The UAE’s annual literary extravaganza, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has begun with a starry mix of Hollywood celebrities, award-winning authors, and experts leading the field on matters shaping the world. Across the week-long event, the festival will feature almost 300 sessions, ensuring there’s something for everyone, from live music and poetry performances to workshops, film screenings, and of course inspiring talks from some of the biggest names in literature. The Festival takes place at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, and across the creek at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library from 1-6 February 2023.
The exciting line-up includes Brian Cox, EmEmmy-award-winning patriarch of the hit streaming series Succession; master-storytellers Mohsin Hamid, Alexander McCall Smith and Jeffrey Archer; children’s writers David Walliams, Ben Miller and Oliver Jeffers, Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, and renowned writer Reza Aslan, who will be in conversation with HE Omar Saif Ghobash and 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.
270 authors from around the world meet in Dubai for six days of celebration marking 15 sensational years for the Festival
“The scale of the programme is our greatest yet with 270 authors from around the world participating this year, representing more than 50 nations worldwide”, said Ahlam Bolooki, Festival Director. “What remains the same is that the Festival is the place where stories happen, and the range of topics presented over the six days include not just talks and discussions aimed at avid readers but conversations and performances that will engage and enthral those that do not consider themselves book lovers. The Festival has cemented its reputation as a showcase of global names, a launchpad for new authors, and an incubator for world-changing ideas.”
Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing & Brand said: “We’ve been supporting the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since the very beginning, and we’re pleased to have helped grow the event by connecting over 1,200 storytellers, writers and thinkers to the diverse community of book lovers here in the UAE since 2009. As the title sponsor of the Festival, Emirates’ support has helped empower local communities to explore new and unique perspectives and experiences, and we look forward to uniting literature buffs with authors who inspire them and enrich their daily experiences.”
Parent organisation, Emirates Literature Foundation, announces new partnerships with Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and Expo City Dubai
Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts & Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, affirmed the importance of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s role in activating the literary movement locally and globally, saying: “The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has turned into a qualitative cultural event that annually brings together a group of creatives, writers and authors to discuss topics that reflect the uniqueness of the local and global cultural and creative scene, which supports the commitments of Dubai Culture aimed at empowering creatives and supporting all the cultural and creative events taking place in Dubai, as important platforms for showcasing the creativity of talent.
“Over the past years, the Festival has succeeded in creating a suitable environment for Emirati writers, intellectuals and talent, and enabling them to express their creativity through a variety of activities, workshops and sessions.”
The Emirates Literature Foundation has also announced collaborative agreements with Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, the launch of Elf in Space – a fun and educational initiative with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre and the start of a nine-month-long partnership with Expo City Dubai, culminating in November 2023 when it hosts COP 28.
Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation said: “We are dedicating this milestone edition to our old friends and new, our partners, without whom we could have not grown and flourished. None of this would be possible without the support of the Emirates Literature Foundation Chairman His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, our Vice Chair Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, our title sponsor Emirates Airline, our founding partner Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, our venue partners, Intercontinental Dubai Festival City, and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, Expo City, local and international authors, and publishers, our volunteers, and our audiences have all shown that great things can be achieved when we work together towards a common goal – to spread the love of reading.”
For its 2023 edition, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has joined forces with Mohammed Bin Rashid Library to expand its reach across the creek. The iconic building in Al Jaddaf is a regular stop not just for resident readers but also for tourists who enjoy the beautiful architecture, the vast number of titles, including rare first editions by William Shakespeare, the ode to Arabic literature in their outdoor gardens, breathtaking views over the creek and easily accessibility by public transport. The partnership allows the Festival to host a bigger programme of events and accommodate larger audiences, as well as symbolising the bridging of the art, culture, lifestyle and literature community.
“We are pleased with this strategic cultural partnership with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, one of the most prominent platforms for promoting the cultural and literary scene in the UAE, enriching the intellectual, creative and knowledge landscape across the Arab world. Since its inception, MBRL has been keen to cooperate with all government and private entities to cultivate a passion for knowledge and learning among new generations. The Library aims to realise the aspirations of our wise leadership to bridge the knowledge gap in the region, revive the spark of acquiring knowledge within the people, and build societies equipped with science and knowledge,” said Dr Mohammed Salem Al Mazrouei, Board Member of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library Foundation. “We are committed to hosting and supporting intellectual initiatives and activities in all related fields and disciplines, welcoming various events to our dedicated spaces suitable for meetings, workshops, lectures, organising cultural and artistic festivals, hosting local and international film screenings, theatre performances, and music concerts. All these facilities are equipped with the latest technology in accordance with the highest international standards and practices to provide an ideal event experience.”
