Saudi Press

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Umm Al-Qura Newspaper: An eventful century in Saudi media

Under the patronage of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, Makkah Emir Prince Khalid Al-Faisal, who is also an advisor at the Royal Court, on Wednesday will attend a ceremony organized by the Ministry of Media on the occasion of 100 Hijri years of establishing Umm Al-Qura Newspaper at the Makkah Chamber for Exhibitions and Events Center.

Several princes, ministers and an array of intellectuals, litterateurs and media figures will be present at the ceremony.

The first issue of the daily was issued on Jumada Ula 15, 1343 Hijri during the reign of the Kingdom’s founder, the late King Abdulaziz, and it is considered among the most important and prestigious Saudi newspapers as a media reference on Saudi history.

With the support of the wise leadership and follow up of Acting Minister of Media Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, the newspaper managed to change its character in a way that matches the modern technologies and focusing on keeping pace with the latest developments in the media field.

The newspaper, which is considered the first newspaper to be issued in Saudi Arabia as an official gazette, went through development phases from yellow to white and then to colored pages, preserving its identity as a model for the media movement in the Kingdom and recording the renaissance led by the late King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud till the reign of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

The newspaper office occupies a distinguished location in Makkah and it enjoys a status within the Saudi journalism and media, where it seeks to provide the media content weekly, providing official statements and some local news in the Saudi media arena. The top of its media content are the Cabinet decisions, official regulations and decisions, and government advertisements.

Umm Al-Qura is considered among the most important and prestigious Saudi newspapers for its being the official voice of the historical decisions and events taking place in the Kingdom. Its first issue came to life during the reign of King Abdulaziz with the Makkah Declaration topping the news, followed by other official statements.

The headquarters of the weekly newspaper is built over an area of 16,000 square meters in Al-Umrah neighborhood of Makkah and includes two buildings: one for the administration and the other for editing, technical affairs and printing. It has a total of 168 employees representing administrative and technical staff and workers, and all of them are Saudis. The paper also has four branches in Riyadh, Dammam, Jeddah and Al-Madinah.

Sheikh Yousef Yassin is the first editor-in-chief of Umm Al-Qura Newspaper. He was succeeded by Rushdi Malhas. Both of them were in the diplomacy field during the reign of King Abdulaziz. Mohammed-Sa’id Abdulmaqsoud Khoujah, Fuad Shakir and Abdulquddous Al-Ansari followed. The newspaper documented the biographies of kings of Saudi Arabia with accurate details of the historical periods and political events, in addition to holding the entire archive of the state. It became a major reference for lovers of history, economy and politics.

The newspaper was a mix of news, sports and social events for around four decades since its establishment. Some of its pages included advertisements. It was the only media platform that acquainted the world with the news of the country and its cultural, educational and economic aspects at the time. It supported important causes, such as the Palestinian issue, which the Kingdom defended since the reign of the founding king with all its capacity and influence against the occupation.

The historical importance of Umm Al-Qura newspaper stems from its being the only official newspaper that kept pace with two complete decades of the life of the founder. It was responsible for publishing most documents, decisions, regulations, and the political and administrative news of the Saudi government and its point of view on several regional or international issues, in addition to its being the only newspaper that lived out political and military events that Saudi Arabia went through, such as the annexation of Jeddah in 1344 Hijri, the establishment of the Shoura Council in 1345 Hjri, Al-Sablah War in 1347 Hijri, annexation of Jazan in 1349 Hijri, the declaration of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1351 Hijri, and the exploration of oil in 1357 Hijri, among other events and developments.

Umm Al-Qura newspaper was known for its distinct character for years. It published stories, news and interviews representing the core of the oral history, where such news and stories had never been published before. It also embarked on publishing summaries for all press interviews with King Abdulaziz, which makes the public say that the newspaper offers a source on the history of King Abdulaziz and the history of modern Saudi Arabia, which rarely can be found in Saudi or Arab print.

The newspaper also opted for publishing news of some figures in the Kingdom and some of their translations and obituaries. They represented the most accurate documentation of the biographies of some figures who were not mentioned in Saudi and non-Saudi publications. The paper was also concerned with the social, educational, religious and economic reform in the country and increasing its status, preserving its social, economic and religious history.

Umm Al-Qura, considered the first Saudi paper, managed to publish the full biographies of King Abdulaziz and his two sons King Saud and King Faisal through a colored issue on Shawwal 4, 1369 Hijri, corresponding to July 10, 1950 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of King Abdulaziz’s entry into Riyadh. These biographies were published when their subject were still alive, which grants additional credibility to the historical information in them. It never happened that the paper received a request for a correction, notification or addition to the three biographies.

The newspaper was also keen to establish and design special corners for offering topics related to social customs and traditions in the Kingdom, in addition to its being one of the media institutions that contributed to keeping pace with the technological developments in the media field.

The newspaper sought to secure a new and modern printing press, and managed to change its character in a way that matches the modern and technological changes with focusing on preserving the affected issues that were damaged by mites.

It immediately worked in cooperation with the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives (Darah) to restore all issues that were damaged. The restoration process was carried out by specialists who supervise keeping these issues from being lost, before archiving all issues electronically.

The newspaper also sought to create its own website to act as a digital media platform for documentation and providing comprehensive information on the paper. It made a full observation for Saudi history packed with photos and information.

The newspaper also owns a huge paper archive as well as a digital one that has all photos and coverage of events and occasions. The newspaper recently uncovered restoring 54 volumes of old issues of the newspaper representing the era between 1343 Hijri and 1397 Hijri in cooperation with Darah, which agreed to sterilize and restore the volumes and store them on CDs to be used as a reference whenever required.

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