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Latifa bint Mohammed attends opening of 15th edition of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Literature plays a fundamental role in showcasing Dubai’s rich heritage and identity

Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (second from right front row) attends the official opening ceremony of the 15th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
Image Credit: DMO

Dubai: Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, Member of the Dubai Council and Vice Chairperson of the Emirates Literature Foundation, attended the official opening ceremony of the 15th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

The opening of the Festival, which was also attended by high-ranking dignitaries and international guests, was marked by the much-anticipated Desert Stanzas event. Featuring live poetry recitals and musical performances, the evening event, held against the backdrop of Dubai’s sweeping sand dunes, reflected on how culture and heritage are shaping our present and future, especially in the context of COP 28, the global climate conference set to be held in the UAE at the end of the year. The event saw Emirati narrators Afra Atiq, Habib Ghuloom, Moza Al Mazroui and Abdullah Jamal Al Hamadi guiding performers through monologues and reflections.

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Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, one of the biggest celebration of stories in the Arab region and one of the top literary festivals in the world is being held in Dubai from February 1-6, 2023.

Dubai's profile

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: “Emirates has been a proud partner of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since its inception. Over the last 15 years, the Festival has fulfilled its mission to bring together people from all over the world to entertain, captivate and inspire audiences and strengthen Dubai’s profile on the global cultural and literary map. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature represents Dubai’s objective of serving as a bridge between cultures and offering a new creative vision for the future.”


Sheikha Latifa said: “Dubai is a multicultural metropolis that constantly seeks to build strong partnerships with regional and global stakeholders in all sectors. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is a key focal point in Dubai’s annual cultural calendar and a unique event that brings together literature enthusiasts from across the region and the world to join the world’s most prominent writers and literary experts as they share their experiences and storytelling prowess. Literature plays a fundamental role in the progress of nations, as well as in showcasing Dubai’s rich heritage, identity and progressive character and promoting greater interest in its culture.”

Desert Stanzas

Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, said: “We are celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and the 10th anniversary of Desert Stanzas, which has become the Festival’s signature event. The desert setting and beautiful performances of poets from across the world made it an unforgettable evening. We would like to thank Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority for their continued support for the Festival.’

Poetry reciting

Guests at the event were treated to a compelling bilingual rendition of Celtic Woman’s song The Voice by ZigZag Ghanim and Sofia Cafoor-Camps. This was followed by the Dubai Youth Choir’s performance of the American singer Pink’s song What About Us. Oral traditional poet Zolani Mkiva, who was President Nelson Mandela’s Poet Laureate and Cultural Advisor, performed God Bless Africa. Award-winning poet Tishani Doshi performed Find the Poets, and old friend of the Festival, Fiona Lindsay, collaborated with The Chorus of theatre group CO/LAB to perform her poem Seen.

Musical performance

Musicians Mariela Shaker and Riyad Nicolas performed a duet Sea Waves, and Sudanese poet and politician Rawda Al Haj performed Identification. Lemn Sissay, who is also the Festival’s first-ever guest curator, performed his poem Invisible Kisses and Zeina Hashem Beck returned to the Desert Stanzas stage with a poem from her collection Prophecy and What the Returning Do. Mookie Katigbak-Lacuesta dazzled audiences with The Field and Art for All Center (FALAJ) performed The Promise of the Seas. The evening closed with Zigzag Ghanim performing a Sufi rendition of the Festival’s theme song Khayr Jalees, accompanied by dervish dancers.

Greg Stobbs captured the evening via live illustration. Lara Zaid Kasem, the former winner of the Foundation’s letter-writing competition, regaled guests with the Qanun as they enjoyed an Emirati feast and lined up to get their books signed. Guests were also able to catch a rare glimpse of a comet that is seen only once in 50,000 years from a telescope set up for the evening by the Foundation’s partners, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre.