How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born

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Updated 20 April 2020

How Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper, was born

  • 45 years ago, Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz launched it in a Jeddah garage
  • The first issue was a 16-page tabloid published on April 20, 1975

JEDDAH: Brothers Hisham and Mohammed Hafiz had a dream: To publish a daily, English-language newspaper in Saudi Arabia. In 1972, they began to seriously discuss how they might turn that dream into a reality.

Almost everyone they spoke to was skeptical about the idea. Undeterred, in 1974, they pushed ahead with their plans and began to buy the equipment they needed. They also hired Ahmad Mahmoud to be the newspaper’s first editor-in-chief, and sent him to Pakistan to hire a team of journalists.

The first issue of Arab News, a 16-page tabloid, was published on April 20, 1975, from a small garage in Jeddah. Thanks to its instant popularity, and the quantity of advertising it generated, by the end of August it had blossomed into a broadsheet.

The late Farouk Luqman, who died in July 2019 at the age of 84, was there at the beginning and became editor-in-chief 18 years later. In his book “Globalization of the Arabic Press,” he told the story of the Hafiz brothers and their incredible journey, which began with the launch of Arab News and grew into the biggest publishing house in the Middle East. He revealed that in the early days the newspaper had only six employees, including the editor-in-chief.

“We were doing everything, from writing stories to translating news and laying out pages,” said Luqman, who was managing editor at the time of the launch. The entire operation was based in the garage — from writing, editing and layout to advertising and administration.

“We worked until dawn preparing the first issue and the publishers stayed with us all the time until we finished and printed,” Luqman said. “They were true journalists and often pointed out mistakes, even spelling errors.”

Newcomer Arab News was in direct competition with the renowned International Herald Tribune, which was published in Paris, and the Lebanese Daily Star, both of which went on sale in Saudi Arabia the day after initial publication.

According to Luqman, Arab News proved popular not only with Europeans and Americans but also Asians and Africans.

During an interview in 2005, Mahmoud, the first editor-in-chief, recalled the offer of the top job caught him off guard.




 The Hafiz brothers went on to publish over a dozen newspapers and magazines, but Arab News retained a special place in their hearts. (AN) 

“One fine morning in 1974, I got a call from Mohammed Ali Hafiz asking me to meet him and his brother,” he said. “At that time I was with Al-Madinah Arabic newspaper. They told me about their project and, in the same breath, offered me the post of editor-in-chief. That took me completely by surprise.”

Mahmoud added that he did not have much time to ponder the offer as the Hafiz brothers told him the first issue would roll off the presses within six months.

“I did accept the offer, but I made it clear that I had no experience in English journalism,” he said. The response of the Hafiz brothers was: “When one is a journalist, one will always be a journalist.”

Like all new arrivals, Arab News had its share of teething problems. Following some trial dummy runs, Mahmoud — assisted by Luqman, who had experience of English-language journalism — encountered a series of niggling problems as they tried to put this new and novel venture to bed every night.

“There were challenges and trials, but with youthful determination and zest we did our best and overcame them,” Mahmoud said. “Arab News came out in difficult circumstances. As it was the first of its kind, we had to face up to the fact of limited news sources, a dearth of photographs, inadequate manpower and poor printing quality. Despite all this, surprisingly, the paper was well received.”

Despite the large number of additional successful publications launched by the newspaper’s publishers in the past 45 years, most notably Asharq Al-Awsat, Arab News retains a special place in their hearts.

In a letter to readers, the Hafiz brothers wrote: “The solid base of Arab News, financially and its journalistic success, paved the way for the birth of other successful papers and magazines, of which the majority are still being read today.”

As for the distinctive green-tinted paper on which Arab News is printed, that tradition began with its Arabic sister paper, Asharq Al-Awsat. In 1978, when the Hafiz brothers launched the pan-Arab newspaper, which is published and printed in London and other European cities, they wanted to make it easy for readers to find their paper on newsstands.

Noting that almost all of the hundreds of newspapers available in a variety languages are published on white paper, they decided to print theirs on green stock so that it would stand out. Later, Arab News began to follow its sister paper’s example, using green paper for its front page.

 


How brands are celebrating Saudi National Day

Updated 24 September 2020

How brands are celebrating Saudi National Day

RIYADH: The 90th Saudi National Day is one of pride and celebration not only for the people of the Kingdom – but brands too. From offering discounts, to musical playlists, and social media events, here’s how brands are joining in:

Amazon.sa

In celebration of National Day in Saudi Arabia, Amazon.sa is running a sale until Sept. 26 offering discounts of up to 70 percent. It represents the first National Day sale for Amazon.sa, which launched earlier in the year for customers in the Kingdom.

Careem

Careem KSA is celebrating by offering people getting engaged on its social media platform a chance to win gold bars and coins.

Twitter

With current circumstances changing the way people celebrate, and to mark the Kingdom’s 90th National Day, Twitter launched a 90-minute trivia quiz via its @TwitterMENA account in the region. The virtual celebration challenges people on their knowledge about the Kingdom, from historical moments and culinary arts, to hidden gems and sporting prowess.

