Inside the Middle East
December 17, 2012
Posted: 618 GMT

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

Want to see more?  Follow the show on Facebook for all the latest from '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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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.

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

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June 24, 2012
Posted: 903 GMT

The 101st episode of 'Inside the Middle East' airs on Wednesday, July 4th at 12:30pm Jordan/1:30pm UAE.

Hope you can watch!

Want to see more?  Become a fan of the show on Facebook and follow host Rima Maktabi on Twitter.

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

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June 18, 2012
Posted: 1040 GMT

A general view of Rainbow Street at night in Amman on May 6, 2012. Rainbow Street in Amman's heart is abuzz again after posh 1920s-era homes were turned into restaurants, galleries and libraries, drawing hipsters, bohemians, intellectuals and hordes of tourists. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/GettyImages)

Walking down Rainbow Street in Amman on Friday night, I was thrilled by the positive vibes around the arty cafes and restaurants. Young Jordanians  strolled along the street, where beautiful old houses give the whole area a magical feel. Traffic clogged the area and I had to take a long walk to get to a restaurant where friends were waiting.

In February of 2011, I covered protests in Amman just as the popular uprisings erupted across the Arab world. They were nowhere near as frequent or as large as the protests in Cairo or Tunis, but on this same street I had met young Jordanians complaining about unemployment and a lack of opportunities.

Now the restaurants and cafes were buzzing with young and old. "La vie en rose in Amman", I told myself. Had things changed so much in a year?

A few minutes later I was sitting down to dinner with – among others – a minister in the current government and a businessman. And my rosy impression quickly dissipated. A heated discussion about Jordan's financial crisis dominated our conversation, during which I got a glimpse of the challenges that Jordan's 7 million people face.

The newly appointed Jordanian government decided on Tuesday to raise the price of 90-octane gasoline from JD0.62 to JD0.70 per Litre. Earlier this month, the government introduced new electricity tariffs, raising rates as high as 150 per cent across several sectors, and raised 95-octane fuel prices by 25 per cent.

"These are tough and unpopular decisions that must be taken or else the country will drown in an unprecedented financial crisis", the minister admitted. He agreed to be quoted on background.

One former minister also at the dinner added: "Jordan has been suffering from ongoing cuts in Egyptian gas supplies which escalated the issue of power supply. Add to this the influx of Syrian refugees, before that the Libyan refugees that Jordan was never compensated for. On top of all of this, the price of fuel is skyrocketing worldwide. Not to mention that if our Saudi friends don't send us some financial aid, the Jordanian government may not have enough money to pay salaries soon."

Last year, Saudi Arabia injected $1.4 billion in cash in an attempt to help its much poorer neighbor.  But this year no Saudi aid has yet arrived in Jordan, according to some officials here.

And while there may be an air of prosperity among the young elite on Rainbow Street, there's plenty of discontent elsewhere. That same day some 2,000 Jordanians braved the intense midday heat to take to the streets demanding reform and action and against widespread corruption.  The current government – just the latest in a series over the last two years – is only a few weeks old, but already under pressure.

These are the same demands I heard a year ago. Yet this time, the crisis is bigger than Jordan. With a 15-month uprising in Syria, a politically unstable Egypt and little help coming from rich Gulf countries, Jordan's economy is ailing.

More than ever, Jordan needs its summer tourist season to be a good one.

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Filed under: Jordan

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June 17, 2012
Posted: 1932 GMT

The 'Inside the Middle East' team is filming in Jordan this week, preparing for our 101st episode which airs on July 4th.

Here's what our colleagues at the CNN Press Room had to say about our upcoming episode:

This month, ‘Inside the Middle East’ explores the stories of women throughout the region, highlighting Jordan in particular as a country whose constitution doesn't codify equal gender rights.

