Umm Al-Qura, the first Arabic language Saudi daily newspaper based in Makkah, is celebrating its centennial under the patronage of King Salman bin Abdulaziz and in the presence of Makkah Region Governor Prince Khalid bin Faisal and a group of princes, ministers, literature experts and intellectuals.
Invitations to the celebratory event were sent out by the Saudi Media Ministry. At the commemoration, newspaper representatives will recall some of their institutional history, especially about how the daily was founded by direct orders from King Abdulaziz in 1924.
Umm Al-Qura has withstood the test of time by keeping its strategic stock of information up to date while saving its memory before transformation and changes.
Despite its humble and traditional beginnings that were limited to reports and some local news, a few government and civil announcements, and a summary of the health symptoms prevalent at the time, Umm Al-Qura quickly developed its publishing mechanism and started publishing local and some international news, a few poems, publishing regulations, decisions, agreements and international treaties, job advertisements and data on imports and exports.
In its 655 issue 87 years ago, the newspaper mentioned the principles and duties of the press and what must be dealt with within the Fourth Authority in a distinct manner. It highlighted its pioneering role as the nucleus of media and journalism in the Kingdom and the region, strengthening its position among its peers.
The newspaper kept developing its content to include many cultural materials, scientific and literary research, and poems, as well as commercial advertisements.
However, it went through a stage described as the real transformation in 1942, when newspapers stopped publishing due to the paper crisis that swept the world due to World War II.
Umm Al-Qura succeeded in reporting local and international events despite reducing its pages and the newspaper’s general size, with the support of the Saudi government.
In 2012, the newspaper switched to completely colored editions but maintained its coverage of vital content.
Umm Al-Qura took a distinct form on its front page, showcasing an editorial on the right and news or excerpts from several news spread on the rest of the page.
The daily recorded a qualitative movement and multiple technical movements in 2008, when its digital infrastructure was updated. This stage included launching a website that went through several updates until 2021.
Former Minister of Culture and Information Abdulaziz Khoja told Asharq Al-Awsat that Umm Al-Qura, over the years, has served as a viable source for news and reports.
According to Khoja, the newspaper was not limited to publishing royal orders and decisions issued by the Council of Ministers and the Shura Council, but rather formed the cultural and literary taste in the Kingdom by presenting many topics that were popular.
“Umm Al-Qura, for its first three decades before the publication of “Sawt Al-Hijaz,” took the throne of media in the Kingdom, and was the only source of cultural and literary movement in Saudi Arabia,” said Khoja.
Since its inception 100 years ago, Umm Al-Qura worked as a small record of the history of a great nation from the era of King Abdulaziz until today during the reign of King Salman, added the former minister.
The newspaper monitored the renaissance that was achieved in Saudi Arabia in its smallest details and served as an important reference and source for researchers and specialists to explore information or decisions issued at different times.
“We were working at an accelerated and strong pace to catch up with the changes on the ground, the most prominent of which was the change in the general shape until we reached the current colorful form,” said Khoja about Umm Al-Qura’s transformation journey.
“I am happy that this transformation occurred when I was minister,” he added, stressing that it was essential for the newspaper to keep evolving.
Fahd Al-Khuraiji, professor of political media at King Saud University, told Asharq Al-Awsat that Umm Al-Qura is dear to all who follow the reality of the media in Saudi Arabia.
Confirming that the daily is a great source for official state decisions and royal orders, Al-Khuraiji said that Umm Al-Qura is a good addition to the Saudi press.
“I believe that it can lead the local press by giving a model for the national discreet press,” he said.