Al Ain | Abu Dhabi; With an impressive array of 60,000 titles, the Al Ain Book Festival goes beyond mere promotion of reading. The festival is driven by themes that resonate with a mission to cultivate a reading generation intricately connected to the heritage and authentic values of Emirati society.
It is a tribute to the trailblazers of culture, knowledge, and arts, a celebration of their legacy that echoes through the festival’s corridors.
Beyond that, it is a platform for empowering the youth, guiding them towards enlightenment and intellectual growth.
And as the festival unfolds, it stands as a testament to the prestigious status of the city of Al Ain. To unravel the intricacies of the Al Ain Book Festival, Gulf News sat down with Ayesha Eid Al Mazrouei, the Director at the helm of Book Fairs & Events Department – Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.
Join us as we delve into the insights she shares, shedding light on the vibrant events and activities that make this literary extravaganza an indispensable part of the cultural landscape.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
To start off, can you please provide our readers with a detailed overview of Al Ain Book Festival 2023, starting with the idea to transform it from an “exhibition” into a “festival”. What is the goal?
Al Ain Book Fair was first established in 2009, until the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre rebranded it as Al Ain Book Festival in 2022, marking its transition from an exhibition of books to a grand event meant to celebrate Al Ain’s rich cultural heritage, as well as the inspiring works of Emirati authors, thinkers, and innovators of the past and present.
The festival offers a diverse programme aimed at promoting a culture of reading and inspiring people to connect with Emirati heritage and culture.
With these objectives in mind, the festival offers a diverse programme aimed at promoting a culture of reading and inspiring people to connect with Emirati heritage and culture.
Activities on the agenda were designed to breathe life into Emirati stories, poetry, art, and music for everyone, and especially the youth. This year’s event gathers 50 exhibitors, presenting over 60,000 distinctive titles. It aims to attract more than 82,000 visitors to enjoy over 400 events and activities across the festival locations.
Can you give us a summary of the most important cultural, heritage, and intellectual events and activities that are planned to be held?
The Cultural Programme for the Al Ain Book Festival offers seminars and discussions that shed light on a wide range of vital topics, most notably sustainability, space science, and the UAE’s remarkable advancements in those fields, alongside subjects related to youth empowerment and child development.
It showcases the contributions made by Emirati women in various sectors, highlighting ways to foster a culture of innovation, and includes sessions to celebrate World Children’s Day.
Under the Children and Youth Programmes, the festival dedicates a significant part of its agenda to exciting activities and programmes for children and youth that contribute to their growth and skill development.
It hosts an Arts Corner featuring artistic and creative workshops presented by a select group of artists and experts in various fields, in addition to musical performances on the stage and travelling shows held throughout the day. Artistic and musical activities are on the agenda under the Musical Programme and the Arts Programme.
Meanwhile, the Lifestyle Programme offers visitors to the Al Ain Book Festival 2023 an opportunity to explore rich and diverse lifestyles that help them cultivate enduring interests, with daily interactive workshops featuring various art forms. The Programme also focuses on promoting positive health practices, encouraging mindfulness, and developing new skills guided by specialised experts.
Also on the agenda is the ‘Poetry Nights: Sung Poems’ event, which celebrates Al Ain’s iconic Nabati poets and their rich legacy of sung poems that have become famous locally and across the Arab world over the past decades.
The festival will also host the award ceremony for the second edition of the Kanz Al Jeel Award, launched by the ALC to honour Nabati poetry pieces, folklore studies, and research by scholars and creators whose works represent the heritage of Nabati poetry and its inherent values.
Al Ain Book Festival’s programme of events is distributed throughout the city. What are the most prominent sites and landmarks that host the festival’s activities?
Al Ain Book Festival 2023 is set to host activities and events across nine key locations around Al Ain city.
Al Ain Square - Hazza bin Zayed Stadium is the festival’s main location and will be hosting a range of educational and entertainment activities, creative writing workshops, book signing events and more, with dedicated areas for children and youth.
There will be art exhibitions and musical performances throughout the day, as well as an art corner offering workshops to nurture artistic talent.
Meanwhile, Bait Mohammed bin Khalifa, a prominent Al Ain landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, will host a series of cultural sessions, as well as the closing ceremony of the Al Ain Book Festival 2023.
These activities will allow visitors to explore the site, which sheds light on the UAE’s social and architectural transition into modernism during the 1950s and 1960s.
Qasr Al Muwaiji will host the ‘Poetry Nights: Sung Poems’ event, which celebrates Al Ain’s iconic Nabati poets and their rich legacy of sung poems that have become famous locally and across the Arab world over the past decades.
Moreover, Al Qattara Arts Centre will be hosting lifestyle sessions organised by the festival, while its gallery proudly exhibits the works of Emirati and resident artists.
AABF events will also be taking place at the Zayed Central Library, which will host the award ceremony for the second edition of the Kanz Al Jeel Award, while United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) will be hosting several sessions from the AABF Cultural Programme.
Lastly, Al Ain Mall, Barari Mall, and Al Foah Mall will host the ‘Khazanat Al Kutub’ initiative as part of the festival agenda.