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40 Killed In Fire In Odessa; World Unites Behind 200 Female Nigerian Students Kidnapped; UAE Working To Curb Spread of MERS Virus; NBA Racism Controversy; White House Correspondents' Dinner; New Star Wars Movie to Film in UAE; Parting Shots: Medieval Combat Championship; Craving Franchises in UAE; Hard Rock in the Middle East; Investing in Cairo's Night Life

Aired May 4, 2014 - 11:00   ET


JIM CLANCY, HOST: City under siege: there is no letup in Odessa after a bloody weekend of the crisis in Ukraine. We're going to bring you the view from both sides.

Also, uniting for Nigeria's stolen children, protests around the world urging political action to bring more than 200 schoolgirls to safety.

And may the fourth be with you. We mark Star Wars day with a search for the set of the latest film in the franchise deep, deep in the Arabian desert.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is Connect the World.

CLANCY: We begin our report with a tense situation in the Ukrainian city of Odessa. Hundreds of pro-Russian demonstrators attack the police headquarters there. They were able to convince police to release fellow separatists who were detained there after Friday's unrest.

Here is the latest in the crisis. The prime minister traveling to Odessa, blaming security forces for the violence, but also accusing pro-Russia demonstrators of provoking it.

On Friday, some 46 pro-Russian protesters who had locked themselves into a trade union building died in a fire.

Meantime, it's beginning to look more and more like a civil war in some place with Ukrainian military forces continuing to clash with pro-Russian separatists across the east.

We're covering these developments from all angles. Nick Paton Walsh reporting from near Slovyansk and Matthew Chance joining us from Moscow with the latest reaction from the Kremlin. Let's begin with Nick.

Nick, the situation in Odessa, how much can you tell us about what has happened today?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, a team of ours on the ground there is saying that protesters approached that building where there have been people involved in the violence that led to deaths on Friday detained, attacked the building, windows smashed, and eventually some of them made their way inside.

Now in that tense standoff that ensued, a negotiations led to the release of potentially dozens of detainees who were held inside that building. No violence, no shots fired, no injuries as far as our team on the ground can see, but now the people who had been detained because of the clashes on Friday that eventually lead to 40 people being killed and the burning down of a trade union building in Odessa, the largest death toll since the violence in central Kiev that killed over 80 people on Maidan Square.

We're now seeing the police who had just been criticized hours ago by the Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk effectively leaving the way open for these protesters to release the detainees, and in some ways, some may say, facilitating that particular departure.

The big question in all of this violence now in Odessa, which has a pro- Russian population, but also, too, as you saw on Friday a strong pro- Ukrainian population too. The question now is where are the security forces? The prime minister blamed them for the failure to intervene. There will be questions asked now as to quite where they will fall as this violence continues.

But this has been so distant now, the west from where I'm standing in the east. Odessa on the far distance other side of the country, thought to be immune almost in some ways to the violence raging around, but proving itself in the last 24, 48 hours to be just as volatile. And we're seeing still in the east where I'm standing around Slovyansk continuing Ukrainian military maneuvers. Volatile here as well -- Jim.

CLANCY: Right where you are.

I want to bring in Matthew Chance. Matthew, some would say that President Vladimir Putin by deploying troops along the border with Ukraine by vowing he would protect pro-Russian residents inside Ukraine has really destabilized the situation, and some would wonder if at this point it may force his hand.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, well some would go further than that as well by saying -- and they have done in fact inside Ukraine -- by saying that it's Russian special services. And it's the prime minister Yatsenyuk in Ukraine, he's been saying this, Russian special services are the ones that have been essentially fomenting the violence and organizing the pro-Russian supporters in those volatile areas of eastern Ukraine.

But, yes, you're right. It certainly is sort of added oil to the flames, if you like, the fact that 40,000 or so Russian troops have been stationed and mobilized on the other side of the Ukrainian border in western Ukraine.

Russia has said time and again that it reserves the right to protect the interests of ethnic Russians and Russian language speakers anywhere in Ukraine. And of course this Ukrainian military operation was always laden with risk that it could provoke some kind of Russian military response.

There's been no such direct military response so far, but the Kremlin says it's been receiving thousands of requests from assistance from citizens of southern and eastern Ukraine, so it's sort of building up the emotional groundwork, if you like, that may lay the way for a future military intervention.

But at the moment, they appear to be weighing their options. They say they're looking at this situation. They haven't decided what their response will be -- Jim.

CLANCY: All right, back over to -- let's cross back over to Nick Paton Walsh outside Slovyansk. And I want to ask you Nick, you have seen the security deployment, if we can call it that, there in the east. Is it really successful? Is it trying to stand back rather than to engage with a lot of the separatists?

