Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed presents the Festival Personality Award to Zaki Nussaibah in the presence of Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, and Isobel Abulhoul during the opening ceremony of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature kicked off its 10th anniversary celebrations on Thursday at the Cultural and Scientific Association, Al Mamzar, presenting Zaki Nussaibah, Minister of State, with this year’s Festival Personality Award.

Each year, the Emirates Literature Foundation’s Board of Trustees recognises the major contribution of an individual towards fostering literacy, education and a love of literature in all its forms.

“Celebrating the written word at this festival, my source of happiness comes from the milestones the UAE has achieved in a short amount of time following the steps of Shaikh Zayed [Bin Sultan Al Nahyan] who said that culture, literacy and science are the basis for the development of a nation,” said Nussaibah during the ceremony.

The opening also marked the official launch of the festival’s commemorative 10th anniversary book, ‘For the Love of Words’, welcoming 180 authors from 50 countries who will be participating at this year’s festival.

The anniversary book features 84 inspirational voices — authors, speakers, illustrators and poets — who have been a part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature over the years. The anthology is a collection of articles, poems, short stories and illustrations that celebrate the love of words.

‘For the Love of Words’ will be available at the festival venue in Dubai Festival City and in bookstores across the UAE.

“Today’s celebration not only begins the 10 days of literary enjoyment but also celebrates the UAE and the country’s founding father, Shaikh Zayed, who recognised the importance of literature and the written word in building our community. I cannot think of a better way to pay homage to Shaikh Zayed than by continuing the excellent work of the festival,” said Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Emirates Literature Foundation, the governing body of the festival.

The opening ceremony featured multicultural performers honouring the history of the festival and its home — Dubai — with recitals by authors, shadow dancers, pearl diver aerialists and traditional Emirati seafaring singers, bringing to life the many facets of the festival’s programme.

Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said the line-up for 2018 caters to “all ages, all tastes, book lovers and those who are yet to discover the joy of reading”.

Back by popular demand this year are comedian and children’s author David Walliams, international best-selling authors Anthony Horowitz, Jacqueline Wilson, Alexander McCall Smith, Ebrahim Nasrallah and William Dalrymple, and famed personalities Kate Adie, Jenni Murray and Shashi Tharoor.

Authors debut at festival

Some new additions to the festival’s anniversary edition line-up include several first-time guests to the festival such as Gennaro Pellicia, Costa Coffee’s ‘master of coffee’ whose tongue is insured for £10 million (Dh50.5 million). He is responsible for tasting all the coffee that comes to Costa’s roastery in London.

The festival will also be welcoming first-time speakers Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Spanish author of ‘The Shadow of the Wind’; writer Jane Hawking, whose autobiography ‘Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen’ chronicled her life with renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and was adapted to Academy Award-nominated film, ‘The Theory of Everything’.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, actor, TV broadcaster and children’s author; Muhsin Al Ramli, award-winning Iraqi author of ‘The President’s Gardens’; and famed Syrian writers Khalid Khalifa and Maha Hassan will also be taking part in the festival.

Meanwhile, guests will be able to catch a session with Princess Diana’s biographer, Andrew Morton, recently commissioned to write the story of Meghan Markle, fiancee of Prince Harry; socio-political activist and author Arun Gandhi, talking about his grandfather Mahatma Gandhi; along with Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammad Yunus and Rhianna Pratchett, best known as the video game writer for the ‘Tomb Raider’ reboot.

Poetry programme

This year’s landmark event, however, features some of the biggest names in the world of poetry, taking the stage for a unique performance. ‘For the Love of Words’, presented by the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai Opera, the Ministry of Tolerance and the British Council, with the support of the UK GREAT campaign, aims to explore the possibilities presented by cultural exchange between the two countries.

As part of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration closing celebrations, this evening is a once-in-a-lifetime gathering of the best UK and UAE contemporary poets, including Khalid Al Budoor, Nujoom Nasser Al Ganem, spoken word artist Afra Atiq, UK poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, John Agard, Imtiaz Dharker, Hussain Lootah, Roger McGough, Grace Nichols, Lemn Sissay and World Poetry Slam champion Harry Baker.

Publishing Day

On March 7, the festival will be holding a Publishing Day, which includes a programme of sessions, masterclasses and workshops given by industry experts from around the globe on key aspects of publishing, challenges of publishing children’s books and the evolution of the Arab world’s publishing industry.

Nussaibah’s illustrious career

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2018 Festival Personality Award was presented to Zaki Nussaibah, Minister of State, during the opening ceremony of the festival on Thursday. Born in Jerusalem, Nussaibah settled in Abu Dhabi and began his career in journalism, before joining the UAE Ministry of Information and Tourism where he edited the first English newspaper to be published by the Abu Dhabi Government and participated in establishing its first Arabic newspaper. In 1975, he became the director of the Press Office for Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, then president of the UAE, and subsequently adviser while continuing his role as the President’s personal interpreter. He was actively involved during that period in the preparation of official state visits and in the formulation of government briefs. During his career, he has served on several public and private bodies dealing with the development of cultural and educational strategies in Abu Dhabi. He also served as a Trustee of the Shaikh Zayed Award and the International Prize for Arab Fiction. His achievements and cross-cultural work have seen him decorated in countries around the world; he has been awarded the Officer of the Jordanian Order of Independence (1969), the Commander of the French Order of Arts et Lettres (2008) and the Commander of the Order of British Empire CBE (2013). In 2014, Nussaibah received an honorary PhD in Human Sciences by the University of Jerusalem in recognition of his long and active career.


Event: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2018

Dates: March 1-10

Venue: InterContinental, Dubai Festival City

Tickets: Available online on (tickets.emirateslitfest.com) or via the ELF Dubai app, and at Magrudy’s outlets around the UAE