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.'

Posted by:
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

Share this on:
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.

Posted by:
Filed under: Dubai •General •UAE

Share this on:
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."

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

Share this on:
July 3, 2012
Posted: 1328 GMT

When it comes to Dubai, it’s not uncommon to hear that the most expensive products in the world are on sale.

This year alone, shoppers at a luxurious shopping mall attached to the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building, have had the opportunity to purchase gold-plated eyeglasses worth $75,000 and a somewhat more affordable, yet equally ostentatious, $5,500 gold-plated iPad.

Neighboring emirate, Abu Dhabi, has long been considered much more fiscally conservative than Dubai.  But the UAE's national capital also showed it's propensity for 'bling' in 2010 when the Emirates Palace Hotel (which cost a staggering $3 billion to construct) displayed a Christmas tree worth $11 million.  The tree was set up in the hotel lobby, just a few feet away from the world's first  gold vending machine.

The global financial crisis may have left most of us concentrating on saving money, but in the UAE, appealing to the very high end of the market went out of favor only briefly.

From owning multi-million dollar vanity car plates to exotic animals like cheetahs and tigers to using social media to brag about spending tens of thousands of dollars at a restaurant, on the surface, the UAE appears to be an avowedly austerity-free zone.

And now, the UAE is home to the world's most expensive cupcake.  Topped with actual gold flakes, Dubai's latest dish costs more than $27,000.

Bloomsbury’s, a boutique cafe in Dubai, calls their latest play for the masses a "work of art."  Art that a potential buyer only has a quarter of an hour to admire.

The expensive chocolate used in making the ’Golden Phoenix’ melts in 15 minutes, according to Shafeena Yusuff, the cupcake's creator.  The gold sheets covering the cupcake will also peel off when the chocolate melts, giving it a different look and taste.

Made specially to order, the dish takes up to two days to prepare and contains some of the world’s most expensive ingredients.

When asked why anyone would spend $27,000 on a cupcake, Shafeena said, “It’s just like buying an expensive painting, or an expensive car or even a watch.”

In this oil-rich desert nation, a $27,000 dollar cupcake with a 15-minute lifespan might be just the thing.

But so far there have been no takers.  Maybe all the customers are down the road at McDonald's, where the migrant workers – who make up the majority of this country's population – can get a Happy Meal for a meager $2.70.

Posted by:
Filed under: Dubai •UAE

Share this on:
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:

Posted by:
Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Dubai •General •UAE

Share this on:
May 23, 2012
Posted: 1442 GMT

Police in Dubai are warning swimmers to wear appropriate clothing this summer, following thousands of citations for ‘bad behavior’ at the emirate’s popular beaches this year.

More than 3,000 beachgoers in Dubai were cited in the first five months of 2012, according to the National newspaper.

Wearing bikinis or revealing swimsuits is not forbidden at most beaches in Dubai, unlike some of the United Arab Emirates more conservative Gulf neighbors.  Going swimming in underwear (and not a proper bathing suit), however, is apparently illegal.

Some of the beach crimes in 2012, as reported by the National, included:

      • Overdressing: 2,800 offenders were people “who go to the beach with full dress to stare at other beachgoers”
      • Underdressing: 259 people were caught swimming in their underwear
      • Voyeurism: more than 100 men were busted taking photos of women at the beach

“We have seen 114 offenses of people recording women on beaches using their mobile phones and 119 offenses for people harassing and annoying beach users. First we warn people and if they repeat the offense again then we make a criminal case against them and charge them with sexual molestation,” Lieutenant Colonel Abdullah Mohammad Al Mazyoud, head of Dubai’s Port Police Station, told the UAE’s 7 Days newspaper.

Last week, two Emirati women launched an online campaign to encourage expatriates living in the UAE to dress more modestly while shopping in malls.

Posted by:
Filed under: Culture •Dubai •UAE

Share this on:
May 21, 2012
Posted: 1256 GMT

The United Arab Emirates is sending a woman to compete in weightlifting at the London Games this summer, the first time that a female bodybuilder from the Gulf nation has qualified for the sport.

But the Emirati women's squad is also making history for another reason – they were the first female weightlifters to compete internationally while wearing the hijab, according to a recent report from the National.

The Abu-Dhabi-based newspaper reports on the UAE’s decision to wear the Islamic headscarf while competing:

Until recently, the rules governing the sport stipulated uniforms had to be collarless and could not cover elbows or knees, essentially because judges need to see that a competitor's elbows and knees are locked during a lift.

However, those dress regulations were modified by the International Weightlifting Federation, after being challenged last year by a Muslim American who wanted to wear Islamic dress while competing in US national competitions.

"It was a decision which will help the whole Islamic world," Sheikh Sultan bin Mejren, president of the Emirates Weightlifting Federation, told the National.  "Now there is no difference between Muslims and non-Muslims in events like the Olympics. There is no border to accept them or not. Everybody can participate without breaking rules."