The UAE is known for pioneering and implementing the latest in technological innovations, accomplishing the impossible time after time. It is this energy to take all the resilience and lessons from the past to propel this country towards the future that drives the Foundation’s partnership with Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre to develop ‘ELF in Space’, a fun, interactive and educational programme which will harness the knowledge and experience as children engage with Astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on his journey in the six months that he will be on board the International Space Station. The dynamic interactions with Sultan and the other astronauts involved in the programme, Nora Al Matrooshi and Hazzaa Al Mansoori, will serve as the stimuli to engage, excite, and educate students across the UAE and the region.
Commenting on the occasion, H.E. Salem AlMarri, Director General, Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, said: “We are pleased that our collaboration with the Emirates Literature Foundation continues to grow and has a proven positive impact on our diverse community. The launch of ‘Emirates Literature Foundation in Space’ is in line with MBRSC’s primary objective of building a new generation of scientists, researchers and talent capable of contributing to the UAE’s rapidly growing space sector. This year the residents of the UAE will see many joint cultural and societal initiatives between the two institutions which we believe will foster a culture of learning by drawing on the capabilities and expertise of the two institutions.”
The 2023 Festival programme boasts a strong ESG category, including talks and discussions by UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, HE Mariam Almheiri; Former CEO of Unilever and co-author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take, Paul Polman; President of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group, Major Ali Al Suwaidi, and environmental journalist, Anna Turns. The Foundation will collaborate with Expo City Dubai on a nine-month-long programme that is centred on the environment, sustainability, reducing gender inequalities and other themes derived from the UN sustainable development goals. The Foundation will curate a series of book clubs and talks with Expo City Dubai, that connects us all to the importance of our individual and collective actions, to preserve our planet for future generations.
Nadia Verjee, Executive Director, Expo Dubai Group, said: “Expo 2020 Dubai brought the world together so that we might learn from each other, and begin to know one another better. At Expo City Dubai we will continue to harness that legacy, ‘Connecting Minds and Creating the Future’ through the active exchange of ideas and perspectives, the sharing of stories and the pursuit of solutions for the great challenges and opportunities of our time, including climate action, gender equality and women’s empowerment.
“The Expo City Dubai Connecting Minds Book Club, in collaboration with Emirates Literature Foundation, is an opportunity for the wider community to join us here at Expo City Dubai, to continue to reflect on, challenge and evolve the way we think about the world. Further, it is one part of an extensive range of programmes and events that will foster intercultural and intergenerational exchange as we prepare to host the world again at COP28, and look to inspire individual and collective climate action, from the UAE to the world.”
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature programme is curated by Festival Director Ahlam Bolooki, Assistant Festival Director Tamreez Inam and their programming team who are joined for the first time ever by a guest curator, Festival Old Friend, Lemn Sissay. The BAFTA-nominated, international prize-winning writer and poet, who has been a part of the Festival in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2021, will return to Dubai with a curation of events on poetry and a topic close to his heart, written works about children in care. The Festival will be marking the 140th anniversary of famous Lebanese American author Gibran Kahlil and the 100th publication anniversary of his magnum opus, The Prophet, with two unique events. The weekend kicks off early with the screening of an animated adaptation of the 1923 book and a live discussion and Q&A with producers Clark Peterson and Haytham Nasr, and director Roger Allers. Fans of Gibran can also be a part of a limited seats dinner and show event with artistic depictions of Gibran’s work and life through song, music and visual performance while enjoying a specially curated menu by Chef George, who hails from Bsharri, Gibran’s birthplace.
There will be a number of book launches at the Festival, including a unique new book by ELF Publishing, Feeding the Soul, which features recipes by the inmates of Dubai’s penal and correctional institutions. The free session will feature a panel discussion with the CEO of the Foundation, Isobel Abulhoul, the Director of the Women’s Prison at Dubai Police, Colonel Jamila Al Zaabi, and cookbook author and social media influencer, Zahra Abdalla, discussing the culinary journey behind the initiative, the process of weaving stories with sustenance, the positive impact the project has had on the inmates and why food feeds our souls as well as our stomachs.
The Festival will continue to cater to the industry and the business of books with a day dedicated to publishing. Aspiring authors in Arabic, English and other languages, can select sessions of their choice from the vast offering on writing, editing, illustrating, translating, and industry secrets, whilst publishers can purchase a Publishing Pass to gain access to all the sessions in this strand.
The Festival also offers day-long, weekend and student passes and a limited-edition all-access Crystal Pass with exclusive entry to the Green Room. Also returning is the Festival Fringe, with a host of fun free events and performances for all the family. The Festival will also host 20 festival directors from around the world, representing international literary festivals, in an extraordinary general meeting of the Global Association of Literary Festivals. The conference will discuss the impact and challenges for festivals and propose collaborations pertinent to the changing industry.
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the flagship event of the Emirates Literature Foundation, held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. The festival is organised in partnership with Emirates Airline and Dubai Culture & Art.