Jane Arraf

Jane Arraf covers Egypt, Iraq, and other parts of the Middle East for NPR News.

Arraf joined NPR in 2017 after two decades of reporting from and about the region for CNN, NBC, the Christian Science Monitor, PBS Newshour, and Al Jazeera English. She has previously been posted to Baghdad, Amman, and Istanbul, along with Washington, DC, New York, and Montreal.

She has reported from Iraq since the 1990s. For several years, Arraf was the only Western journalist based in Baghdad. She reported on the war in Iraq in 2003 and covered live the battles for Fallujah, Najaf, Samarra, and Tel Afar. She has also covered India, Pakistan, Haiti, Bosnia, and Afghanistan and has done extensive magazine writing.

Arraf is a former Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. Her awards include a Peabody for PBS NewsHour, an Overseas Press Club citation, and inclusion in a CNN Emmy.

Arraf studied journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa and began her career at Reuters.

U.S. federal prosecutors are seeking the return to Iraq of a roughly 3,500-year-old clay tablet purchased by the Hobby Lobby arts and crafts store chain for display in the Washington, D.C.-based Museum of the Bible. The cuneiform tablet is described as "stolen Iraqi property" in a civil complaint filed Monday.

What happens to a popular travel destination when visitors suddenly stop coming? In Jordan's ancient city of Petra, it makes way for the cats, dogs, birds and other creatures to take over.

Normally, the city teems with Bedouin guides and their animals — camels, horses and donkeys — bringing some of the thousands of tourists a day to the site's tombs and temples carved out of colorful rock more than 2,000 years ago.

Iraq finally has a new government. More than five months after the country's caretaker prime minister announced he would resign amid anti-government protests, Parliament early Thursday approved intelligence chief Mustafa al-Kadhimi and most of his Cabinet.

Kadhimi, 53, has the backing of both the U.S. and Iran. He has struggled in recent weeks to win support from influential Iran-backed Shiite political factions. In the end, Kathimi won enough support from Parliament without the backing of at least one key former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who opposed his nomination.

In the ancient city of Petra, Jordan's best-known tourist destination, bird song echoes against the multicolored rock and the elaborate monuments instead of the din of tour groups and souvenir sellers.

The coronavirus pandemic has done what war did not — bring this Middle Eastern country's vital tourism industry to a dramatic halt, and with it, the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Abdul Rahman Labdour and his two brothers worked in a five-star hotel in the Red Sea resort city of Aqaba, Jordan. But with tourism now shut down, on the eve of Ramadan, the brothers set up a tiny pop-up bakery in their hometown of Shoubak, in the southern part of the country.

"Welcome my dears," Labdour, a burly man in a red Ferrari T-shirt and a mask and gloves shouts to passersby, enticing them to buy qatayef, a crescent-shaped pastry synonymous with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. In Arabic, the sales pitch rhymes.

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All right, let's head overseas. In the Middle East, a visit to the central crisis center in Jordan shows how hard that country is trying to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Jordan has seen about 400 cases. NPR's Jane Arraf reports from Amman.

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Yemen has recorded its first confirmed case of coronavirus. Aid officials warn the impoverished country already devastated by five years of war will be unable to cope if the virus spreads.

"We are bracing for the worst," Lise Grande, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, told NPR on Friday.

Before the case was announced, Grande said in a phone interview from the Yemeni capital Sanaa that the country would be completely overwhelmed by the spread of the virus.

For centuries, Hindus gathered to burn corpses on funeral pyres along the Ganges River. Jews received condolences at home during a seven-day mourning period. Muslims huddled together to wash the corpses of loved ones in Iraq and across the Arab world.

But global burial rituals are being dramatically changed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Jordan has sealed off its second biggest city and the surrounding province after dozens of guests at a wedding held two weeks ago tested positive for the coronavirus.

Army vehicles drove through the streets of Irbid, about 60 miles north of Amman, Thursday night telling people their city of 2 million was now effectively under military control and not to leave their homes.

The country of Jordan has implemented one of the strictest lockdowns in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus, forcing most people to stay indoors and temporarily shutting down even grocery stores and pharmacies.

The Middle Eastern country with its 10 million residents has so far arrested more than 1,600 people for breaking the five-day-old curfew, which bans even going for walks or allowing pets outdoors.

Etab Hadithi comes home from work, climbs the steps in an unlit stairwell to her fifth-floor apartment in the northwestern Syrian city of Idlib and points out the doorways of neighbors displaced from other parts of the country.

"These ones are from Deir Ezzor, here from Aleppo, those from Damascus," she says, pausing to catch her breath.

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On the ground floor of the concrete high-rise that became the headquarters of the protest movement in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, slogans scrawled in black and a mural of a fish dressed in a suit disappear under coats of white paint.

The young Iraqis erasing the murals are followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite Muslim cleric whose support fueled the largely secular protests against government corruption that broke out last October.

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