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Characters from legends and novels welcome visitors to the Al Ain Book Festival 2023 Image Credit: Supplied

Al Ain: Visitors to the 14th Al Ain Book Festival are being welcomed by characters from novels, fantasy tales, and legends, brought to life by the rich cultural and artistic programme the festival offers.

The characters go around the exhibition site, expressing the deeper meanings and themes of the inspiring stories they come from.

As visitors go around the festival’s corridors and halls, they will be accompanied by legends that have inspired generations, and characters that remind young and old alike of an era that is near and dear to their hearts — characters that taught them to discern good and evil, to accept oneself, be good, generous, and work hard. These noble values serve as a link between generations, reflecting the broadening technological gap and the deep-rooted nature of authentic values and principles.

Nekheila — The Leafy Tale weaver

Amid the scent of fresh ink and the rustle of turning pages, stands a captivating figure named Nekheila — the Leafy Tale weaver. Crafted meticulously from dried palm leaves, a profound emblem of the region’s heritage, Nekheila emerges as more than just an artful creation; she is a living chronicle of stories waiting to unfurl. In a universe donned with magic and sparked with wonder, Nekheilaresides. And with every flick of her leafy tendrils, she spins an intricate web of narratives, each tale a vibrant thread in the rich fabric of tradition and imagination. The air is alive with the resonance of ancient sagas and modern fables, merging seamlessly to form a mosaic of cultural diversity.

Nekheila’s stories are not mere words; they are portals to new worlds, beckoning explorers to venture beyond the ordinary. Each story told by her is a journey, where time blurs and boundaries fade. Her narratives intersect, creating a tapestry of emotions, adventures, and wisdom that leaves an indelible mark on the hearts of those who listen.

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In the presence of Nekheila, reality’s ink dissolves into a pool of imagination and wonder, where the past dances with the future, and every leaf carries the echo of a thousand stories. Her world is one of spellbound and captivation, leaving you mesmerised by the Leafy Nekheila’s ability to transcend the ordinary and weave magic with her words. Nekheila stands not just as a symbol of artistry but as a testament to the enduring power of stories, reminding us all that within the delicate palm leaves lies a boundless universe of dreams waiting to be explored.

The Desert Ships

Amid the bustling spaces of the festival, a magical spectacle unfolds: the Desert’s Ships, an enchanting herd of camels wove together by the vibrant threads of traditional Talli artworks adorning the UAE’s rich tapestry of culture. These Desert Ships stand tall and proud, their intricate patterns reminiscent of ancient tales and contemporary adventures. Each camel, adorned with a myriad of colourful threads, becomes a living embodiment of stories, their tassels swaying gently like whispers of secrets waiting to be unveiled.

There’s a pulsating hum surrounding the Desert Ships — calling your name and igniting your senses. You’ll feel the air thrumming with the energy of countless narratives. Each thread hanging from their majestic humps tells a different story, from the fabled deserts of the past to the uncharted galaxies of the future. These threads are not merely strings; they are conduits to other worlds, gateways to imagination that transcend the boundaries of reality.

These ships have carved undiluted portraits within our region’s sands and heart — an evocative tale of beauty etched syllable by syllable. Their luminosity transports you to realms unknown. The threads, interwoven in a mesmerising dance, symbolising the interconnectedness of stories in our lives.

Just as the threads merge and diverge, stories entwine, veer, and re-emerge, creating a vibrant, ever-changing tapestry of human experience. The Desert’s Ships, with their elegant demeanour and threads that echo with the resonance of tales, are not just a sight to behold but an invitation to dive into the boundless sea of imagination. They serve as a reminder that within the heart of every story, there lies a journey, a colourful thread waiting to be discovered, connecting us all in the wondrous caravan of narratives.

Al Laffeeh

Meet the mystical figure known as Al Laffeeh (The Maritime Traveler). Crafted from the intricate mesh of traditional fishing nets, he stands as a testament to the art of storytelling, woven into the very fabric of the region’s heritage. This enigmatic figure is not just a creation; he is a living embodiment of the ancient oral traditions, a custodian of tales passed down through generations. With eyes that sparkle like the sun-kissed sea and a voice as melodious as the wind rustling through palm fronds, AlLaffeeh is an expert in the art of word of mouth storytelling.

Al Laffeeh finds solace in the art of collecting stories. Just as fishermen mend their nets after each voyage, he gathers and repairs the narratives of the past, preserving the essence of folklore and myth. His heart beats to the rhythm of the sea, and his tales echo with the wisdom of generations, each word etching a distinct path across the waters, transporting visitors to distant lands and ancient times. Like the alluring sirens nestled within the belly of the sea, Al Laffeeh lures you through a harmonious tale, weaving a magical tapestry of imagination, where he and his heroes embark on epic journeys, mythical creatures come to life, and the boundaries between reality and fantasy blur. His stories are not mere words; they are vessels that sail through the seas of imagination, carrying eager listeners to uncharted territories of wonder and awe.

In the presence of Al Laffeeh, your surroundings become a sanctuary of oral traditions, a place where the art of storytelling transcends time and technology. His tales remind us of the power of spoken word, of the ancient bond between storyteller and listener, and of the enduring magic found in the simplest of materials — a fishing net woven with stories, dreams, and the timeless essence of the human spirit.

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It takes more than a closer look to find Areeshah for she resides between the ebb and flow of scribed lines, deep within the moral of the story. Inspired by the ingenious architecture of traditional Areesh homes, these wanderers are not just travellers; they are storytellers, bearers of narratives that flutter like wind-tossed sands, spreading tales across vast desert landscapes.

Each Areeshah is a testament to the architectural marvels of the Areesh homes. Their tales are like the latticework on wind towers, each story a breeze that brings solace and comfort — much like the shade these homes provide under the scorching desert sun. With their eyes reflecting the hues of the desert sunset and voices as melodious as the wind’s song, the Areeshers wander tirelessly, carrying stories as precious as the cool desert breeze.

Their narratives are more than mere tales; they are interwoven with the very essence of shelter and sanctuary. The Areeshers understand the art of finding solace, not just in the sturdy walls of homes but in the comforting embrace of stories. Their stories echo the whispered secrets of sand dunes, the ancient wisdom of desert nomads, and the resilient spirit of those who call the arid lands their home.

In the presence of the Areeshers, every moment stretched, morphing into an evergreen celebration of the enduring spirit of storytelling. Their stories become the wind that carries dreams, the foundation upon which our communities are built, and the timeless legacy that echoes through the sands of time. With each story, they invite us to find shelter in the vast, interconnected tapestry of narratives, reminding us that in stories, we discover the true meaning of home.


Deep within the glistening sea of stories, there lies a group of storytellers as unique as the pearls hidden deep within the ocean’s embrace — Danah. Inspired by the age-old tradition of pearl diving in the UAE, their bodies adorned with elements reminiscent of pearl diving equipment, these enchanting beings are masters of the art of storytelling, specialising in tales of the sea.

Each Danah is a masterpiece, their bodies intricately crafted from traditional materials — woven baskets, delicate metal mesh, and glistening pearls that mirror the luminescence of a full moon on calm waters. As they weave their narratives, they draw parallels between the uniqueness of each pearl and the stories they share. Just as no two pearls are alike, each story they tell is a precious gem, distinct in its essence and shimmering with the iridescence of imagination.