WALSH: It's very hard to divine quite what the strategy is here in many ways. We saw yesterday in the town on Kramatorsk how the Ukrainian army 10 APCs, armored personnel carriers moved towards the barricade, shot it up it seems, or got in an exchange of fire somehow, moved off further into the town and the interior minister claimed they got control of key buildings.

Well, that wasn't true where we went. Certainly the city hall is still controlled by pro-Russian militants.

Today, I've learned from one protester who was manning a checkpoint further down the main highway that the Ukrainian military has advanced down that. And as of Friday night, moved one further checkpoint down. That gives them pretty good access running into central Slovyansk. But it does appear that when they try and take up more permanent positions near populated areas, they get an awful lot of local hostility and potentially they may find it hard to maintain those positions.

I mean, you've got to bear in mind, this is an army with very little experience in warfare at all, badly funded, some of them may have fought in the Soviet era, some may have fought potentially even with the Russian army as well in Russia's campaigns. But here, no counterinsurgency experience at all and facing people in many times simply locals civilians with a grievance.

Of course, they say they're being fired at, too. And we heard a lot of reports of gunfire at instance, in the outskirts of Slovyansk on Friday night, which caused the deaths of two Ukrainian paratroops.

But it's an extraordinarily difficult situation even for a well trained, well equipped, well prepared army, let alone for this Ukrainian military which has struggled for the last two weeks to put anything like a convincing force on the ground here, Jim.

CLANCY: Back over to Matthew. Matthew, as you say, Russia, the Kremlin must weigh the options that face it right now. What has been the reaction this week to these sanctions and the risk of that being increased?

CHANCE: You know, publicly I don't think sanctions are being regarded very seriously here. In fact, the sanctions that have been implemented so far have been regarded pretty much as pinpricks. They've targeted people sort of on the ground associated with the separatism, certainly from the point of view from the European Union.

The United states has been a little stronger in targeting Vladimir Putin's inner circle and some key corporations like the head of Rosneft, the Russian oil monopoly, but nothing to really inflict the kind of pain on Russia's economy, or on Russia or Putin's inner circle that would perhaps give Vladimir Putin pause for acting further. It's that next level, that next tier of sanctions that I think the Russians really want to avoid, the sectoral sanctions, as they're called, potentially on valuable areas like Russia's oil business, like its gas businesses, other energy supplies as well. That may be the real deterrent that will prevent Russia from going into eastern Ukraine if, indeed, that is its plan.

But on the other hand, of course who knows what's doing on, what the machinations are inside the Kremlin at the moment. Perhaps they're deciding that even though sanctions are not enough to deter them for their ultimate objective, Jim.

CLANCY: All right, Matthew Chance reporting there live from Moscow. And our own Nick Paton Walsh reporting from near Slovyansk. Gentlemen, I want to thank you both for being with us.

All right, let's turn our attention to the Middle East where Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, an illness that has sickened hundreds of people in Saudi Arabia, has made its way now to the United States.

U.S. health officials say an Indiana health care worker who recently returned from Saudi Arabia was diagnosed with a virus known as MERS. The vast majority of cases have been found on the Arabian peninsula. CNN's Leone Lakhani talked to some people there about how concerned they are.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: A leisurely afternoon in Dubai, the picture of rest and relaxation. On the beaches here, there's seemingly little worry about the threat of a deadly virus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not at all. As you see, the beach like everyone. It's always like this, full, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not worried, because I don't see a lot of people like around me that -- so, yeah, no. I'm not worried.

LAKHANI: But there is reason for concern. With the steep rise in cases of the coronavirus known as MERS cough. In the past month, the number of worldwide cases has jumped by 30 percent, including nearly two dozen reported here.

Authorities say there's no need for panic, but they are looking into why there's been a sudden surge.

The virus comes from the same group as the common cold and attacks the respiratory system. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath. But authorities say it's still not clear exactly how it spread.

HUSSAIN AL RAND, ASST. UNDERSECRETARY FOR UAE HEALTH CENTERS & CLINICS: That could be the infection reached through the droplet. If you sneeze or your cough, you don't protect your sneezing or cough, the droplet might reach the people, but it is not airborne.

LAKHANI: It's still a theory.


LAKHANI: You don't know for sure?

AL RAND: But we take the precaution.

LAKHANI: Simple precautions like keeping your hands clean, for instance. But the World Health Organization says the majority of new cases are among health care workers.

AL RAND: It might be the infection control measure not applicable perfectly, that's why now we are stressing and pressing on. The infection control majority we take in all hospital, all clinics to protect the health care worker.

LAKHANI: So far, there are more than 300 cases worldwide, including more than 100 deaths. MERS was first detected in Saudi Arabia in 2012, other cases reported across the Middle East, Europe, and as far as Malaysia.