Posted by:
Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Dubai •Sports •UAE •Women

Share this on:
May 20, 2012
Posted: 1037 GMT

Would you fly halfway around the world just to order a slice of pizza?

One American recently did just that.

Jon Gabrus, a self-described "Fat American," flew from New York City to Dubai for the sole purpose of ordering and eating a pizza, reported the UAE's National newspaper on Sunday.  Gabrus, 30, traveled a total of 6,850 miles in 13 hours to get the pie.

Why?  Because it wasn't just any pizza – it was Pizza Hut's new Crown Crust cheeseburger pizza, which apparently is not available in the U.S.  Plus, the trip was part of a comedy bit.

Here's the National on Gabrus' rationale:

The answer is that the Crown Crust pizza is unique to the UAE. Pizza Hut Middle East's menu describes it as "grilled mini cheeseburgers nestled in a golden crown crusts. All in a pizza topped with beef, fresh tomato and lettuce, delightfully drizzled with Pizza Hut's special sauce".

Americans cannot buy a pizza whose crust is studded with little cheeseburgers unless they have a passport and an airline ticket, but the country that invented fast food seems mesmerised by it. After numerous incredulous reports in the US media, a website called College Humor commissioned Gabrus to fly to Dubai and taste one.

No word on how many calories in the Crown Crust, but Gabrus did post a video on his "greasy" adventure to Dubai.

Interestingly enough, the other big story in the National on Sunday was on childhood obesity.

Here's what one Twitter user had to say on the new pizza-burger hybrid:

What do you think?

Posted by:
Filed under: Dubai •UAE

Share this on:
April 10, 2011
Posted: 1334 GMT
Ahmed Mansoor was taken from his home in Dubai on Friday his wife says. Mansoor has called for poltical reform in the UAE.
Ahmed Mansoor was taken from his home in Dubai on Friday his wife says. Mansoor has called for poltical reform in the UAE.

A blogger and political activist who has called for reform in the United Arab Emirates has not been heard from since he was taken from his Dubai apartment Friday, his wife said.

About 10 men, including two wearing police uniforms, picked up Ahmed Mansoor from his apartment Friday afternoon, said his wife, Nadia.

The men also took Mansoor's passport and laptop and left without telling his wife where they were taking him or why.

Lt. General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the commander-in-chief of Dubai police, said he was not aware whether Mansoor had been arrested, but promised to look into it.

CNN has also sent queries to other Emirati officials inquiring about Mansoor but have not heard back.
Earlier Friday, three men identifying themselves as police officers were at his apartment building, Mansoor wrote in an email. When he called police asking about the men, he said he was told they had come for his car. Read more...

Posted by:
Filed under: Dubai •UAE

Share this on:
January 23, 2011
Posted: 1416 GMT

At.mosphere, the world's highest restaurant in the world's tallest building, is opening its doors in Dubai to diners who are looking for a little haute cuisine.

To get to the restaurant, dinners use the express elevator in the Burj Khalifa, which whisks them up to level 123, 442 meters or 1,350 feet high. You travel 10 meters per second so the trip takes just 57 seconds.

The menu is modern European grilled cuisine. Executive Chef Dwayne Cheer recommends the beef. "Definitely the beef," said Mr. Cheer, who has worked for more than 13 years in Michelin star restaurants.

Marc Dardenne, chief executive officer of Emaar Hospitality Group, which manages the outlet meanwhile recommends the fresh scallops or the lamb flown in directly from New Zealand. For dessert, the soufflé is "just outstanding," Mr. Dardenne said. The food is “all very light, you don’t put on weight.”

When asked if the check was on the lighter side, the answer was, “Hopefully we would like to create a special experience at that restaurant that people keep on coming back,” he said.

Reading between the lines, one might think: expect a pricey meal.

The main courses are all based on a "beautiful magic" oven, Mr. Cheer said. The Josper grill is a BBQ dual oven designed in Spain and fuelled by charcoal, not gas. Temperatures reach 700 degrees Celsius.

So it’s hot in the kitchen. And hopefully hot in the restaurant.

Designer Adam Tihany said he was aiming to “create the sexiest venue on the top of the world." He aimed to design a bar, restaurant and lounge in an iconic location and altitude in a way that diners can still feel comfortable, still feel “grounded.”

"It's an absolutely spectacular opportunity to do a project this iconic knowing that with the current economy there is not going to be competition for quite some time,” Mr. Tihany said. “We are going to be on the top of the world for a while. So it's a great feeling."

Mr. Tihany’s work on the restaurant is done, but the chef’s work is just beginning and he is nervous about the work ahead.

"The expectations are as high as the building," Cheer said. “It's a little bit nerve racking to be honest.”

Posted by:
Filed under: Dubai •General •UAE

Share this on:

subscribe RSS Icon
About this blog

This blog has now been archived and commenting has been switched off. Visit the Inside the Middle East site for news, views and video from across the region.

Read more about CNN's special reports policy