Twitter teamed up with a series of Saudi experts, covering a wide range of sectors including travel, food, history, entertainment, education, and sports.

The experts, including Abdullah Al-Jumah (@AAlJumah), Abdul Aziz Alyami (@azeez000a), Dr. Bandar Alghamiz (@BAlghmaiz), Bader Al-Fouzan (@B_alfouzan), Malk Alsulaimy (@ARCH1993), and Abdulelah Alfares (@AbdulelahAlfars), also supported the campaign by sharing hints and insights about the topics.

In addition, Twitter has created an emoji of the Saudi flag that is triggered whenever the following hashtags are tweeted throughout the month of September: #SaudiNationalDay; #SaudiNationalDay2020; and #SaudiNationalDay90.

A dedicated event page in both Arabic and English will also be launched, providing people with real-time updates on activities, including videos and Moments (collections of tweets). The event page will be accessible through either the Twitter Explore section or on top of people’s timelines, for those who have already engaged with #SaudiNationalDay content on Twitter. Alternatively, people can find the page by searching Saudi National Day on Twitter.

Snapchat

To celebrate the 90th Saudi National Day, Snapchat’s official lens creator, Fahad Mutlaq, has created an anti-reflection (AR) lens that allows Snapchatters to celebrate the event even when physically apart, giving them the chance to share cool snaps while celebrating at home.

Abdulla Al-Hammadi, regional business lead at Snap Inc., said: “We are committed to bringing AR experiences to Snapchatters in the KSA. Given the exceptional times that the world is going through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this lens comes to provide our community in Saudi Arabia with the chance to express their love for their country while they are celebrating National Day.”

Mutlaq said: “Creating an interactive lens that allows Snapchatters to celebrate this occasion from home, using the Kingdom’s official National Day slogan, colors, and logo, has been an absolute honor.

“By leveraging the power of AR, Snapchat has been bringing exceptional experiences to Snapchatters in the Kingdom, allowing them to create memorable, interactive moments on unique occasions such as the Saudi National Day.”

Emirates NBD

The 90th Saudi National Day comes amid a challenging year on all levels. Emirates NBD wanted this film to act as a thank you letter on behalf of all Saudis to those who have helped the Kingdom reach its 90th National Day safely – the heroes who have relentlessly and responsibly worked behind the scenes hand-in-hand with the government to ensure people’s safety, making the Kingdom a safe land full of blessings.

The film celebrates Saudi National Day through an emotional script, written in a poetic way and complemented by a musical score that goes along with a compilation of footage showing people and scenery from throughout the Kingdom.

Deezer

The global music streaming service Deezer launched a campaign called “Let’s sing for the homeland,” inviting all music fans to use a specially designed online feature to nominate songs that best express the love that people have for the Kingdom.

The final compilation of songs, unveiled on Saudi National Day under the banner “Saudi Flow: Le Noghani Lel Watan,” offers a unique musical experience created by music fans and curated by Deezer to celebrate the country. The campaign aims to bring the nation closer together through music.

Tarek Mounir, Deezer CEO for the Middle East, North Africa (MENA), and Turkey said: “We want every music fan to be able to celebrate their love for this beautiful and spirited country. We have imagined ‘Let’s sing for the homeland’ as a place where people can come together as one, united by music.

“Saudi Flow will reflect the nation’s musical DNA. I would like to invite everyone to join the online celebrations and create the nation’s first flow.”

Saudi Flow has been inspired by Deezer’s signature feature Flow, which is based on a proprietary algorithm and recommendations from its professional music editors. It offers an endless mix of old favorites and new recommendations in one ever-evolving stream.

While Deezer’s algorithm is responsible for presenting every listener’s personal preferences, the flow of a whole country should reflect the preferences of its people, but it is still supported by Deezer’s editors and technology.

Join the celebrations today and nominate your song by visiting http://nationaldayplaylist.com.

Ithra

As national identity remains resolute in the face of a global pandemic, Ithra, the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, is proud to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day with a host of activities dedicated to the Kingdom’s culture.

Ithra’s National Day offering runs until Sept. 26 with events including exhibitions, family activities, storytelling, a game competition, Saudi cuisine, workshops, poetry, music, dance, and folk performances.

Highlights include the opening of the Kingdom of Cultures exhibit, which takes visitors through Saudi Arabia’s varied landscapes to meet its diverse people and experience its rich cultural legacy. It will run for 90 days.

Takya is a fine-dining experience featuring an innovative blend of authentic, fusion, and contemporary cuisine. There is also The Market, which brings creativity and design into Khobar with a reimagining of the central vegetable market in Al-Ulaya with an artist area, performances, and food trucks.

Al-Farabi band accompanied by Abeer Balubaid on piano and singer Ameen Farsi headline the music program, while Abdulatif bin Yousef presents poetry night.