Abu Dhabi: The first edition of the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi, to be organised by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance from February 25 to 28, will feature a range of award-winning writers, journalists, historians, filmmakers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days.

The festival spotlights the latest ideas in the arts, sciences and current affairs, with over 20 nationalities and seven languages represented.

Shaikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, said, “We are confident that the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important celebration of the values of human fraternity that have enabled the success we enjoy in our country today. It will also contribute to the growing status of the UAE as a flourishing cultural hub and an important global centre for cultural exchange.”

Peter Florence, Hay Festival Director, said, “I believe this is the most exciting time in living memory for contemporary Arabic literature and the festival will be a showcase for great writing from across the Arab world, a platform for inspiring voices from many languages, and a meeting place where the world of tomorrow might be shaped.”

Cristina Fuentes La Roche, Hay Festival International Director, said, “As we invite some of the best writers and thinkers from the Arab world and further afield to share ideas and stories, we welcome audiences young and old to join the conversation. Our late-night line-up of performances will also ensure that the first-ever Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an unforgettable party.”

Hay Festival aims to establish a long-term presence in the Arabic-speaking world from its newest platform in Abu Dhabi, building on the success of its three editions in Beirut (2009-2012).

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Jokha Al Harthi Image Credit: Supplied

Who’s attending?

Award-winning writers from around the world will take to the festival stages to discuss the power of fiction, including Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner, Wole Soyinka; Egyptian novelist, Ahdaf Soueif; Filipino writer, Miguel Syjuco; Pakistan’s Fatima Bhutto; Hoda Barakat from Lebanon; and two 2019 Booker Prize winners: Jokha Alharthi from Oman, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and British writer, Bernardine Evaristo.

The festival’s #Beirut39 selection of the best writers of Arab heritage under 40, published in 2009, is represented by novelists, Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), Najwa Bin Shatwan (Libya) Youssef Rakha (Egypt) and Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia). Meanwhile, eminent Emirati short story writer, Mohammed Al-Murr, will discuss a lifetime adventuring in the world’s literary cultures and libraries.

Arabic literature past and future will be a subject of conversation, with Ahmed El Shamsy speaking about how print culture transformed Islamic intellectual tradition, and panel discussions.

Celebrated Syrian poet, Adonis, will participate in a celebration of his 90th birthday, along with fellow poets, Volker Braun, Zuleikha Aburisha, Pierre Joris, Serge Pey and Yang Lian. Other poets reading their work include India’s Tishani Doshi, Bahrain’s Qassim Haddad and Inua Ellams from the United Kingdom.

Also in conversation will be Bulgarian-British writer, Kapka Kassabova, who will be part of Hay Festival’s #Europa28 celebration in June. Three winners of the Nobel Prize will be sharing their insights in conversations during the festival, including Iran’s Shirin Ebadi, Tunisia’s Ahmed Galai, and Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka.

Historians such as Bettany Hughes will discuss the rebuilding of Syrian heritage, Peter Frankopan will talk about new silk roads, Jung Chang will tell a tale of life and power in 20th Century China, Shashi Tharoor will discuss his Hindu identity and William Dalrymple will talk about the British in India.

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Wole Soyinka Image Credit: Supplied

French physicist, Christophe Galfard, will discuss space, time and beyond and Palestinian medical doctor, Izzeldin Abulaish, will address the link between health and peace, while Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, Marcus du Sautoy, will talk about geometry and number mysteries.

Discussing global responses to the climate emergency will be Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, while award-winning garden designer, Kamelia Zaal, will share her knowledge about regional plant life in the creation of some of the UAE’s most celebrated gardens.

Filmmakers from the region will also reflect on current social and political situations in the Arab world in a series of screenings curated by Sheyma Buali, Director of BBC News Arabic.

A vibrant programme for families includes children’s authors, Andy Stanton, Noura Al Khoori, Ed Vere, Maitha Al Khayat, Jenny Valentine, Philip Ardagh, Onjali Q Rauf and Michelle Paver, while teenage Emirati author, Dana Alblooshi, will introduce audiences to 13 amazing women of Arabia.