Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Written by Silvana Fitzpatrick

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is marking its 15th annual edition this month in Dubai with an impressive line-up of authors, readers, new talents, and visitors from across the world in a celebration of the world of books. Every year, the festival brings people together from all corners of the globe, united under the same cultural flag. These artists captivate and inspire us with their literary works, different perspectives, and fresh ideas, building bridges across cultures and bringing books into the spotlight in the UAE.

The festival was launched in 2009 with 65 authors in attendance - 15 years later it hosts more than 250 international artists and writers, and thousands of visitors, spreading its value and awareness across the globe. The LitFest has won many awards including Best Festival in the Middle East three times consecutively.

This year, the event takes place from the 1st to the 6th of February at the recently opened Mohammed Bin Rashid Library and the Intercontinental Hotel in Dubai Festival City, where the sessions will be split across the two venues for the entire six days.

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Celebrating The Written Word

The festival promotes the joys of reading and serves as a platform for a wider appreciation of Arabic literature, poetry, and Emirati culture. Celebrating the written and spoken word, the festival is the region’s largest and one of the world’s leading international literary events. Throughout the years, it has attracted much recognition for promoting cultural awareness and deepening our love and understanding of other cultures. Thousands gather at the annual event to engage with their favourite authors, and attend literary workshops to uncover secrets behind the art of writing.

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has at its core a simple goal – to bring the best of the literary world to the UAE while promoting the culture of reading and extending its educational footprint.

This Year’s Lineup

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The festival will see numerous sessions running daily until Monday the 6th of February, and several authors will be in attendance along with local talent taking centre stage. Celebrating arts, creativity, and literature, authors impressed guests with a wide range of talks and topics, discussing everything from the art of the written word, to love in the age of a technology revolution, social issues, and spirituality.

This year, the festival’s theme is symbolically named “Old Friends “, reflecting its own story by welcoming several familiar guests from previous editions, as well as newcomers, to reminisce together and look forward to what the future holds for storytelling.

An impressive lineup of renowned novelists and actors gathered at the two venues in Dubai, and amongst them, we counted Emmy-award-winning Brian Cox from the series “Succession”, prolific writer Alexander McCall Smith, Jeffrey Archer, 2022 International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree, Cecelia Ahern, Katherine Webber, and many more.

Bahraini poet Qasim Haddad and Emirati poet Maisoon Saker Al-Qassimi, winner of last year’s Sheikh Zayed Book Award were also in attendance, delving into their successful writing careers.

International bestseller Mohsin Hamid will also take to the stage at Intercontinental Dubai Festival City to present his new novel, The Last White Man, a captivating tale of love, loss, and rediscovery. Meanwhile authors Bolu Babalola, Cecelia Ahern, and Katherine Webber will discuss a topic we just can't seem to get enough of – love across ages and cultures.

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Desert Stanzas, the festival’s signature event took place on the evening of Wednesday 1st of February in a Desert Camp where guests were transported to a magical performance amongst the stars and desert dunes, narrated by Dr. Afra Atiq and performed by poets from around the world. Narrative dialogue on past cultures and ancestral wisdom was the theme of the night in the unique event, which officially opened the 15th edition of the festival.

Another highlight at the festival will be Kahlil Gibran’s 140th birth anniversary and the 100th anniversary of his famous publication The Prophet, one of the most celebrated and translated books of all times. The magical gathering on Saturday 4th of February is an homage to the fascinating life and artistic legacy that Kahlil Gibran left behind.

To mark the occasion the venue will host a Lebanese dinner in honour of Gibran’s birthplace, as well as performances and art pieces showcasing the artist’s life and his hand-written texts. Artist Hani Yakan will provide the voice of Gibran himself.

Geetanjali Shree was another special participant at the festival and her book “Tomb of Sand” became the first Hindi novel to win International Booker Prize in 2022. Also attending were bestselling crime author Jeffrey Archer who took to the stage to discuss his latest work – Next in Line, as well as Rhianna Pratchett, renowned journalist and video game writer, and daughter of late fantasy author Terry Pratchett.

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Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai champions culture and reading as a fundamental right and a life-changing habit through which we can all cultivate a better understanding of each other and the ever-changing world around us. It helps us embrace our differences and rejoice in our similarities. The festival makes a real difference in the world promoting a sustainable literary system in the UAE and across the Middle East.