JEDDAH: Arab News today launches its special coverage of Hajj 2019 — with, for the first time, an all-female team on the ground at the holy sites.
Today’s special edition of the newspaper, with a stunning cover-wrap image of the Kaaba, is being distributed to pilgrims at Mina as they begin their spiritual journey.
In tandem with comprehensive coverage in print and online, the Arab News Hajj app for mobile devices is again available as a free download from the Apple App Store and Google Play.
The app, developed with the support of the Muslim World League, features a digital Qibla compass, a real-time currency converter, Qur’an prayer audio files and live news updates.
This year the app also has an enhanced “pilgrim tracker” function, an optional feature that allows users who activate it to share their location and follow loved ones in real time, round the clock.
For Hajj 2019 our staff will also be distributing Arab News umbrellas; designed for sun protection, they were invaluable last year when Makkah and Madina were deluged with rain. This year, in association with the Makkah Health Affairs General Directorate, the umbrellas will also be distributed to outpatients attending hospital for treatment during Hajj.
The Arab News all-female team comprises Hala Tashkandi from our Riyadh bureau, Rua’a Al-Ameri from our Dubai bureau and photographer Huda Bashatah from our Jeddah bureau.
“It is both amazing and intimidating to know that I have the task of bringing news to the general public, who rely on us to deliver information accurately, quickly and in an entertaining way,” Tashkandi said.
“I hope we can supply new and exciting information to all our readers, from Hajj veterans looking to see how things have changed, to young Muslims soaking up information to prepare for their first Hajj experience, and even curious non-Muslims who just want to know what it is about.”
Al-Ameri, on her first visit to Saudi Arabia, will be focusing on stories with a human interest.
“I am keen to learn about pilgrims’ experiences and share their personal stories on their spiritual journey,” she said.
Bashatah, the photographer, said: “I’m touched and proud to be part of the team as this is my first Hajj journey. I’m even more excited to leave my fingerprint on people’s memories with the photos I take of the pilgrims.”
The initiative for a 50:50 gender-balanced newsroom by 2020 was launched by Arab News editor-in-chief Faisal J. Abbas in 2018, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s drive toward reform and female empowerment. Hajj coverage was a key area for implementing the initiative, Abbas said.
“As the voice of our changing region, and the English-language newspaper of record for Saudi Arabia, Arab News sets the benchmark for reporting on Hajj, and our female staff play a crucial role in that work,” he said.