Since its inception in 1980, Al Majalla has firmly established itself as a leading publication in the Arab world. It is renowned for exclusive stories and interviews with the most influential figures in politics, business, economics, and culture from the Arab region and beyond.
The success of Al Majalla comes down to the efforts of an elite group of media professionals and experts. Their thorough investigations, behind-the-scenes access, and insightful reports have propelled the publication to the top of many must-read lists.
Throughout its illustrious history, Al Majalla has seen a roster of esteemed Arab journalists at the helm as editor-in-chief. Along with its cadre of talented journalists and writers, they have steered the magazine towards a position of prominence in the market.
In February 2023, Al Majalla embarked on a new phase in its journey, drawing strength from its rich legacy and the accomplishments of the previous generation.
With some of the best analysts, commentators, authors, investigators, and journalists working alongside esteemed think tanks and policy planners, with input from current and former officials, Al Majalla goes from strength to strength.
The relaunch was aimed at engaging a new audience, particularly the younger generation and social media enthusiasts, while preserving the journalistic traditions that have cemented its status in the Arab media landscape.
Here, we look back at the year that was – and how Al Majalla covered it.
The month of February marked the 44th anniversary of Iran’s 1979 revolution, an event that continues to evoke mixed feelings. For some, these are painful memories. For others, it was a source of inspiration.
This anniversary was no party. Iran imposed strict security measures, coupled with a spate of executions, as officials tackled an unprecedented wave of protests sparked by the tragic death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young Kurdish woman.
The unrest, speculation about Iran’s future, and the reported absence of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei added a complex layer to the country’s socio-political narrative.
In 2022, the leaders of the world’s two superpowers visited Saudi Arabia within five months of each other, a historic moment that would shape the region and the world.
The first to fly in was Joe Biden in July, followed by Xi Jinping in December. Their visits, which included summits with Arab leaders and numerous bilateral meetings, underscored Saudi Arabia’s strategic importance.
For its March edition, Al Majalla explored the Kingdom’s critical role in the evolving dynamics of US-China competition, catering to both Arab and international audiences.
One of recent history’s most abiding memories is the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s famous statue in Firdos Square in central Baghdad by US soldiers on 9 April 2003.
Twenty years later, this felt like the natural cover story for the April 2023 edition of the Al Majalla magazine.
Writers looked back at the American invasion, the fall of the regime, and the aftermath of war, which brought about profound change to both the country and the region, altering the balance of power and creating a new ‘front’ in the US-Iran rivalry.
When Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to resume bilateral relations in a deal facilitated by China this month, it raised eyebrows and took many by surprise.
Yet the agreement between two erstwhile foes undoubtedly represented a significant moment for the region’s dynamics, with potentially far-reaching consequences.
The May edition looked particularly at Yemen, where Riyadh and Tehran back different horses. This felt like the true test of these rivals’ newly professed détente.
With talk of a truce, prisoner exchanges with the Houthis, and even a comprehensive political resolution for Yemen in the offing, it was the obvious choice for a cover story.
After more than ten years in the regional wilderness, alone without an invite, the Arab League’s decision to offer Syria a seat at the table once again was a long time coming.
President Bashar al-Assad’s attendance at the Arab Summit in Jeddah towards the end of May and his meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signalled the return of Damascus after a decade of ostracism.
This was the start of a major process of reintegration and rebuilding of one of the Arab world’s big players. Yet, in many respects, Syria is broken, with millions of Syrians having left. It was only fitting that this be the focus of the June issue.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is fast becoming the ultimate survivor, both physically (having survived a coup attempt) and politically (having survived numerous controversies and inadequacies that would have ended the careers of others).
His continued hold on power after the recent elections, albeit by a slim margin, defied the expectations of the Turkish opposition and various other parties. Party over, his to-do list looks long and arduous, the challenges great.
Turkey matters. It has built its hard (military) power and soft (diplomatic) power, both of which it uses to enhance its regional status. As such, Erdogan’s cling to power and its implications were dissected in the July edition.
Kuwaitis still feel the pain of Saddam Hussein’s invasion 33 years ago this month. Much has changed since then. Indeed, it continues to exert an effect today.
Yet amidst the suffering, a hope was borne of solidarity as neighbouring states rallied to Kuwait’s US-led defence, most notably Saudi Arabia. That has continued.
In commemoration, Al Majalla published secret documents and letters exchanged between Saddam Hussein, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and Iran’s President Hashemi Rafsanjani in the days both before and after the invasion.
These documents revealed that Saddam offered significant concessions to Iran, with whom he had been at war for eight years.
Saudi Arabia is on track with its reform agenda, moving in a clear direction and at a calculated pace. Its programme is not reactive but proactive, anchored in a deep, long-term vision prioritising Saudi national interests.
Discussions about US-Saudi relations fell into this context, including how each party saw the region's future. It felt like a crossroads moment. Like any close relationship tested over time, there are sensitivities and subtleties.
Given the complexity and significance of the talks, they were the cover story for the magazine’s September issue, which delved into the intricacies and implications.
Within days or even hours, 7 October 2023 felt like it could be a turning point in history, not dissimilar to America’s 9/11.
This was a “StopPress!” moment. It came just as we were putting the finishing touches to the October issue, which ironically included a story about the 50th anniversary of the October 1973 war and how Egypt and Syria surprised Israel.
Then, as now, Israel’s famous intelligence failed to predict or be notified of a major attack, leaving the country guarded off-guard. The world’s jaw dropped. The likes of this had never been seen before. Our team only had a few hours to refill the pages.
Despite ongoing wars in Sudan and Ukraine, the Gaza war was the only show in town for the international press, as Israel retaliated with a ground invasion. After several forgotten years, the Palestinian issue was once again centre stage.
There seemed little doubt that war and its outcome would change not only the Palestinian-Israeli conflict but also the Middle East and beyond. So it has proved, with Houthi solidarity attacks having significantly altered world trade.
The November issue afforded more time to take a closer look at the situation in Gaza, consider ‘the day after’ the war finally ends, examine the repercussions of the conflict on the prospects for peace, and analyse possible future directions.
December was when some feared a major regional escalation. The Houthis were attacking Western ships, both military and merchant. Hezbollah were firing into Israel. The Israelis were assassinating key Hamas and Iranian commanders.
In Gaza, there were prisoner exchanges, but these did not lead to a ceasefire, and Israeli strikes continued killing thousands.
Some questioned Iran’s strategy. Did they want a full boil or a gentle simmer? And where did the wider Arab world sit with events? As ever, it was complicated. The edition looked at all this, together with ‘red lines’ and ‘rules of engagement’.
Stepping into 2024 felt like stepping out of a fistfight. Indeed, in 2023, had registered 183 disputes around the world, the highest tally in a generation.
In action were a total of 459 armed factions, from drug cartels to militias and militaries, from Sudan’s Nubian Desert to Gaza’s coastal plains, from the steppe of Donetsk to the Bab-el-Mandeb (Gate of Grief) Strait, so named for the dangers attending its navigation.
Looking ahead, 2024 may not bring stability but change, with 40 elections due in countries collectively home to about half the world’s population.
In response, Al Majalla dedicated January to these pivotal conflicts and votes, which will shape the geopolitical landscape for the next generation.