The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature last year. Authors attending this year’s festival include John Hemingway, Thalia Suzuma, Rana Nejem, Jeffrey Archer and Nadiya Hussain. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature turns the first page of its ninth edition on Friday welcoming more than 184 authors from around the world to one of the largest celebrations of the written word in the region.

Launched in 2009 to encourage higher levels of literacy, the annual festival offers 250 sessions, from speaking engagements and panel discussions by renowned authors to workshops and master classes.

The March 3-11 festival will also host the first Dubai International Publishing conference on March 5-6 to weigh and examine the present and future day publishing industry around the world.

At the helm of the literati gathering, Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said the stage is set for another resounding festival.

Authors attending this year include John Hemingway, publisher of the bestselling sequel to The Devil Wears Prada; Thalia Suzuma; Jordanian author Rana Nejem; bestselling British author Jeffrey Archer; and baking champion and cookbook writer Nadiya Hussain.

The festival couldn’t be more critical at a time when world leaders remind us how important literacy is not only to the individual but also society as a whole, Abulhoul told Gulf News.

“Journeys is the theme for the 2017 Festival and it lends itself so well to being imaginative and the majority of our sessions will interpret the theme in its many forms: an actual journey, a journey through life, a journey through a book, a journey towards happiness, or fitness, or achieving a dearly held ambition,” said Abulhoul. “The festival, in essence, is a celebration of the written and spoken word, in all its forms. Its mission is to encourage as many people, particularly young ones, to pick up a book and read for pleasure.”

Noting that the UAE government has passed a reading law and declared March the month of reading, Abulhoul said, that in the country, “literacy rates are very high, but what we need is to inculcate a love for reading for pleasure. It’s the greatest gift that we can give and it is the main aim of the festival every year.”

Enjoyment of reading is a first step in the learning process that can last a lifetime.

“For those who haven’t yet discovered the joy of reading, a writer talking about his or her book, about characters or the plot or the subject matter, is often enough to get people interested enough to start reading. The right book at the right time can make a world of difference,” she said. “Reading quickly becomes a habit of a lifetime, and an awareness that books are written by some of the greatest thinkers, creators, scientists, explorers, poets, historians that have ever lived — and because it is written down, readers have access to that shared knowledge. How you choose to read is not important, physical books, ebooks, iPhones tablets, audio books: but to read is the key.”

With 25,000 students attending the festival this year under the theme “Happiness, Tolerance, Diversity and Peace”, lessons learned will be invaluable.

Exposure to high levels of literacy celebrated through events such as the literature festival also have a lasting impact and leave an impression children, she said.

“We understand from surveys carried out post festival that there is a noticeable increase in books being borrowed from school libraries, a raised interest in reading books by authors who have attended, and a higher standard of written works by the students.



Don’t miss it!

The 2017 Festival will be held from March 3-11, 2017, at the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City in partnership with Emirates and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture). For more details and ticket information, go to emirateslitfest.com


Litfest by number

184 authors

33 nationalities

120+ authors attending the Festival for the first time

70 Arab World authors

40 Emirati authors

250 sessions, panels, workshops and masterclasses

50 main programme children’s sessions

5 days of Education Days

40,000 people expected to attend


Source: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature



Dubai Police panel discussion

Dubai International Publishing Conference (begins March 5)

Four creative writing courses

Five-day education programme

Happiness and Tolerance discussions

School Librarian of the Year award

Festival Art exhibition by school students

Cook for Syria charity dinner

Spices on the Silk Road: Supper club session

Murder Mystery Dinner

‘I’ll make a man out of you’ panel

Desert Stanzas