From left: Senior Emirates airline official Shaikh Majid Al Mualla, Ahlam Al Bolooki, Saeed Al Naboodah, acting director-general of Dubai Culture and Salem Al Merri, senior MBRSC official, discuss details of the literature festival at a press conference in Dubai. Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Dubai: Get ready to be swayed by the power of words as more than 170 authors converge in Dubai for the 11th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, which begins on March 1.

The nine-day festival that celebrates the written and spoken word in various forms, offers a wide variety of experiences this year for people of age groups.

Being held under the theme of ‘United by words’, the festival promises a rich schedule of programmes offering something for everyone, with subjects covering all genres of fiction, a huge breadth of non-fiction topics, as well as children’s, family and youth sessions and more, brought to life by some of the world’s best known authors.

“We have a wide range of free and paid programmes catering to people of various interests, throughout the week as well as over the two weekends. We will have a Quick Side majlis which will have free programmes throughout and a special tribute session on prominent Emirati poet Ousha Bint Khalifa who passed away last year,” said Ahlam Al Bolooki, festival director, speaking to Gulf News.

Roudha Al Merri Image Credit: Atiq Ur Rehman/Gulf News

Some of the best names headlining the event include inspirational author of the Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner, whose real-life rags to riches story was portrayed by Will Smith in the eponymous hit film, who will be appearing on Youth Day along with one of the most influential media celebrities in the Arab world, Ahmad Al Shugairi.

Also on the festival programme are world-renowned ballerina and ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ judge Darcey Bussell; Jane Hawking, whose best-selling memoir of her marriage with genius Stephen Hawking was turned into the film, Travelling to Infinity; IPAF winner Saud Al Sanousi; Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney; novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, who defined Generation X; master of crime fiction Ian Rankin, and many more.

Emirati authors

An ever-growing line up of Emirati authors and celebrities will be part of the festival including Roudha Al Merri, Khaled Al Jaber, Ibrahim Al Marzouqi, Afra Atiq, Hessa Al Muhairi and many others

Speaking to Gulf News, Al Merri, who co-authored ‘UAE – Discovery 101’, said the festival is a great platform for local authors and aspiring writers to learn the trade.

“I have been to the literature festival before as a member of the audience but I never imagine that I will be one of the authors speaking the festival,” said Al Merri, who will address two sessions at the festival.

Al Merri’s book takes us through the little quirks of Emirati lifestyle and answers questions for those expats who might be wondering ‘why Emiratis do things the way they do?’

“The book gives insight into 101 things that we do in a funny way, ranging from why Emiratis wear so much perfume to what they do on Fridays. It really helps curious expats to know about Emirati life,” added Al Merri, who is currently working on a book that busts myths about Emiratis and the UAE.

What’s new this year?

Youth Day

A dedicated ‘Youth Day’ for visitors over 16 will feature motivational stories and speakers, which aim to help young people reach their personal best.

Beyond Tolerance

This programme takes the idea of a tolerant society as a starting point for discussions of the kind of world we want to live in. Sessions will explore various sub-themes covered by James Owens, Lucy Siegle, Shereen Abouelnaga, Shahad Al Rawi and Jabbour Douaihy.

Recording booth

A recording booth at the festival with audiobooks firm Storytel will record words of tolerance from festival visitors, enabling them to actively engage with the theme. The best contributions will be included in a LitFest audio file, which will be available to be downloaded from Storytel for free.


An installation from the Dubai Audio Library and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), in collaboration with the website will for the first time show the process of how books are turned into audio. The Dubai Audio Library targets seven million visually impaired people in the Arab world through this project.

Five Golden Tickets up for grabs

Visitors aged 18 and above can participate in a treasure hunt till February 24 to obtain Gold Tickets to the literature festival. One Golden Ticket can be found at the end of the treasure hunt through Dubai Festival City, with the first clue available at Winners will be notified before February 27. A Golden Ticket offers full access to festival events.

Another Golden Ticket can be won through participation in Dubai Eye radio programme. The remaining three Golden Tickets can be bought on the festival’s website for a Dh20,000 each.

Golden Ticket Benefits

■ Complete access to the full festival, all sessions including special events (these will need to be pre-booked)

■ Priority seating and priority access at book signings.

■ Join authors on a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa

■ Exclusive invitation to the authors-only end-of-festival dinner

■ Exclusive Montegrappa rose gold-plated pen with an 18K gold nib worth $1,000.

■ Golden Ticket holders and one companion will get free access to all the Dubai Museums throughout March.

Race to space

Emirati astronauts Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, who trumped 4,000 other applicants for their chance to travel to space, will make their first public appearance together on the first day of the 11th Emirates Airline Literature Festival.

The young astronauts, who have been undergoing extensive training since their selection in September last year, will speak at an open session at 4pm on March 1, which will also see the unveiling of Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre’s book titled ‘Race To Space.’ The book narrates the story of MBRSC’s journey in the last 13 years.

The Emirati astronauts will sign copies of ‘Race To Space’ following their interaction with the public.