All the cases are related to travel to the Arabian peninsula, and the overwhelming majority are in Saudi Arabia with more than 100 new cases reported in the past month alone. In a country where millions of Muslims converge every year for pilgrimages, the pressure is on authorities to curb the spread of the virus. They're working closely with the World Health Organization, but there is still concern among Saudi residents.

ABDULAZIZ ALI AL-SABI, GENERAL DIRECTOR, MANARAT INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS: I'm the principal of one of the biggest schools in Riyadh. And so when I read about it and I see some (inaudible) about it, it's sure clear that we don't need to be worried, but we need to take care. We need to take good care.

LAKHANI: Take good care to prevent the spread of a virus.

Leone Lakhani, CNN, Dubai.


CLANCY: Next right here on Connect the World...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our eyes are watching.

CROWD: Our eyes are watching.



CLANCY: A global campaign to find the more than 200 abducted school girls in Nigeria. We're going to take a look at the efforts and the outrage worldwide.


CLANCY: You're watching CNN. And this is Connect the World with me, Jim Clancy.

All this week we're going to be bringing you special coverage of the search for more than 200 schoolgirls held captive in Nigeria. They were abducted, of course, last month from their school by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram. It happened in the middle of the night. This is the school where it took place.

Armed members of the group confronted security guards forcing, then, the girls out of bed and into trucks.

The group opposes the education of women. Their name translates into Western Education is Forbidden, or a Sin.

There's been outrage among Nigerians, to be sure. They are accusing authorities of not doing enough to find the girls. But officials say they are committed to the search. Our Vladimir Duthiers give us a wrap of the events of this week.


VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Authorities in Nigeria now say that at least 276 girls were kidnapped by the jihadist group Boko Haram and that 53 of them have escaped. Outrage is growing here and around the world as people take to the streets in Nigeria's cities and also in London and Washington, D.C.

Protesters demanding that the government do more to rescue the remaining girls.

Now we've spoken to family members of the missing girls. And they tell us that they've risked their own lives by attempting to track and find the girls themselves, but have not been able to do so.

They also tell us that eyewitnesses have seen convoys filled with girls and militants on a road leading into neighboring Cameroon. And the fear now is that many of the girls may never be found.

Nigeria's president Goodluck Jonathan plans to address the nation on Sunday, but meanwhile, a global social media campaign is shining a very bright light on the dire straits of these young girls. On Twitter, high profile people like Mary J. Blige, Russell Simmons and U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer have tweeted the hashtage #bringbackourgirls all to demonstrate the frustration directed at the Nigerian government and their failure so far to answer questions about they are doing to bring these girls home.


CLANCY: Vlad mentioned there, the anger is not just in Lagos, of course, it has spread around the world including London and New York after the campaign Bring Back our Girls was launched on Twitter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It could have been me, like, you know, being in a dorm and people come from nowhere and they just -- they just kidnap you like a dorm is a place that we all feel safe, but at this point I don't think anybody will want to send their kids to the boarding schools, especially in that northeastern part.


CLANCY: Now for more, let's bring in Isha Sesay. She is in Lagos right now, the commercial capital of Nigeria.

The view from there, Isha, share it with us.


I think the view from Lagos is much as it is in other parts of this country, it is a feeling of increasing frustration, increasing frustration that after two-and-a-half weeks, approaching three weeks as these girls were taken, there is still so little information coming from the Nigerian authorities that the president has not been more visible, has not taken to television to make an address to the nation, has not made any significant public statements and to the best of our knowledge has not made his way to the area in the northeast where this has happened.

So I think people are really wondering what is going on. You know, one would want to assume that the Nigerian government is making the best efforts to find these girls, but they're not telling anyone what they're doing. They're not releasing any information. There is -- to all intents and purposes an information blackout here on the ground in Nigeria.

And you heard what that young lady said just before you came to me, Jim, there are more and more people asking the question that, you know, this could happen in a school, a space hat you'd assume would be safe for young girls, happen in a place that is under a state or emergency, where we know that there are large amounts of military troops amassed.

Then, could it happen anywhere else in this country?

So ultimately the question becomes is anyone safe? And I think those are the things, those are the feelings on the minds of people in Nigeria right now and especially here in Lagos, Jim.

CLANCY: Well, there have been some meetings. Goodluck Jonathan's wife, the first lady has become involved. But we see the federal government there really trying to shift a lot of the responsibility away from itself and onto the Borno state government, saying it's really their responsibility to take care of this. That doesn't seem to be working.

