Dubai, this week, played host to the 15th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL), bringing together 270 of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers.
One of the world’s top literary events, the Festival this year offered a veritable treat for lovers of the written word with one of the most diverse line-ups in its history. The week-long Festival, which concluded today, featured a stellar mix of global celebrities, past festival favourites and an exciting line-up of new writers.
Since its inception in 2009, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has grown into a global platform for writers to showcase their talent and a forum for sharing the literary world’s perspectives on subjects ranging from politics to technology. The Festival has grown steadily, with the event’s vast digital reach bringing together over 100,000 lovers of the written word in the last two years alone.
Almost 1,800 authors worldwide have participated in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in the last 15 years.
Leading global literary festival
His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline and Group and Chairman of the Emirates Literature Foundation, said:
“The emergence of the Festival as one of the world’s top literary events reflects the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai a pre-eminent global hub for creativity and a focal point for cultural growth in the Arab world. The Festival, which is a flagship event in Dubai’s cultural calendar, is also integral to the city’s goal to transform itself into a global destination for creative talent. Over the last 15 years, the Festival has enriched the creative landscape in the UAE and the region by bringing together some of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers and intellectuals.”
Apart from fostering a dialogue on the role of the written word in society, the EAFL has also been instrumental in spreading a love of books and writing in the UAE and the region. The Festival is an expression of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s deep belief that reading and knowledge are vital to the progress of nations. In 2013, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid issued a decree to establish the Emirates Literature Foundation to nurture a passion for literature, catalyse cultural exchange and support the four pillars of the writing community: readers, writers, publishers and librarians.
Showcase for global talent
The inaugural edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in 2009 featured a glittering line-up of 65 authors from around the world, including award-winning Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, Emirati poet Nujoom Al-Ghanem and historical fiction novelist Philippa Gregory. Since then, international authors who have graced the prestigious event have included not just critically acclaimed literary giants and pop-fiction heavyweights but also global celebrities, social activists, business leaders and political figures whose books have captured the imagination of readers across the world.
Formidable literary figures who have taken the stage at the Festival include Turkish author Elif Shafak; Lebanese-born French author and journalist Amin Malouf; Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish author Frank McCourt, who made one of his final public appearances at the Festival before his death; and popular writer Jeffery Archer, the only author ever to have been a number one bestseller in fiction, short stories and non-fiction with global sales of 275 million copies in 97 countries and 51 languages.
Other master storytellers who have addressed the Festival include Shashi Tharoor, one of India’s most well-known public intellectuals, writers and politicians; David Walliams, English comedian, actor, writer, and television personality; Thomas Erikson, best-selling author of non-fiction books; and Jeff Kinney, American author and cartoonist, best known for the children's book series Diary of a Wimpy Kid. The 2021 edition of the Festival saw the youngest ever Nobel-prize winner Malala Yousafzai making a passionate plea to increase girls’ access to education.
Fostering a love for literature in the Arab world
Apart from fostering global literary conversations, the Festival has promoted a wider appreciation of Arabic literature, poetry, and Emirati culture. Every year, the event brings together leading UAE writers, speakers and emerging talent in a series of sessions, panels, and workshops. Offered in Arabic and English as part of the ‘Bil Emirati’ theme, sponsored by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, these sessions cover recent developments in the publishing industry, culture and folklore, literature and sustainability, among other topics.
Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, said:
“The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature continues to support the leadership’s objective of fostering a culture of reading in the UAE. Over the last 15 years, the event has created unique opportunities for the local community to engage with literature and connect with writers from around the world. The Festival has also succeeded in creating a platform not only for established Emirati writers to express their creativity but also for promising new literary voices to be recognised. It is a great platform to spotlight Dubai as a cultural destination for international speakers and audiences and has created many opportunities for locally based creatives to showcase their talent in other literary festivals.”
Emirati authors who have participated in the Festival include His Excellency Mohamed Ahmed Al Murr, Chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation, former Speaker of the Federal National Council and author of 10 books and novels; His Excellency Omar Saif Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy; Dr. Rafia Ghobash, the Founder of the Women’s Museum, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAE University from 1992-2000 and author of several books documenting UAE heritage, history and poetry; Maisoon Saqr Al Qasmi, poet, author, and artist; Nujoom Al Ghanim, multi-award-winning poet, artist and filmmaker; Reem Al Kamali, novelist; Dr. Afra Atiq, poet, scholar and artist; Maitha Al Khayat, children’s author and illustrator; Dubai Abulhoul, author, Rhodes Scholar, and founder of the Fiker Institute; and Dr. Reem Al Gurg, writer, professor and scholar specialising in children's literature.
This year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature continued the event’s journey of celebrating enthralling storytelling, with events held at the Intercontinental Festival City and across the Creek at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library. The two venues were connected by an abra service across the water, representing the Festival’s voyage to bridge cultures.
The Festival featured almost 300 sessions offering something for everyone - from live music and poetry performances to workshops, film screenings, and talks by some of the biggest names in literature. The line-up at the 2023 Festival included Brian Cox, Emmy-award winning patriarch of the hit streaming series Succession; renowned writers Mohsin Hamid and Alexander McCall Smith; children’s writers David Walliams, Ben Miller and Oliver Jeffers; Indian journalist Barkha Dutt; internationally renowned writer, professor, and Emmy- and Peabody-nominated producer Reza Aslan; Malaysian journalist and author Marina Mahathir; award-winning Iraqi novelist Inaam Kachachi; notable Saudi poet Jassim Al Saheeh and Emirati author Maisoon Saker Al Qassimi, 2022 winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
News Source: Dubai Media Office