Host Rima Maktabi heads north of Amman, to a small village along Jordan's border with Syria, to explore the Hashemite Kingdom's notorious 'honour killings'. In the past decade, over 100 Jordanian women have been murdered by their own families. Their crimes? Bringing shame and dishonour on the community, typically for mingling with young men or committing adultery. The programme meets with one woman who fled nine years ago to a shelter, far from her family, to escape threats of death.

Maktabi also visits the United Arab Emirates Ewa'a Shelter for Women and Children, where victims are given medical and psychological care. She meets Sara Suhail, an Emirati social worker who has devoted her life to helping victims of sexual violence.

The programme also returns to Saudi Arabia to chart the progress of Jeddah United, an all-female basketball team that the programme first met in 2008, as they struggled in a conservative society where women are not allowed to play sports in public.

Want to see more?  Become a fan of the show on Facebook and follow host Rima Maktabi on Twitter. Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Culture •Jordan •Lebanon •Saudi Arabia •UAE

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January 19, 2012
Posted: 618 GMT
Jordan's King Abdullah sits down for interview with CNN in Washington
Jordan's King Abdullah sits down for interview with CNN in Washington

He was the first Arab leader to call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, yet after months of violence and a less than successful effort by the Arab League to stop the killing of protesters, King Abdullah of Jordan says don't expect change in Syria overnight.

"I don't see Syria going through many changes. I think what you're seeing in Syria today, you will continue to see for a while longer," Abdullah said in an interview with CNN's Security Clearance blog.

"It's a very complicated puzzle and there is no simple solution. If you can imagine Iraq being a simple solution to move Iraq into the light a couple of years ago and it's different in Libya, so it has everybody stumped and I don't think anybody has a clear answer on what to do about Syria."

Read the whole story here.

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Filed under: Jordan •Syria

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February 7, 2011
Posted: 1243 GMT
Thirty six members of Jordan's major tribes have attacked what they called the interference of Queen Rania.
Thirty six members of Jordan's major tribes have attacked what they called the interference of Queen Rania.

In unprecedented criticism of Jordan's royal family, three dozen prominent Jordanian tribal figures issued an urgent call for reform Sunday and warned that the country may follow Tunisia and Egypt into turmoil without it.

The statement from 36 members of the country's major tribes attacked what they called the interference of Queen Rania in running the country. The queen, "her sycophants and the power centers that surround her" are dividing Jordanians and "stealing from the country and the people," the letter states.

The tribal figures said they were sending a clear message to King Abdullah II. They warned that if corruption was not prosecuted and reform was not implemented, "similar events to those in Tunisia and Egypt and other Arab countries will occur." The internet and satellite television had overcome the ability of regimes to stifle the thirst for information, the statement said. Read more...

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February 6, 2011
Posted: 957 GMT
Flames rise from a gas pipeline attack in the Egyptian Sinai town of El Arish on February 5, 2011.
Flames rise from a gas pipeline attack in the Egyptian Sinai town of El Arish on February 5, 2011.

A pipeline that sends natural gas to Jordan was set on fire in the Egyptian Sinai town of El Arish on Saturday, and the suspected act of sabotage has forced its temporary closing, officials said.

Ghaleb Al Maabreh, head of Jordan's national electricity company, confirmed the closing. He said at least one week will be needed to fix it and the cost for the repair will be covered by Jordan.

Al Maabreh said the government will start using alternative sources that will cost it $4.2 million daily. It is able to provide itself with energy sources for the coming three weeks, he added.

Unless the pipe is repaired quickly, it could become a big problem for Jordan, a country already spending heavily in fuel subsidies, a Jordanian senior official said. Read more...

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Filed under: Egypt •General •Jordan

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February 2, 2011
Posted: 952 GMT

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Filed under: Egypt •Jordan •Protests •Video

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October 8, 2010
Posted: 740 GMT

Watch Inside the Middle East from Aqaba, Jordan this weekend or view it online.

From CNN's Rima Maktabi

Every city has its own character and, just like human beings, at times you need to press certain buttons to discover it. In the Jordanian city of Aqaba, it wasn't easy on my first day of shooting for Inside the Middle East (IME) to sense the city.

