Emirati Voices: Stories of UAE Authors

Emirati Voices: Stories of UAE Authors

Emirati authors have begun a remarkable journey through the realm of literature, reflecting the cultural and societal nuances of the nation. The history of Emirati literature is deeply rooted in the oral traditions of storytelling, poetry, and folklore that have been passed down through generations. However, it wasn't until the latter half of the 20th century that Emirati literature began to emerge as a distinct literary tradition with its own unique voice and style. This emergence was spurred by a growing sense of national identity and pride following the formation of the UAE in 1971.

Since then, Emirati authors have continued to flourish, producing works that reflect the complexities of modern Emirati society while also drawing inspiration from its rich cultural heritage. This article sheds light on Emirati writers and their contributions to literature. These authors have played a vital role in shaping the literary scene in the UAE. Through their works, they offer valuable perspectives on Emirati culture, traditions, and modern life.

Join us as we explore the diverse voices and storytelling talents of these writers, who have made a lasting impact on Emirati literature.

Maha Gargash

Maha Gargash, a Dubai native, is a versatile storyteller with a rich background in communication and media. With a degree in Radio/Television from George Washington University and a Master's from Goldsmiths College, London, she embarked on a successful career in Dubai's media industry. Over two decades, she produced and presented radio programs, directed documentaries, and explored various cultures worldwide, capturing unique stories along the way.

Maha's novels are known for their deep cultural exploration, careful attention to detail, and profound understanding of human life. Through her storytelling, she takes readers on immersive journeys, offering insights into Emirati society and the common threads of humanity that connect us all.

Literary Works:

  • The Sand Fish: Maha's debut novel, set in 1950s Dubai, reflects her deep understanding of Emirati culture and history. Drawing from her experiences as a film director specializing in documentaries, she skillfully portrays a disappearing way of life amidst the city's rapid transformation.

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  • That Other Me: Her second book explores Khaleeji culture and family dynamics against the backdrop of Dubai and Cairo in the mid-1990s. Delving into themes of betrayal and secrets, the novel showcases Maha's ability to weave intricate narratives that resonate with readers.

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Maha's love for family, nature, travel, and exploration continues to inspire her writing as she works on her third book.

Omar Saif Ghobash

Omar Saif Ghobash is a distinguished diplomat and cultural figure, notable for his contributions to the UAE's international relations and cultural development. With a background in diplomacy and entrepreneurship, Ghobash has held various significant roles, including serving as the UAE Ambassador to Russia and Assistant Minister for Cultural Affairs.

His commitment to fostering cultural exchange and promoting Arabic literature is evident through his philanthropic endeavors, such as sponsoring the Saif Ghobash–Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. Ghobash's diverse career path underscores his dedication to advancing dialogue, understanding, and progress in both, diplomatic and cultural spheres.

Literary Works:

  • Letters to a Young Muslim: Ghobash's acclaimed book offers valuable insights and guidance on identity, faith, and societal challenges faced by young Muslims.

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  • Contribution to Literary Tradition: Ghobash's work is part of a broader literary tradition of mentorship and introspection, echoing the timeless wisdom found in classics like Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet".

Salha Obeid

Salha Obeid is a fiction writer hailing from the United Arab Emirates who is based in Dubai. Her work traces her literary journey back to childhood when newspaper articles and short stories sparked her fascination with storytelling. Overcoming challenges with handwriting, she delved into her father's library, immersing herself in literature from around the world.

Inspired by the complexities of human experience depicted in these tales, Obeid embarked on her literary path, publishing three collections of short stories before venturing into novel writing. Through her work, she explores the psychological dynamics of individuals in the rapidly evolving landscape of the UAE, shedding light on the internal changes amidst external development.

Literary Works:

