Inside the Middle East
June 4, 2012
Posted: 1809 GMT

This month, 'Inside the Middle East', celebrates its 100th episode with a special look at education, focusing on the ways Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates are developing their future generations.  Our first airing is Wednesday June 6 (click here for showtimes in your area).

Here's a look at what's coming up this month on 'Inside the Middle East':

Read the rest of this entry »

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Egypt •Lebanon •UAE

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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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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.

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Filed under: Culture •Dubai •UAE

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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."

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

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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?

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Filed under: Dubai •UAE

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May 16, 2012
Posted: 1106 GMT
Most malls in the UAE have a dress code displayed at entrances. Some Emiratis now want foreigners to respect this dress code.
Most malls in the UAE have a dress code displayed at entrances. Some Emiratis now want foreigners to respect this dress code.

It is not unusual to see (usually female) tourists and expats in Dubai's malls and restaurants dressed in fashions that could be called short, tight, strapless or generally "revealing."

Now some Emiratis are saying Respect Our Culture. An online campaign launched by two Emirati women shocked at the liberal dress code of many foreigners has gained momentum. The hashtag #UAEDressCode is trending on Twitter, local media is asking the question "how short is too short?" and even the British ambassador has weighed in, calling on tourists to respect local culture.

Although the overwhelming majority of those living in this Gulf nation are expatriate, Emiratis themselves are generally conservative and abide by Islamic customs and traditions. Tourism sites welcoming visitors to the country describe it as "conservative but tolerant when it comes to dress code."

Perhaps tolerance has its limits!

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Filed under: Social Media •UAE

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May 15, 2012
Posted: 1501 GMT

The Kuwait Times is reporting that an appeals court yesterday upheld a 10-year jail term for a tweeter found guilty of insulting the nation's ruling Emir and calling for the overthrow of the regime. Orance Al-Rasheedi was tried on charges of "spreading false news about Kuwait to undermine the oil-rich country’s image and calling for regime’s overthrow in video footage on YouTube." It said he had also used the social networking site Twitter and YouTube to publicly insult the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, who is protected against criticism by Kuwait’s constitution.

According to the same article but in an unrelated case, a Kuwaiti man charged with defaming Islam's Prophet Muhammad on Twitter as well as insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will stand trial on May 21 and plead not guilty.

The article says the case of Shiite Hamad Al-Naqi, who faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, has caused uproar in the state, where dozens of Sunni activists and lawmakers have protested against his alleged crime in the streets. Some have called for him to be put to death. Blasphemy is illegal under Kuwaiti law as is libel.

Naqi was arrested in March and charged with defaming the Islamic faith and Prophet Muhammad, as well as his companions and his wife on the popular micro blog. Prosecutors later charged him with insulting the rulers of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on Twitter too. Naqi has told police that he did not make any of the comments and that his account was hacked. Earlier this month, lawmakers endorsed a legal amendment that could make such crimes – if committed by Muslims – punishable by death.

Naqi’s lawyer said the amendment should not affect his client however. “The new law does not affect this case because it happened in the past,” his lawyer, Khaled Al-Shatti, told Reuters. “The new law will only take effect in the future,” he said. If Naqi is found guilty of endangering state security the maximum penalty he could face would be 10 years in jail, Shatti added. Twitter is extremely popular in Kuwait. One million accounts were registered in the country of 3.6 million as of April, a two-fold rise in 12 months, according to Paris-based Semiocast, which compiles Twitter data. Read full article...

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Filed under: Kuwait •Religion •Social Media •UAE

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May 14, 2012
Posted: 1129 GMT

The title was won at the Etihad Stadium. The players wore shirts emblazoned with the Etihad Airways logo – the Abu Dhabi-based airline. And the match was watched by an estimated TV audience of 4.7 billion people.

It was, in short, the brightest indicator yet of the Middle East's growing influence within European football.

So how much did Manchester City's dramatic victory on Sunday, that snatched the English Premier League championship from bitter rivals Mancester United, pay back the hundreds of millions of dollars invested by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan?

Caroline Cheese examines the numbers and looks at the Gulf's growing influence in "the beautiful game".

Full story

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Filed under: Sports •U.K. •UAE

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May 10, 2012
Posted: 1103 GMT
Rima Maktabi with renowned Iraqi oud aficionado Naseer Shamma at his music school in Cairo.
Rima Maktabi with renowned Iraqi oud aficionado Naseer Shamma at his music school in Cairo.

Inside the Middle East team is in Cairo this week as the show celebrates its 100th episode with a special look at education, focusing on the ways Egypt, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates are developing their future generation of leaders.

Check out these behind-the-scenes photos on our Facebook page.

From Egypt's bustling capital, Cairo, to the coastal city of Alexandria, Rima Maktabi meets several young Egyptians who explain the challenges of studying – or simply learning how to read – in a nation currently undergoing a rocky transition to democracy.

The program then travels to Beirut, and learns why most Lebanese students are not taught some of the basic history of their nation's 15-year civil war.

In Cairo and Abu Dhabi we meet up with the world famous Iraqi musician Naseer Shama, a man devoting his life to teaching young people the history and melodies of the oud, a traditional Middle Eastern guitar heard in most songs across the region.

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Filed under: Egypt •Iraq •Lebanon •UAE

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May 9, 2012
Posted: 937 GMT
PHOTO: Al Jaber Optical
PHOTO: Al Jaber Optical

When it comes to Dubai, we're use to hearing stories about the "biggest," "tallest," and "most expensive."

Now eyewear meets jewelry as a pair of 18 carat gold reading glasses, being billed as the most expensive in the world, are being sold for almost $75,000 by Al Jaber Optical in Dubai Mall (which is, of course the biggest mall in the world and stands in the shadow of the tallest building in the world.)

Apparently only a limited edition of 300 pieces of the CliC Golds are being made.

Probably the best glasses to wear while flicking through the 24-carat gold-plated iPad available at the same mall... Only in Dubai.

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Filed under: UAE

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