Rima Maktabi on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia all have borders here on the Northern Red Sea.
Rima Maktabi on the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan, Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia all have borders here on the Northern Red Sea.
Hajj Khodor, a popular restaurant in Old Aqaba, is over 30 years old and boasts King Abdullah II and his father the late King Hussein as patrons.
Hajj Khodor, a popular restaurant in Old Aqaba, is over 30 years old and boasts King Abdullah II and his father the late King Hussein as patrons.

After a four-hour drive through the desert from Amman, a tight security checkpoint stands just at the outskirts of Aqaba; then the Red sea welcomes you. The weather was hot and dry, the temperature topping 38 degrees Celsius while clouds covered the sky announcing autumn's arrival. It even rained for few minutes even though Aqaba's inhabitants say they hardly ever see the rain!

At first glance the city looks new, not because of its exceptional architectural style, but rather because of a few construction sites. Taxi drivers, people in the streets and the concierge at the hotel constantly tell you about this new resort and that new compound. Aqaba is small and anything happening in the city could be big for its residents.

But for Haythem, Aqaba is a solid mix of old and new. He is a Jordanian in his early 30s who we chose randomly to accompany us during our third day of filming IME. The producer barely mentioned a request to see Aqaba, and off was Haythem in his car to different locations that show us the sunset, the Israeli city of Eilat (visible across the water), the Egyptian city of Taba on the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba, the mountains and Haj Khodor's restaurants.

As a first time visitor to Aqaba, the geography of the place struck me. I can even say I was perplexed.  That northern tip of the Red Sea is bordered by four countries: Eygpt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The landscape reveals beautiful nature but geopolitics ruins the image. Here, this land is one cause of more than a century's worth of conflict over territories, water, power, religion and existence. I said to myself: how can such a serene land occupy the East and the West with such a long bloody conflict?! But then, why blame the land not the people?

Our scouting for filming sites stretched to Old Aqaba. In a neighborhood that smelled of poverty and history, we drove. There was Hajj Khodor, a simple popular restaurant that reveals the real beat of the city. The owner greets us and says: "Hajj Khodor is my father; he died couple of years ago. The famous old restaurant is just across the street where my father started his business 30 years ago." We were then told that the place would be busiest in the morning.

The next day we arrived at Hajj Khodor's at 11 am. Haythem could not drive us because he had a job interview at Oumnia, a telecommunication company. "I am an engineer not a driver," Haythem told me the day before, "but I cannot find a job, so I try to make a living driving this taxi." So Haythem's father drove us to Hajj Khodor which was like a bee hive. People come in the morning  for breakfast. Hommos, falafel and foul (fava beans) are the main dishes served there. The cashier is Egyptian and "has been with us for more than 30 years," we were told. The hommos is "Beiruti" while the foul is made the Egyptian way.

I am always careful of what I eat. I travel a lot and food can be my enemy at times. So we filmed the restaurant, talked to the owner and lingered around for a while. Then I couldn't resist, I asked for one small plate of foul (fava beans) to share with IME team.

There in Hajj Khodor's restaurant, as well as in Aqaba's streets, everyone asks you tens of questions. Why are you here? What are you doing? Who do you work for? Whether they get answers or not, some pick up the phone and tell others who and what they have seen. Then come Jordanian intelligence officers, a few hours later come the police and so on so forth.

Security is a major concern here in Aqaba. Israel is just next door. So close that once in 1986, an Air France plane bound for Eliat mistakenly landed in Aqaba, Jordan!

Away from security concerns, it is unlikely that you could walk into any place in Jordan and not see pictures of the ruler. Photos of the Jordanian King Abduallah II and his son, the Crown Prince are everywhere. Even at this popular busy restaurant, big pictures of the late King Hussein, his son Abduallah and the 16-year-old Prince Hussein are the first things you see as you enter Hajj Khodor. "Even the king eats here," the owner proudly tells IME team.

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