SESAY: No, it doesn't. And you know the point must be made -- and it's one of the sentiments that I'm hearing on the ground here, not confirmed by any government officials, but a sentiment that I'm getting from people that there's a political dimension to things at stake here, because this happened in the northeastern part of Nigeria, which is predominantly Muslim. I happened in one of these three states that is under a state of emergency, these three states, this part of the country is predominantly Muslim and an opposition stronghold.

The president of Nigeria right now, Goodluck Jonathan, is from the southern part of this country. He is a Christian.

Now there is that element of some people's conversation -- we are just sharing with our viewers some of the conversations on the ground here -- that the response by the government has not been as robust, if you will, because this is taking place in a part of the country that is an opposition stronghold, and that that is why we're seeing local officials being left to their own devices, which is how it is perceived by many on the ground here.

So, yes, it's not going over well. It is, you know as I say, something under great discussion here in Lagos. And again, people are now beginning to bring these various theories into light saying, well, has politics got something to do with it. Not confirmed, of course, by any official sources, but I just want you to know that's the other dimension to all of this at play, Jim.

CLANCY: You know, it's going to be a complicated story. It's going to be a complicated case, but it would seem the entire world wants at this point to bring back our girls.

Isha Sesay, reporting live from Lagos, thank you.

Now you can see there how the crisis is playing out not only in the hinterlands of Nigeria, but it's playing out on social media as well. Samuel Burke has more on the mounting global pressure that more has to be done. It's all built around hat hashtag #bringbackourgirls. That's all on our website

Well, be sure to join us all week as we bring you the latest updates on the missing girls. Isha is going to be back with live reports throughout the coming days. Plus, she'll anchor a special editions of CNN News Center from Nigeria's capital Abuja. That's at 7:30 pm in London and Abuja, 10:30 pm in Abu Dhabi.

Straight ahead, we'll be talking with Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate and Nigerian writer, the first African ever to receive the Nobel prize in literature. He says the case has exposed Nigeria's deeper problems for the rest of the world.


CLANCY: You're watching Connect the World. We're live from CNN Center, welcome back everyone. I'm Jim Clancy.

Some news just coming in to us from here at CNN from Kenyan media and police. They say two buses have come under attack in Nairobi, the capital. Reuters is reporting that the buses were driving along a busy highway when explosive devices were thrown at them. No word yet on any casualties. No immediate claim of responsibility so far either.

At least four people died on Saturday in a blast at a bus station in Mumbasa. We're going to have more on this story as soon as some of the details become available.

Now, let's go back to our story of the missing girls in Nigeria. What deeper problems in the country does it really bring out, does it highlight? We talked about this just a short time ago with author and political activist Wole Soyinka, the first person from Africa to receive the Nobel prize for literature. We asked him what really needs to be done here.


WOLE SOYINKA, WRITER: First of all, I believe that some kind of -- we're really in a military situation, even though it's not acknowledged. That means that we must prepare to have other nations collaborate with us, assist with certain expertise. There are forces all over the world which are accustomed to this. I'm not saying they should take over the responsibilities of our military, no, but there's some kind of specialized skill that I think is required to detecting and dealing and extracting these kids.

It involves, much as I hate to admit it, it involves even dialogue with some of the leaders. I believe they're beyond dialogue, frankly, but there must be some way of communicating with them. We don't need to ask what they want, we know what they want. It's a question of making them understand that it's going to be a costly, there will be a costly price to pay if those girls are not returned soon, unharmed. And it requires the expression of outright readiness, the apparent readiness of the whole nation to take even greater losses if this monstrosity can be terminated right away.

CLANCY: The people of Nigeria do seem to be mobilized. Their message is a much broader one, it is enshrined in, you know, the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

SOYINKA: Demonstrations are one thing that happens all the time, responsibility and imaginative execution of responsibility is what, in my view, is lacking. There's still -- even now, I believe there's still too much denial going on. And it has a long history in encouraging this monster called Boko Haram to become what it is.

CLANCY: Does Nigeria need a new direction, Wole Soyinka? And where does it find it? Because people -- wheneever they speak of this problem, they speak of deeper problems -- corruption, mismanagement, a lack of caring fo the common man.

SOYINKA: Well, let's take this first. This -- there's -- (inaudible) our corruption right now because it's notorious. It's notorious. It's one scandal surmounting -- before you get used to the last scandal another one of really humongous dimensions has overtaken it completely.

So that I think we can put aside that for now.

The main thing is this that the nation -- I'm very glad that they come -- for instance going on national conference, but the nation needs to be told, all its parts, its components, have got to be told that using religion for political ends rebounds a monster, a Frakenstein. And it'll return, as it is doing right now, to consume even those who were behind the formation, the (inaudible) the Boko Haram.

