Dubai: In recognition of the decades of service to the cause of books and literature, Isobel Abulhoul, Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, was conferred the prestigious 21st Al Owais Award this week.

The bi-annual award recognises Arab writers and intellectuals for literary works and criticism that reflect Arab thought. Abulhoul was honoured for her service to Arab culture through her work with Magrudy’s, the bookshop chain she co-founded in 1975, and with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which recently won the Best Festival Award for the second time at the Middle East Event Awards.

Abulhoul, who first came to Dubai in 1968, published several children’s books in Arabic and English and, with the support of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Foundation, initiated Bustan Al Qusas, a new reading and teaching programme which helped teachers write and use their own stories as teaching aids. She founded the EAFL in 2008. Since then, the literary festival has evolved into the largest celebration of the written and spoken word in the UAE bringing international literary figures in direct dialogue with literature lovers here.