Shaikh Ahmad, Abdullah Al Shair (left) and Mohammad Ahmad Al Murr (right), FNC speaker, during the opening of the centre at Al Shindagha on Monday. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: A new writers’ centre was officially opened on Monday at Al Shindagha Historical Neighbourhood in an effort to encourage the literature movement in the UAE and make it an international hub for writers,

The Dubai International Writer’s Centre (DIWC), under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and set up as part of the Emirates Literature Foundation, is said to be the first of its kind in the region to fully support and encourage the written and spoken word in all its forms

As part of the centre’s plan, they will have a year-round programme of events in English, Arabic and other languages open to residents and visitors. The events to be organised will range from courses by acclaimed authors living in the UAE or abroad, international conferences, intimate poetry readings, and discussions on literature, including the hosting of reading and writing groups.

This was announced during the grand opening which was attended by Shaikh Ahmad Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of Dubai Civil Aviation and Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline and Group, a number of international and local authors, and visitors.

Speaking about the new centre in more detail, Abdullah Al Shaer, director of DIWC, said the aim of the centre is to be a platform for all talents “where ideas can be exchanged, skills can be shared, and new techniques can be learnt”.

“We want this place to encourage and foster a love for words, be it written, spoken, or read. Our mission is to establish the centre as a multicultural and multinational base. Our heritage embraces the importance of words and this will, hopefully, be a step that will unleash the hidden talents within this city,” Al Shaer said.

Author Ben Okri, a Nigerian poet and novelist known for the Booker Prize-winning The Famished Road, spoke at the opening about the power and impact of literature and the great opportunity that passionate, locally-based writers are being offered through the centre.

“The opening of this centre is something to be celebrated in the world. May this centre help transform the literature of this land and the world, and may young men and women find their voices here. Writers of the Arab world have been vigorous and courageous; it’s an old tradition… Writers now are given a space to bloom, so may that bloom become a forest of books, poems, and plays,” he said.

Among the other speakers was Abdul Bari Atwan, founder and Editor-in-chief of an independent electronic newspaper Today’s Opinion, who spoke about the challenges Arab writers face in the Middle East, especially after the turmoil that hit some countries, and he hoped the centre would serve as a window for the free word and promote the values of fairness and justice.

The upcoming events following the inauguration will include workshops in calligraphy, creative writing, Shakespeare’s poetry and public speaking.