So, yes, we can talk corruption, and we can talk politics, but priority is to rescue the children. I'm not an expert on that, but I know that there are experts and they've got to be invited to assist. We must go further, look to the future, and create a rapid taskforce, which can deal across West Africa.

It's not just a problem of Nigeria alone, this is a monster that...

CLANCY: Do you think these girls will be found? Do you think they will be returned?

SOYINKA: They will be returned, but they will be damaged. They'll be damaged psychologically, and I fear physically also. So even now, before they're found, we must start preparing to assist them, to help them. We must have volunteers, you know, welfare workers. And at the same time, we must mobilize right throughout the country to make sure -- it's not just the north -- to make sure it does not happen again.

So there's one section which we're looking for the children, and those are the skilled people. Then the rest, however, must be made to understand and prepare against the current of this problem.

CLANCY: Wole Soyinka, I want to thank you very much for being with us.

SOYINKA: Yes, you're welcome.


CLANCY: We'll have the latest world headlines just ahead.

Plus, in a desert far, far away, the new Star Wars is shooting in the United Arab Emirates. Meet the excited fans who are feeling the force.


CLANCY: This is CONNECT THE WORLD, and these are our top stories right now. Enraged by a fire that killed dozens of their comrades, pro-Russian militants attacked the police headquarters in Odessa. There were no shots fired. The separatists raised the Russian flag at the police station and were able to convince police to release those who had been detained.

South Korean president Park Geun-hye returned to the scene of last month's ferry disaster. She met with the families of some of the 54 people still missing. The confirmed death toll now stands at 248.

Libya has picked an interim prime minister after a heated parliament session. The General National Congress eventually selected businessman Ahmad Mitig. The position's been vacant since March.

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling facing more fallout from the racist comments attributed to him last month. The NBA has announced that it will appoint a new CEO to manage the team's day-to-day operations. Last week, the league banned Sterling for life for those racist remarks. It's also trying to push him to sell the team.

The NBA's other team owners are expected to vote at some point on whether to force Sterling to sell the Clippers. Deborah Feyerick has details of that.


DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is arguably one of the most elite clubs in the world. Thirty NBA team owners, about half are self-made billionaires. One is a Russian financier. Another, head of the largest online retail mortgage lender.

Some have broadcast interests or made their fortune in technology. Others have lots and lots of real estate. There's a handful of bankers, and at least one former basketball player, one industrial machine dealer, and one owner of a popular cruise line. All are expected to vote on the fate of disgraced Clippers owner Donald Sterling, including Sterling himself.

Marc Edelman with Baruch College specializes in sports law and anti-trust.

MARC EDELMAN, SPORTS EXPERT, BARUCH COLLEGE: It's primarily ego. It's toys for boys. It is fantasy basketball with billions of dollars at stake.

FEYERICK: The owners have not said where or when they will vote, or whether they will meet in person when the time comes.

FEYERICK (on camera): Is it possible that Donald Sterling could bring up issues on some of the other owners and say, "What makes them more fit than me to run a team?"

EDELMAN: As a matter of comparison, he certainly could or could attempt to. And as Mark Cuban had said, it's always a matter of a slippery slope.

FEYERICK (voice-over): Miami Heat owner Micky Arison was publicly crushed after he turned up courtside in 2013 while passengers on one of his Carnival cruises suffered days without food or facilities. In 2009, Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos was heavily criticized for anti-gay comments, while others have been accused of their own extra-marital activities.

Still, that behavior itself is not grounds for terminating an NBA team owner. Regardless of whether Sterling fights back or not, if he is forced to sell, after taxes, he will still end up hundreds of millions of dollars richer from his original $12 million investment.

As for the new owners, whoever it is, whether it's Oprah or movie mogul David Geffen, or Magic Johnson, a name change may be the first order of business.

EDELMAN: The Clippers are signified with losing and are signified with racism, and they're going to be -- whoever buys it, my gut, is not going to take that with them, they'll start anew.

FEYERICK: Deborah Feyerick, CNN, New York.


CLANCY: Let's cross over to Washington, now, where no topic was off limits at last night's White House Correspondents' dinner -- no topic. The annual event has become more of a roast than a dinner, and some of the best one- liners of the night came from, well, none other than Barack Obama.

Our Erin McPike is in Washington, has a few more details on last night's dinner. I'm not going to spoil the punchline, I'll leave that to you.

ERIN MCPIKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, speaking of roasts, Jim, Joel McHale, the comedian there for the entertainment for the night, certainly did not spare New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the Republican, at all. A lot of mean-spirited jokes about him.

As far as President Obama goes, he had some jabs for cable news, and he seems to certainly pay attention to CNN. But you'll see here that the reason why President Obama is so funny is that he has mastered the art of self-deprecation.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I admit it. Last year was rough. Sheesh.


