By Arab News
By Hussein Shobokshi
It is still vivid in my memory.
It was a dreary evening seven years ago in New Zealand’s Auckland in the other extreme of the earth. I had just arrived in the hotel room fatigued with jet lag. I switched on the BBC news channel to see what was happening on the other side of the world. But, all my weariness left me and my spirits were lifted when I saw on the screen the face of the iconic veteran of Saudi media Khaled Almaeena. He was speaking on terror attacks in the Kingdom. Instantly I sent an SMS to him thanking him for the way he presented his views.
Today Almaeena is leaving his office as the editor in chief of Arab News after a lengthy distinguished career. It is an undeniable fact that Almaeena molded the English daily in such a way that it became an effective Saudi platform to debate and analyze local and international issues. He never shied away from discussing any intellectual, political, social or economic issues, however controversial. As the top English newspaper in the Arab world, Arab News reports are viewed as reliable sources by news agencies and websites around the world.
Almaeena also had a notable presence in Saudi diplomatic delegations. Both his home and office have been a meeting point of leading Western and Eastern media personalities.
I don’t know whether Almaeena would write his memoirs. If at all he decides to write one, I would suggest the title “Beautiful Dancer.” I am sure he would be covering the most important and crucial phases in the history of Saudi journalism which include periods such as the battle for the liberation of Kuwait. Almaeena used to be favorite among the reporters, both foreign and local, on the front line of the battle in those days.
I used to be present with him on many occasions and discussions, especially with world-renowned journalists such as Thomas Friedman of New York Times, Scott MacLeod of the Times Magazine and Zain Verjee of CNN. I remember one interview in his office with CNN’s Reem Brahimi, daughter of Algerian diplomat Lakhdar Brahimi. Reem was later married to Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan.
A distinctive feature of Almaeena’s columns in Arab News was its balanced views. He may be discussing domestic or social issues, but they were always rich with details. He used to present humanitarian and workers’ issues in a pre-emptive manner before any Western media could distort facts and misuse the events. The newspaper has also been a forum to bring up Saudi talents in various fields.
I have participated with him in a number of international seminars and conferences and have witnessed how Almaeena in his Oxonian accent and style presents a radiant and vibrant image of Saudi media to the outside world.
He is a voracious reader. He has been admired alike by British, Australian, South African and Indian journalists, especially those working in the Gulf region.
Almaeena is leaving his position in the Arab News after a long career in which he made many notable achievements apart from making Arab News the most important daily newspaper in English in the Arab world. This applies to the print edition as well as the online edition. He will continue writing as a columnist in Arab News and its sister business publication, Al-Eqtisadiah.
On behalf of the wide spectrum of readers who are addicted to Almaeena’s unique and delightful columns along with their morning coffee I thank him and wish him more and more success in his career.
— Hussein Shobokshi is a Saudi writer based in Jeddah. He can be contacted at: [email protected]