(L to R) Dania Droubi, COO Emirates Literature Foundation with guests Dr Nadia Khawandah and Chip Rosetti
(L to R) Dania Droubi, COO Emirates Literature Foundation with guests Dr Nadia Khawandah and Chip Rosetti Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Dubai: The 16th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024 officially began on Wednesday a gala night to welcome poets, authors from the UAE, Arab region and from around the world.

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For the public, the Festival will open on Thursday, February 1, and will be held until February 6.

On Wednesday night, the celebration began with three writers - Saud Al Sanousi, Ben Okri and Claudia Rankine - speaking to an audience. This was followed by performances from Amal Al Sahlawi, Hala Alyan and Ammar Ashkar. The 2024 First Chapter Seddiqi Fellows was also announced at the gala celebrations.

8 book launches

ELF Publishing, the publishing arm of Emirates Literature Foundation, is in this year’s edition launching eight titles at the Festival, with a focus on publishing stories about the UAE from a perspective of Emiratis and expats. The mission is to capture the stories of times gone by and preserve the oral history of the region in written form.

Keeping this larger theme in mind, in the poetry genre, ELF Publishing launched ‘The Girl of the Arabs’, a collection of Emirati Nabti poet Ousha Bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi’s work. It is compiled by Dr Rafia Ghubash and translated in English by Dr Nadia Khawandanah.

In adult fiction, ELF Publishing released an English translated book by Chip Rosetti titled ‘Rose’s Diary’ (originally authored by Reem Al Kamali and shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2022).

In the children’s books, ‘Aisha’s Cake’, a sequel to ‘Aisha’s Pearl’ authored by Julia Johnson, was released on the opening night (Wednesday) of the 16th edition of the Festival. The book is illustrated by Maitha Al Khayat.

Ebtisam Al Beiti’s book titled ‘A Dragon Called Blue’, a picture book for children ages three and above and illustrated by Timotius A Gracious was also released at the opening night.

Ebtisam Al Beiti (L) signing her book
Ebtisam Al Beiti (L) signing her book Image Credit: Ahmad Alotbi/Gulf News

Another UAE-centric book titled ‘The Encyclopedia of the UAE’, an informational and interactive guide about the history, geography and culture of the Emirates by Francesca Afleck, also received appreciation on the opening night.

‘Out of this World’

UAE Minister of Youth Dr Sultan Saif Al Neyadi has launched his book on his six-month mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Ahlam Bolooki, Managing Director of ELF Publishing, released the photo journal titled ‘Out Of This World’.

Bolooki said: “When we launched ELF Publishing in 2022, our aim was to discover compelling narratives that are unique to this region that are relevant in the grander scheme of the world and the current times. With the launch of these new books, we iterate our goal to support the local publishing industry and promote the voices of the local writers’ community.”

She added: “By translating Arabic works in English, we are amplifying the reach of our regional talents and creating opportunities for them to turn their writing into financially sustainable careers. We have come a long way in a very short span of time, and I invite all aspiring writers to share their manuscripts for consideration. I am excited to discover new authors and unearth new stories.”

All the books will be launched at the Emirates LitFest with events scheduled from February 3 to 5. The books will be available for purchase exclusively at Magrudys bookstores online and in stores across the UAE.