OBAMA: At one point, things got so bad, the 47 percent called Mitt Romney to apologize.


OBAMA: Of course, we rolled out That could have gone better.


OBAMA: In 2008, my slogan was "Yes, we can." In 2013, my slogan was, "Control-alt-delete."


OBAMA: Michelle and I watched the Olympics. We cannot believe what these folks do. Death-defying feats. We haven't seen somebody pull a 180 that fast since Rand Paul disinvited that Nevada rancher from this dinner.


OBAMA: I am happy to be here, even though I am a little jet-lagged from my trip to Malaysia. The lengths we have to go to to get CNN coverage these days.



OBAMA: I think they're still searching for their table.


OBAMA: The Koch brothers bought a table here tonight, but as usual, they used a shadowy, right-wing organization as a front. Hello, Fox News.



OBAMA: I'm just kidding. Let's face it, Fox, you'll miss me when I'm gone.


OBAMA: It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.




MCPIKE: And there were quite a few more jokes about the inevitability of Hillary Clinton in 2016. Of course, some jokes about Joe Biden, the vice president, wanting that job as well, Jim.

CLANCY: All right, what a night. Sorry that we missed it, but hope you enjoyed it.

MCPIKE: I sure did.

CLANCY: Thanks a lot, Erin. Well, the team at CONNECT THE WORLD wants to hear from you, Have your say. You can send me a tweet as well @ClancyCNN. We're doing a lot of tweeting these days about Bring Back Our Girls.

Well finally, today is Star Wars Day, maybe the fourth one, or we should say maybe just the Fourth be with you. And nowhere in this galactic holiday being celebrated anymore than right here in the United Arab Emirates. Part of the latest installment in the sci-fi movie franchise is being shot in the UAE, and as Amir Daftari found, the Force is strong in the Middle East.


AMIR DAFTARI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Since the announcement that scenes from the new Star Wars movie will be shot in the deserts of the UAE, the country has been going a little sci-fi crazy.

Meet Order 66, a group of Star Wars super fans.

GIOVAN PAZ, FOUNDER, ORDER 66: I have butterflies in my stomach. It feels so awesome that Star Wars is being shot here.

DAFTARI: Giovan Paz is the man behind the costume collective.

DAFTARI (on camera): And are you planning to go out to the studio in the desert?

PAZ: I'm trying to, if I can find the location.

DAFTARI: What does it take to become a member of your group, Order 66?

PAZ: Just a love for Star Wars.


PAZ: It's more than enough.

DAFTARI: Well, the Force is growing strong in me as well, so do you think I could become a member?

PAZ: Darth Vader is here to give you the ordinary title of Order 66 now.

DAFTARI: It's an order. Thank you, Darth. You're much nicer than people make out.


DAFTARI (voice-over): With Lord Vader's blessing, I said good-bye to Order 66. Next stop, Abu Dhabi and a meeting with photographer Mona al-Marzooqi. She captured what is believed to be the first images of Star Wars Episode XVII.

MONA AL-MARZOOQI, PHOTOJOURNALIST: While I was on my assignment, I noticed that they were rolling out the structure out of the tent, and that's when I saw it, oh, that looks really familiar. That must be Star Wars.

Abu Dhabi's here. We drove three hours down to the Liwa Desert, and it's close by the Saudi border.

DAFTARI: Our journey took us deep into the desert, an unlikely spot to find some of Hollywood's finest talents. And then, in the distance, it looked like we'd finally found the mysterious Star Wars set. I went in for a closer look.

DAFTARI (on camera): I'm looking for Harrison Ford. Is he here? The new Star Wars?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no. Bring on.


DAFTARI: OK, OK. Do you know where they've gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go straight, straight, straight.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After a bridge, that side.

DAFTARI: OK, thank you very much.


DAFTARI: May the Force be with you.



DAFTARI: Thank you, guys. Take car.

DAFTARI (voice-over): The sun was setting, but we weren't giving up on finding Abu Dhabi's version of Tatooine.

DAFTARI (on camera): I followed the directions, and this place may look like a different planet, but there's not a movie set in sight. Now, officially, filming doesn't begin for a couple of weeks. So, draped in my Jedi cloak, I'll continue looking with a new hope.

DAFTARI (voice-over): Amir Daftari, CNN, Abu Dhabi.


CLANCY: All right. Well, from Jedi Knights to the more traditional variety. In tonight's Parting Shots, we're going to bring you pictures from the medieval combat world championship in Spain. Knights in handmade armor wielding axes. Competitors crossing swords with one another. All of it an attempt to be crowned champion. Look at that. Pretty rough game.

It's all in good fun, of course, but this four-day competition brings together fighters from 16 different countries, ranging from Japan to the US.

