My success and failure in my professional and private
lives have been correlated with the press and publishing
world since my childhood till the seventh decade of my
age, when I, as well as my brother Mohammed, and our
partner, sold 40% of our shares in the Saudi Research &
Marketing Group and its affiliated companies which we
established as a step towards turning it to a joint stock
My brother Mohammed and I quit our daily jobs. I was the
president of all of the companies of the group and he was
my deputy. These posts demanded ceaseless travel to
seventeen cities in four continents, from some of these
cities our publications are issued, and in all of them the
Arab international newspaper, “Asharq Al- Awsat”, is
We have resigned our adorable daily work which grew
extremely exhausting physically and mentally due to our
age and then to prevailing circumstances; and we ended up
as members in the board of directors in the company.
My beginning was in 1939 in Al Madina Al- Munawara when I
became eight years of age. The setting of my nascent
career was the shop which belonged to my father and uncle
with two desks occupying its front. It had a door which
led to the print shop. You could see a few bamboo chairs
in the ten square meter office. Its shelves carried books,
of which some were printed, others were works of
handwritings. An iron case stood there. It had two keys:
one for my father, another for my uncle. The wall was
decorated with frames of Quranic inscriptions which were
gifts presented to my father and uncle by the
calligraphers of Al Madina Al-Munawara on the inauguration
of our newspaper. Next to that shop was another with
similar space linked to the print shop which took the form
of a long triangle. The two shops and the warehouse formed
the setting in which the newspaper Al Madina Al-Munawara
was produced and printed. There, I had a small corner in
which there was a wooden table with a shelf underneath. I
used the table to make tea, while the shelf carried my
school books which I brought there to study or to read. My
task was to serve tea and drinks to the guests of my
father and uncle.
Their office was the culture and information centre in
Al-Madina Al-Munawara. Thinkers, men of letters and
politicians visited it. They were from all over the Arab
world and had come to visit the prophet Mohammad’s mosque,
peace be upon him. I remember that I served tea and cold
water to Taha Hussein, Abbass Mahmoud Al-Aqqad, Hassan El
Banna, Mohammed Hassanin Haiykal Basha, Shukri Al Qwatli,
Al-Habib Bo Rqaiba and many others.
Two years later, I became a worker in the print shop. As
years passed by, my knowledge of the press and printing
professions accumulated, and my experience expanded in the
world of publication, distribution, and advertising in
daily and weekly press.
The promulgation of press institutions act in Saudi Arabia
annihilated our ambitions. In accordance of the said act,
journalism and journalists were dominated by the officials
of Saudi ministry of information.
Before the act we owned and ran a first-class daily
newspaper. Subsequent to it, and overnight, we found
ourselves either outside the institution as what happened
to me and my father Mr. Ali Hafiz- May he rest in peace -
or inside it as members and employees who acted at the
beck and call of officials to the Saudi Ministry of
Information, as the case with my brother Mohammed and
uncle Othman Hafiz- May he rest in peace. The government
took it from us and gave it to other people without paying
us in return.
The act was promulgated to suppress me. I take
responsibility for turning Saudi press from one vying for
freedom to one that yielded and found a resting place in
the lap of authority represented by the Ministry of
Information. It finally became “The single – readership”
(authority) journalism, to quote Mustafa Ameen’s phrase -
May he rest in peace - describing journalism in the Arab
world. It was not me who dropped it in the bed of
authority or on the swings of ministry of information. In
fact, my brother Mohammed and I initiated in 1961 a new
untraditional daily newspaper and acted bravely and
spontaneously. We have never been a party concerned with
interests to protect. Accordingly, we engaged in many
battles in press, the most serious of which took place
when I commented (in the daily column “ Good Morning”
which I used to write alternately with my brother Mohamed)
on king Faisal’s -May he rest in peace - act of appointing
prince Mash’al Ibn Abdel Aziz as the governor of The
Region of Mecca. I protested against this appointment and
demanded that Mecca’s people, who have a better knowledge
of Mecca’s affairs, should choose their own governor.
Mecca’s people did not choose Prince Misha’l as their
That article was the straw that broke the camel’s back as
the famous Arabic expression goes. A calamity followed
another and journalism lived in the shadow of ministry of
information. Our dreams of a Modern and advanced
journalism, which was made a reality by hard work and
perseverance, became a nightmare that haunted our parents
to their graves, may they rest in peace.
That short period was more like a sweet summer night’s
dream. This was eventually shrouded by the nightmare of
press institutions act. I returned against my will to the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to avoid jail, because I had
to choose between them and I chose to go to Geneva.
I spent seven hard years in Geneva as a member of the
Saudi delegation to the European headquarters of UN.
There, I was a first secretary black listed by authority.
I remained unable to go back and work in my country till I
met Sheik Kamal Adham – May he rest in peace-, who came to
Geneva as the envoy of King Faisal to negotiate with
Kahtan Al Sha’bi, leader of the national front in South
Yemen and its coming president, who headed the delegate
that negotiated with the British the questions of South
Yemen independence and ending the armed resistance. Sheik
Kamal Adham’s mission was to negotiate with Al Sha’bi the
role of the political parties affiliated to the kingdom
The Saudi ambassador in Geneva or the head of the delegate
to UN was not able to make a contact or appointment with
Kahtan Al Sha’bi. I accidentally came to know this piece
of information when I was introduced to Kamal Adham: “Do
want to meet Kahtan and the delegations”? I asked. “Of
course. That’s what I am here for”, he answered. Faisal Al
Sha’bi, Kahtan’s cousin who became minister of foreign
affairs and was assassinated later, was a friend and a
colleague of mine in the faculty of commerce and political
science in Cairo. Our friendship continued and we met
constantly when he came to Geneva.
