty)

As Israelis and Palestinians attempted to give peace a chance this past week with a second Jordanian sponsored meeting of the two sides, a new report issued by an Israeli settlement watch dog organization is likely to further dim the unlikely prospect of any breakthrough between the parties.

Tuesday, the anti-settlement activist group Peace Now released a new report citing a 20% increase in the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in 2011. The report found that the number of plans for new Jewish homes in predominantly Arab East Jerusalem was at its highest number in a decade with over 3,600 housing units approved and preliminary plans made for another 2660.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Peace Now director, Yariv Oppenheimer, said, 2011 "will be remembered as the 'year of the settlers' regarding construction in the West Bank" and claimed the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was jeopardizing the possibility of a two-state solution.

The Israeli government described Peace Now’s figures as exaggerated and spokesman Mark Regev offered this pointed retort:

"The current Israeli government has been attacked by the leadership of the settlement movement for being the "worst government in Israel's history" when it comes to settlement construction. And it is indeed true that we have shown more restraint on the issue of settlement than any previous Israeli government. We initiated the unprecedented ten-month settlement moratorium and even since the conclusion of that moratorium we continue to exercise great restraint."

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Filed under: General •Israel •Palestinians •Peace Talks •West Bank

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December 28, 2011
Posted: 1032 GMT

A newly discovered 2000-year-old coin-sized clay seal is shedding light on one of the most significant periods of Jewish history, Israeli archaeologists announced Sunday.

The seal was found in an ongoing archaeological excavation taking place along Jerusalem’s Western Wall and carries an Aramaic inscription, which researchers say translated as “Pure for God.”

The find dates back from between the 1st century B.C. to 70 A.D, the period in which the second of two Jewish temples was destroyed by the Romans during the course of a Jewish revolt.

In a statement, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, which oversees archaeological excavations in the area, said it represented a first-of-its-kind discovery and constitutes “direct archaeological evidence of the activity on the Temple Mount and the workings of the Temple during the Second Temple period.”

Haifa University archaeologist Ronny Reich, who has spent four decades digging around the Old City of Jerusalem, said the seal revealed details about some of the administrative procedures used by temple officials to oversee religious offerings.

"If you wanted to give a drink offering to the temple you went and bought an impressed seal from one person, a priest obviously, and then gave him the money,” Reich explained. “You went to the other man and received against this coupon lets call it a drink offering. And then went to the temple to offer it.”

The excavation is taking place beneath the religious compound know as the Temple Mount to Jews and the Noble Sanctuary to Muslims. The site is revered by both religions and previous archaeological activities in the area have sparked violent confrontations between Israeli and Palestinians.

At the press conference to announce the find, archaeologists were flanked by two government ministers from the right-wing Likud party who used the discovery to press Jewish claims of sovereignty over Jerusalem.

“The works of the digs are uncovering our roots,” said Education Minister Gideon Saar. “They could not be carried out if Israel was not the sovereign in control of Jerusalem and emphasized the work in this area.”

The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, where the excavation is located, and Palestinians consider the eastern part of the city as the capital of their future state.

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Filed under: Archaeology •General •Israel •Jerusalem •Judaism •Palestinians •Religion •Video

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