I don't know who won in the end, but I know I'm Jim Clancy, and that has to be CONNECT THE WORLD for this day. Thanks for being with us. MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST is straight ahead.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, HOST: This week on MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST, one brand, different industries. We meet the president and chief executive of Hard Rock to talk about the strategy behind reviving growth of its cafes, hotels, and casinos.

And business opportunity in Cairo's night life. We take a look at an upbeat sector in the midst of lots of uncertainty.

Welcome to MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST, where this week we're focusing on the fast-growing food and beverage sector. Dining out is very popular here in the UAE. In fact, throughout the region. Not surprisingly, it was the global brands who arrived first. Now we see more specialty niche players, giving the diners more food for thought.


DEFTERIOS (voice-over): If one has a passion for egg, then Eggspectation may be the closest thing to Nirvana. They're being cooked sunny-side up, poached, and whisked into omelets. Basically, it's breakfast around the clock, and it is in demand. Co-owner Samer Sarraf spotted the brand when he lived in Canada.

SAMER SARRAF, PARTNER, EGGSPECTATIONS: We would wait in line for half an hour, 40 minutes, in minus-20 degrees, minus-30 degrees, just to go inside Eggspectations to have our meal on a Sunday.

DEFTERIOS: Today, Eggspectation is in Dubai, serving meals in 40 degree heat on the edge of the beach. Only a month after opening its doors, it's taking orders for 800 meals on a good day.

DEFTERIOS (on camera): As they say, the kitchen can get hot, but so, too, can the competition. The first wave of food and beverage companies to come to the Gulf shores were the major global brands. Now we see the niche players coming in, serving everything from all-day dining breakfasts to burgers.

DEFTERIOS (voice-over): Within a stone's throw from Eggspectation, one can witness a franchise boom. Consults Francorp says the franchise business in the Middle East is growing by 27 percent a year. More than half of the franchises are in the restaurant space, which is dominated by American brands.

The prime location for Eggspectation was picked to both leverage the tourism growth in the emirate and high-end residents in the area.

SARRAF: So, the area that you have is pretty massive, and there's a lot of families with their children that are coming in, which is what you see here. Between the tourists and the families that are coming into enjoy a meal, whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So, it was a risk, but it was worth the risk.

DEFTERIOS: In neighboring oil-rich Abu Dhabi, there's the Burger Bureau, a player in what is known as the better burger market. This is a clever twist on America's FBI.

SCOTT SORENSEN, CO-FOUNDER, BURGER BUREAU: Staff are not known as waiters or waitresses, they're burger agents. We only employ people that really believe in our product. They've got to really protect the real burger lovers of the world.

DEFTERIOS: A homegrown UAE brand, the Bureau has put up the namesake to the world's tallest tower.

SORENSEN: This is the Burger Khalifa, the UAE's tallest burger.

DEFTERIOS: Sorensen only prepares New Zealand organic meat and cheese, sugar-free buns, but also a chance for local entrepreneurs to own their own franchise.

SORENSEN: We want to give the opportunity to other people to benefit from our experience, all the mistakes that have been made, all of the good things that have been done, and minimize your risk.

DEFTERIOS: Wise advice from two start-up businesses out to make it against some of the world's biggest brands.


DEFTERIOS: My special look at the expanding market for franchises here in the Middle East. Now, here's a brand you've heard of in the past: the Hard Rock Cafe. It's going through a revival, very much like the music it represents. But it's not just about restaurants. It includes hotels and casinos as well. Our Leone Lakhani sat down with the chief executive, Hamish Dodds, to look at building out.


LEONE LAKHANI, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It all started, as the legend goes, with two Americans living in London in search of a good burger. So, they decided to open an American diner and called it Hard Rock Cafe. That was 1971.

Over the next two decades, it became a regular haunt for A-list musicians and a museum for rock star memorabilia.

Today, it's an industry. There are some 180 Hard Rock venues in more than 50 countries. Hard Rock t-shirts and other merchandise account for 30 to 50 percent of sales at each destination.

HAMISH DODDS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, HARD ROCK: One of our large revenue generators. This is a KISS t-shirt.

LAKHANI: But building this empire hasn't been easy.

DODDS: The hang tag indicates it's a charity, which in this case, is the City of Hope.

LAKHANI: When Hamish Dodds, the company's CEO, took over in 2004, may considered the brand old and tired.

LAKHANI (on camera): Hard Rock emerged from the good old rock-and-roll days of the 70s, 80s. Now we're in the online music generation. So, is there a place for Hard Rock?

DODDS: It's really around being relevant for younger consumers. So, many younger consumers are not familiar with the history. And you don't have to be familiar with the history. So here, we have music every night. And everybody likes music. And we're able to bring young bands, older bands, and sort of bring a whole load of variety to our customers.

