16th Edition of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Attracts 160 Authors from Across the World

16th Edition of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Attracts 160 Authors from Across the World

The 16th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature drew to a triumphant close today after a seven-day extravaganza featuring 160 sessions with more than 160 authors from around the world and the region.

The Opening Gala, on 31 January, was graced with a visit from H.H. Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority. The night featured extraordinary readings featuring three exceptional speakers – poet, novelist, essayist and winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for Fiction Sir Ben Okri; award-winning poet and author of Just Us: An American Conversation, Claudia Rankine; and best-selling Kuwaiti novelist and winner of the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Saud Al Sanousi – reflecting on their own journeys, the state of the world, the promise of tomorrow, and the power of imagination to see us through. The speakers were accompanied by spellbinding performances from Emirati poet and member of Untitled Chapters Amal Al Sahlawi and locally based performer and composer Ammar Ashkar.
H.H. Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum appeared at the Voices of Future Generations 4th book launch ceremony.

Additionally, Sheikha Mozah bint Marwan Al Maktoum launched her book, When She Took To the Sky, at the Festival. There were also popular sessions from His Excellency General Lieutenant Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, His Excellency Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr and Dr. Rafia Ghubash. At the Festival, bestselling Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi announced that he is working on his sixth novel, while BookTok sensation and publishing phenomenon Rebecca Yarros announced that she is working on the 3rd book of her Fourth Wing series.

Day 1 of the Festival featured a session with His Excellency General Lieutenant Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs – Dubai (GDRFAD) which concluded with the announcement that distinguished Egyptian writer, Ahmed Bakheet, has been granted a Golden Visa as part of the GDRFAD's 'Golden for Literary Culture' initiative.

The exciting author line-up included 2023 Booker Prize-winner and author of Prophet Song, Paul Lynch; beloved UAE astronauts His Excellency Dr Sultan bin Saif Al Neyadi and Hazza AlMansoori; and meditation teacher of Hollywood stars, Gelong Thubten. The Festival was held from 31 January to 6 February at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City and featured more than 160 events. Some highlights were Without Hope We Are Lost, a special evening of poetry and performance dedicated to the life and legacy of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; a world-first conversation between Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo and award-winning poet, essayist and playwright Claudia Rankine, and a special closing night ceremony at which the region’s inaugural TikTok Book Awards were announced and festivalgoers were treated to a concert by Emirati musician Abdullah Mohammed Al Shamsi (@nots0human on TikTok).
Attendees were taken to Caravanserai to commune with a line-up of some of the world’s best international and local poets at the Festival’s jewel event – Desert Stanzas – and to the Theatre of Digital Art in Madinat Jumeirah for an evening of stirring stories and phenomenal performances by Leila Aboulela, Mai Al-Nakib, Dana Dajani, Awais Khan and Roger McGough. The Festival also hosted a Youth Day in partnership with the Investment Corporation of Dubai, Dubai Business Associates and flydubai; a collaboration which saw university students from across the region travelling to Dubai on a fully-paid trip including flights, accommodation, and a rich and expansive experience at the Festival and beyond.

This year’s Emirati strand, sponsored by Dubai Culture, ran throughout the programme, celebrating the culture of the country and providing an opportunity for Emirati and international authors to share stages and ideas and having meaningful conversations on a range of topics that appeal to the multicultural audiences of Dubai.

Book launches included Aisha’s Cake, which is a sequel to Aisha’s Pearl and features the adventures of an Emirati girl, Aisha, and her grandfather, authored by Julia Johnson and illustrated by Maitha Al Khayat; A Dragon Called Blue, a picture book for children ages 3 and above, authored by Ebtisam Al-Beiti and illustrated by Timotius A Gracious; The Encyclopedia of the UAE, an informational and interactive guide about the history, geography and culture of the Emirates by Francesca Affleck; the translation of Aisha’s Pearl (authored by Julia Johnson and illustrated by Maitha Al Khayat) and Cleo the Completely Fine Camel (authored by Wendy Meddour and illustrated by Carmen Saldana) in Arabic by Noura Al Khoori.

Also of great interest to children and adults alike was Out Of This World, a photo journal of His Excellency Dr. Sultan Saif AlNeyadi’s six-month mission aboard the International Space Station.

The Festival was bookended by events for schools which brought thousands of school students to the festival site. Pupils attended sessions in English and Arabic featuring the best of children’s authors such as Nahed Al Shawa, Ali Al Zaini, Lisa Thompson, AF Harrold and Phil Earle.

The Festival’s children’s competitions, the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai Letter Writing Competition, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition, Chevron Readers’ Cup, Emirates NBD Poetry for All Competition, Arcadia Book in a Box and the new Al Futtaim Digital Storytelling competition were all well attended.

“Our Festival would not be possible without the support of the Board of Trustees of the Emirates Literature Foundation, and our many sponsors, chiefly our title sponsor, Emirates Airline, and our partner, the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority. We are grateful for the continued participation of the UAE’s educational institutions and the community at large. Our Foundation Friends and the Festival audiences are our core group of supporters who have helped make the Festival the success it is today. We are a small team and rely on the dedication of our volunteers to be able to run a complex and large event and we are deeply thankful for their hard work. And last, but not least, a massive ‘thank you’ to the Foundation team, who work year-round on making the Festival a reality”,

said Ahlam Bolooki, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation, Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Managing Director of ELF Publishing.

“But our journey doesn't end here! We have a whole year filled with exciting events, activities, evenings, and much more in store. I can’t wait to celebrate the love of literature with you, every day and any day.”

The Festival took place at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City from 31 January to 6 February 2024.

News Source: Emirates News Agency

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