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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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.

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

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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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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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June 7, 2012
Posted: 948 GMT

'Spiders in Space' was one of the stories from our 100th episode:

He likes science, spaceships, and spiders.  Now, Amr Mohamed, a 19-year-old Egyptian living in the coastal city of Alexandria, will get to combine all three of his passions.  Mohamed was one of two global winners of the 2012  'Space Lab' competition, a YouTube-sponsored initiative to send high-school science experiments into space.  His project – to see how microgravity will affect the zebra spider's ability to catch its prey – will be launched into space for testing by astronauts living onboard the Space Station later this year.  Maktabi traveled to Alexandria to meet young Mohamed, to find out how his experiment can help other Egyptian children reach the stars.

So how did Amr get into Space Lab?  Here's a look at Amr's video application for the project:

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Filed under: Culture •Egypt •Science & Technology

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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':

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Filed under: Abu Dhabi •Egypt •Lebanon •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 22, 2012
Posted: 1115 GMT

As Egyptians prepare to head to polling stations later this week for the nation’s first presidential election since the 2011 ouster of former ruler Hosni Mubarak, voters in Cairo will likely face an all-too-common obstacle in their path:


Chaotic, loud, incessant, and sometimes even horrifying traffic.

In a sprawling metropolis of more than 20 million residents, where an estimated 2.5 million cars share narrow streets with trash-wielding donkey carts and rickety, three-wheeled tuk-tuks, idling in the endless traffic jams can easily whittle hours off each day.  And there is no such thing as rush hour in the Arab's world largest capital – every hour is rush hour in Cairo.

Our team got an up-close look at #CairoTraffic (yes, Cairo's gridlock claims its own hashtag on Twitter) during a recent trip to Egypt to film our 100th episode.  Taking a short drive across town – sometimes just 10 to 15 kilometers – frequently took us several mind-numbing hours.  With little else to do in the car, we snapped a few pics of the daily jams – take a look at them here on our Facebook account.

READ MORE: Inside the Middle East in Cairo for our 100th show

Egypt’s recent uprising did not help matters on the roads, according to government officials.

In late January 2011, two weeks before the departure of Mubarak, most police vanished from their posts. Traffic police have since returned to the streets of Cairo – but not every street.

“Things have got worse since the recent revolution, because motorists can now get away with traffic violations without being punished,“ Amer Gamgoum, head of Cairo traffic enforcement, told the state-run Egyptian Gazette last May.

It's hard to imagine things could actually be getting worse.  Take a look at this 2010 video from CNN’s Egypt correspondent, Ben Wedeman, who is certainly no stranger to the perils of crossing the road in Cairo.

Will Egypt's future president be able fix congestion in the capital?

The candidates were offered some last-minute campaign advice from at least one Twitter-user, in this follow-up to a tweet from Wedeman on Tuesday:

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Filed under: Egypt

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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.

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