LAKHANI (voice-over): And it's not just in Hard Rock Cafes. The company added hotels and casinos to its portfolio, and the strategy paid off. Venues jumped from under $1 billion in 2003 to $3.5 billion in 2013, with casinos making up the largest chunk.

Now, the company is aggressively expanding in Asia and the Middle East, with plans for a hotel in Abu Dhabi, a cafe in Doha, in addition to their venues in Bahrain and Dubai.

DODDS: We've been here a long time. Our cafes have basically had a very successful run. This new cafe in Dubai has really performed extremely well. It resonates a lot with our Middle Eastern customers.

LAKHANI (on camera): Gaming has become a very big component of your business.


LAKHANI: Followed by cafes and hotels. So, why have a hotel here when you can't have gaming as part of the equation?

DODDS: Gaming is a huge part of our growth strategy. It's a very important part of our earnings and our general revenue streams. But in markets where gaming is not permitted, we still have growth and consumer opportunities in hotels and cafes.

LAKHANI (voice-over): Dodds says the company works hard to tailor needs to each market.

LAKHANI (on camera): So, do you do things differently in each country, each city that you're in? Do you design things differently?

DODDS: You used to go to a Hard Rock Cafe and they all looked the same. So, we changed that mechanic again as part of the brand re-invigoration, and we want everyone to be different and to reflect the personality of the building and the country and the people in that country.

LAKHANI (voice-over): And making a historic brand relevant in the modern day.


DEFTERIOS: Leone Lakhani at the Hard Rock Cafe with the chief executive in Dubai. That chain has a number of outlets, by the way, in the Middle East, including in Egypt. That country's going through political change, but the night life there seems to be immune. When we come back, we'll have more on the booming business of Cairo's party scene.


DEFTERIOS: Welcome back to MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST. Egypt remains in transition. There's political turmoil, the economy has stalled, and there's a controversial election coming up. But there's one sector that's starting to revive three years after the revolution. Ian Lee reports on why investing in Cairo's night life is playing dividends for some.


IAN LEE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's the weekend in Cairo, and the city's upper crust is letting loose. The Garden in the Heliopolis neighborhood is one of the latest hot spots to open in the Egyptian capital. Behind the whirls, twirls, and clinking of glasses is some serious investment.

ISMAEL KASSEM, CO-OWNER, THE GARDEN: There hasn't been a better time to open and attract people to positive experiences as the time that we are in now.

LEE: That positive experience? Nearly a half a million dollars investment. The restaurant is booked solid every night. Reading the trends, Ismael Kassem and his partners are bullish about the future.

KASSEM: It's a very positive and profitable business if you play your cards right and you get the right flow of customers, it wouldn't take you a year, year and a half until you return on investment.

LEE: Their success is also attracting attention.

KASSEM: We have a lot of support from sponsors, from different international and multinational companies that see it as an opportunity to offer their brand and their experiences as well. And that makes it way more profitable.

LEE: Recently, at least five new drinking establishments opened their doors in the city, a sign the industry may be slowly shaking off three years of despair.


LEE: The downturn started with the 2011 revolution that ousted then- president Hosni Mubarak. 2012's election of an Islamist president, Mohamed Morsy, had the industry fearful for its survival. But he would barely last a year in office as a popular military coup ousted him in 2013.

Through the entire time, a shattered economy was kept down by violence and uncertainty. Across the river, Alchemy, known for drinks with a dash of chemistry, opened at the height of the turmoil in 2012. Alex Rizk, an industry veteran, understands better than most, the resilience of places like Alchemy.

ALEX RIZK, CO-OWNER, ALCHEMY: A lot of people, investors, looked at what is running and surviving the revolution, and the economic crisis. And that was mainly food outlets, coffee shops and, I would say, then, eventually night clubs.

LEE: Rizk says even amid uncertainty, it boils down to one simple thing.

RIZK: People do want to party, do want to forget their daily lives.

LEE: Building on their success, Rizk and his partners plan to open a new club soon. Kassem is also eyeing three new venues over the next three years, equaling millions of dollars in investment. But this is Egypt, where political and economic chaos persist. Neither Kassem nor Rizk take that for granted.

KASSEM: Of course we're bullish in terms of aspiration, but we're not foolish. And if we find it unprofitable, we're not going to go into it.

LEE: It's a balancing act they hope pays out in dividends.


DEFETERIOS: Ian Lee exploring the revival of Cairo's night life. For more about the program, visit our website,, or you can reach out and message us on Facebook as well.

And that's all for this edition of CNN MARKETPLACE MIDDLE EAST I'm John Defterios, thanks for watching. We'll see you next weekend.