  • Alzheimer (2010): This story collection explores themes of memory, identity, and loss through a series of poignant narratives. Each story delves into the complexities of human relationships and the impact of memory on our lives, offering readers a profound exploration of the human condition.
  • Postman of Happiness (2012): Building on the themes introduced in her debut collection, Salha Obeid's "Postman of Happiness" delves into the pursuit of joy and fulfillment in everyday life. Through a diverse cast of characters and settings, Obeid crafts a compelling narrative that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit amidst life's challenges.
  • iPad of Life in the Manner of Zorba (2014): In this collection, Salha Obeid offers a contemporary twist on the classic themes of adventure, discovery, and self-realization. Drawing inspiration from the legendary figure of Zorba the Greek, Obeid explores the modern-day quest for meaning and fulfillment in a rapidly changing world.
  • An Implicitly White Lock of Hair (2015): Winner of the Al Owais Award for Creative Writing, this collection showcases Salha Obeid's mastery of the short story form. Through a series of vividly imagined tales, Obeid delves into the complexities of human emotion and experience, weaving together themes of love, loss, and redemption.
  • Maybe It’s a Joke (2018): Salha Obeid's debut novel follows the journey of its protagonist as she navigates the challenges of modern life in the UAE. Blending elements of humor, satire, and social commentary, "Maybe It’s a Joke" offers a nuanced portrayal of contemporary Emirati society and the quest for identity and belonging.

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Shamma Al Bastaki

Shamma Al Bastaki, a young but accomplished poet and artist, serves as the ambassador for the Louvre Abu Dhabi since 2015. She earned the 2019 Admaf Creativity Award for her collection "House to House," which reflects her deep connection to her heritage. Al Bastaki's genuine writing style and captivating poetry performances have gained recognition both at home and abroad, with CNN highlighting her remarkable talents.

Al Bastaki is an active performer on both local and international stages, showcasing her talent on various platforms. Additionally, she contributed her expertise as a member of the curatorial committee for the "Hekayah" program at The Arts Center, NYU Abu Dhabi, for two years. Furthermore, she holds the distinction of being an inaugural member of the Cultural Office Women’s Creative Network initiated by HH Sheikha Manal Bint Monammed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum. Recently, she has joined the team at Qasr Al Hosn – DCT Abu Dhabi.

Literary Works:

  • From House to House (2018): "House to House" is a three-volume poetry collection spanning approximately 144 pages. Shamma Al Bastaki, the author, embarked on a year and a half of interviews and research within various communities surrounding the Dubai Creek to gather material for her work. Beyond collecting stories, Al Bastaki also captured ambient sounds during interviews, such as background noise and everyday sounds. Additionally, she delved into her family's photographic archives, spanning from the 1940s to the 1980s, analyzing and incorporating these images into her poetic collages.

Reem Al Kamali

Reem al-Kamali, an Emirati novelist, writer, and researcher born in 1972, is renowned for her contributions to literature and culture in the UAE. Serving as the editor of the cultural section at Al-Bayan newspaper, she has established herself as a prominent figure in the literary scene. Al-Kamali's passion for history, archaeology, art, and culture shines through her work, reflecting her deep-rooted fascination with these subjects. Additionally, her participation in the IPAF writers’ workshop for talented young writers in 2015 provided her with a platform to hone her skills, particularly in the development of "The Statue of Dalma."

Literary Works:

  • Statue of Dalma (2015): "Statue of Dalma" blends elements of fantasy and fiction with a touch of symbolism and mythology. Through the lens of everyday events, the novel delves into various social issues, offering a glimpse into the hopes and dreams of ordinary individuals awaiting salvation from the protagonist, Norta. As the narrative unfolds, we witness Norta's evolution from a humble, illiterate nobody to an educated priest and sculptor, mirroring his journey from altruism to arrogance. With its intricate storytelling, the novel captures the essence of human complexity and the quest for enlightenment amidst darkness and despair.

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Rose's Diary (2021): In "Rose's Diary", Reem Al Kamali delves into the enigmatic absence of female writers in 1960s UAE, personifying her inquiry through the young protagonist, Rose. Living in Dubai's Shindagha neighborhood, Rose's clandestine notebooks become a refuge for her aspirations and frustrations, capturing the essence of societal upheavals and personal reflections. Alkamali intricately weaves themes of urban development and cultural preservation, offering readers a poignant glimpse into the evolving landscape of Dubai during its nascent stages of growth.

As we come to the end of this article, we're struck by the incredible talent and creativity that fills the literary world of the UAE. Through the diverse stories and unique viewpoints of Emirati authors, we're taken on a journey of self-discovery, cultural exploration, and deep reflection. From established writers to rising stars, each voice contributes to the rich fabric of Emirati literature. They remind us of the bright future ahead, filled with promise and potential. With their dedication and imagination, these authors continue to shape the literary world of the UAE, leaving a lasting impact on readers around the world. As we look forward to what's next, one thing is clear: the stories of Emirati authors will continue to inspire and resonate for years to come.

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