Umm al-Qurá, Number 593, April 17, 1936


Umm al-Qurá (Mother of all settlements) is the first newspaper in modern-day Saudi Arabia, and the official gazette of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Its name is a Qur’anic reference to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, where the weekly paper is based. Established by the founder of Saudi Arabia, King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz ibn Saud, the newspaper published its first issue on Friday, December 12, 1924, about two months after the king’s ikhwan (brothers) allies took the city from Sharif of Mecca and King of Hejaz Husayn ibn ‘Ali. The paper came to play a significant role in the history of Saudi Arabia, reflecting the kingdom’s economic rise from humble beginnings to one of the world’s richest countries. Between 1925, when ‘Abd al-‘Aziz annexed Hejaz, and 1932, when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded, Umm al-Qurá was almost the only publication in ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s realm. It was not the first in the Hejaz region, where the Ottomans introduced printing machines in 1908 and a few papers were published. The major events that the paper covered, sometimes in special issues, included the unification of Hejaz and Nejd (1926), the establishment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (1932), the discovery of oil (1938), the historic meeting between King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz and President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States (1945), the first Arab-Israeli war (1948), and the death of King ‘Abd al-‘Aziz (1953). The paper initially consisted of four pages and focused on official, religious, and literary affairs, but the number of pages fluctuated over the decades, from two during World War II (as a result of paper shortage) to eight or ten pages at other times. The paper did not follow a particular organization, but the front page was typically reserved for royal decrees and other government business. Local news usually was published in the inside pages. The paper’s masthead contained no mention of the editorial team or of the editor-in-chief. The only exception was Editor-in-chief Yusuf Yasin, whose name first appeared on the third issue on December 26, 1924, but was removed on August 20, 1926. Muhammad Saʻid ‘Abd al-Maqsud was editor-in-chief in 1930‒36 and oversaw a significant modernization of the paper.

Last updated: June 16, 2016