Kamal Adham was staying in the same hotel where the
delegation stayed. The conversation between me and him
took place in the hotel’s lobby in the presence of the
ambassador. I called Faisal Al Sha’bi’s room from the
telephone inside the hotel and informed him of Kamal
Adham’s wish. He asked me to wait ten minutes so that he
could call Kahtan. Faisal called me afterwards and the
appointment was arranged to be the next day. Kamal Adham
asked me to attend the meeting and ignored the ambassador.
The meeting lasted from 9:30 p.m. to 1:00 a.m. Subsequent
to the meeting Adham offered me a job with him in external
communication office. I never hesitated and accepted his
offer without discussing any details urged by a yearning
to return from exile to my country, for I was a lost
wanderer in Geneva away from my ambitions.
My return and settlement in Jeddah marked the end of Al
Madina Al Munawara newspaper phase with all of its
disadvantages and new phases began.
The first phase was setting up “The Saudi Research and
Marketing Company”: a joint liability company with a
fifty-fifty share between me and my brother Mohammed. It
aimed, as stated in the articles of incorporation – dated
15-2-1392 H, i.e. 32 years ago – providing research and
marketing services -and everything related to them- by
legal and regular ways to state apparatuses, businessmen,
companies and establishments in the kingdom and abroad
with a capital of ten thousand Saudi Riyals.
I went with my brother Mohammed to the bank and opened a
company account and deposited in it all the money we had
in our pockets, which was not more than seven hundred
By the expression “everything related to them” in the
company’s objectives statement we tried to re-enter
journalism from its “window” after we had been expelled
from its door. We supervised the publication of (Nida’ Al
Janoub) and made the (Zero) issue of a newspaper we called
“Al Wasat” with the slogan “And so we have made you a
moderate nation of you”. But the newspaper never saw the
light because of press institutions act.
The second phase really placed us back in journalism
through its “window”. This phase was shaped by obtaining a
license to publish “Arab News” newspaper with the help of
Sheik Kamal Adham and prince Turki Al Faisal, and
increasing the company’s capital from ten thousand Riyals
to a million and two hundred thousand Riyals. Sheik Kamal
Adham and prince Turki Al Faisal became partners. The four
partners had equal shares.
In the light of this new step “Arab News” was issued as
the first daily newspaper in English in the Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia. The company acquired “Central Press Photos”
in “Fleet street”: the press street in London. We also
occupied the building previously used by the oldest agency
of photojournalism in the world. As a corollary, we
established one of our bases in the most famous press
street in the globe. The agency was on the verge of
bankruptcy so we paid 50 thousand pounds to buy it.
From there, we began issuing “Ashark Al Awsat” newspaper.
The idea came to my mind during a summer vacation in
Madrid. In less than two years of that conception the
newspaper saw the light. Its instant success stimulated us
to pursue our unlimited ambitions.
The third phase was when prince Salman Ibn Abdel Aziz
became a partner after each one of us (The four partners)
sold him 5% of our share. Accordingly, we became five
partners with equal shares.
After increasing the company’s capital to five million
Riyals, prince Salman bought the shares of Sheik Kamal and
prince Turki which gave him the ownership of 60% of the
company leaving the remaining 40% to me and my brother
Coming back to journalism through its “window” turned the
Saudi Research and Marketing Company, which aimed at
providing research and marketing services and everything
related to them, into the largest press foundation in the
Arab world with a wide publishing base that produces a
group of daily newspapers, weekly and monthly magazines,
each one of them is the first of its kind in its field.
The Foundation is supported by its powerful distribution
arm, that is, “The Saudi distribution company”. It also
has a production and printing arm, namely, “Al Madina Al-
Munawara printing co.” Which is the oldest printing
company in the Kingdom, est. 1930, and last but not least,
the strong advertising arm: “Gulf Advertising Company”.
Ceaseless work and years of traveling between Jeddah and
London paid off seven daily newspapers, a weekly newspaper
and ten magazines.
The Fourth phase was incorporating the group company which
owned the companies. The companies’ assets were
reappraised. Thus, the capital of this group of companies,
which are represented by the owner company (The Saudi
Research and Marketing Group), increased to six hundred
million Riyals. The new company became owner of:
- The Saudi Research and Publishing Company
- Al Madina Printing and Publishing Company
- The Saudi Distribution Company
- The Gulf Advertising Company
- Al A’foq for Information Technology
- The Saudi Public Relations co.
Add to the above a number of sister and affiliated
companies owned by the companies of the group in England,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf and Morocco.
The Saudi Research Group became one of the elite companies
in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. For years it has been
rated as one of the biggest one hundred companies in the
This has been an indispensable clarification that is meant
to be attached to my biography which tells a story of a
life that rotated around journalism and publishing and
everything related to them.
Hisham Ali Hafiz