Emirates Airline Festival of Literature author reveal at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Emirates Airline Festival of Literature's author reveal for 2022 edition was held at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Ever wanted to meet the writers who are scripting your favourite shows on streaming platforms, TV channels and movies? 

The 2022 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai will bring the authors of hit shows and movies to town to take audiences behind the screen and into the heart of some of the most compelling stories of recent times.

Authors of Netflix sensations Bridgerton, Julia Quinn; and Chernobyl 1986, Serhii Plokhy; silver screen smash hit House of Gucci, Sara Gay Forden; the TV show No Music at Al Ahmadi, Mona Al Shammari; as well as superstar animators such as creator of Freej, Mohammed Saeed Harib, and animator of Demon Slayer, Ken Arto; are all coming to the festival scheduled, from February 3 to 12.

The full line-up, which was revealed on Wednesday night at an immersive event at the Al Wasl Plaza of Expo 2020 Dubai featuring a soulful performance by Emirati singer Arqam, captures the spirit of this year’s festival theme, ‘Here Comes the Sun’.

The majority of sessions will be taking place at the festival’s brand new canal-side home for 2022, the Habtoor City Hotels. Some sessions will be held at Expo as well.

Packed programme

Other big names in the packed programme include Gary Vaynerchuck, Nadiya Hussain, David Walliams, Iman Mersal, Indra Nooyi, Mark Billingham, Shahad Al Rawi and Omar Saif Ghobash; actor Ben Miller, who starred as Lord Archibald Featherington in Bridgerton, with his latest children’s book; YouTuber Ahmed El Ghandour, aka Al Da7ee7; while master thriller writer David Baldacci will be joining the festival virtually.

Ahlam Bolooki, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said: “It’s exciting to be at the dawn of a new era — one where we are more aware of our connections to each other and the world around us, as is reflected in many of the sessions. She said the festival was “thrilled to be able to welcome international authors back in person, and brimming with excitement about our new venue, our phenomenal programme, and as always, the unforgettable stories the Festival will give rise to".

Special events

Audiences can feel the fear at the special ‘Fright Night’, an evening of thrills and chills with sessions paying homage to horror, crime and all things dark. The Fear Factor panel brings together Hanna Alkaf, David Eagleman, Polly Philips and Waleed Owdah, who will be spiralling into the deep dark pits of terror.

Celebrating Charles Dickens’ birthday on February 7, the festival invites audiences to Miss Havisham’s Wedding, starring special guest Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, the great-great-great granddaughter of the man himself and author of many books about women in history.

Not to be missed is the magical evening at Expo with stars of spoken word, the incomparable Carlos Andrés Gómez and Dubai’s Dr Afra Atiq, accompanied musically by Nashville-based singer/songwriter Brent Shuttleworth.

Performance poetry is always a hugely popular element of the Festival and this year is no exception, with a stellar international cast featuring Nikita Gill, Noor Naga, Queena Bergen and Sascha A Akhtar, joining UAE talents Danabelle Gutierrez, Farah Ali, Zainab Arrefai and Amal Al Sahlawi.

Also, the festival’s signature event, Desert Stanzas, returns with captivating spoken word performances from top artists, set against the atmospheric starlit backdrop.


Novelists flying in from across the globe include the hottest new talent Brit Bennet (The Vanishing Half), C Pam Zhang (How Much of These Hills Is Gold), Lucy Foley (The Guest List) and Felicia Yap (Yesterday). Also present will be crime writing star Mark Billingham, Alka Joshi (The Henna Artist) and renowned author David Grossman, who won the International Booker with A Horse Walks into a Bar.

Toshikazu Kawaguchi has life-affirming tales of cafe-based time travel in Before the Coffee Gets Cold, while Pakistani actress and model Mira Sethi will be talking about her first book of short stories, Are You Enjoying? and the former Emirates Writing Prize winner Polly Phillips will be present with her debut novel, My Best Friend’s Murder.

The festival will also host the much anticipated launch of Omar Saif Ghobash’s first novel.

Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand at Emirates said: “This year’s theme for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is incredibly fitting with the wonderful opportunities that the event will bring, helping encourage storytelling and in-person conversation, which are at the heart of what makes us human.”

Emirati authors in focus

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the festival opens on February 3, 2022 with a dedicated Emirati Day, and a strong presence throughout the whole of the ten days from writers based in the region.

The first day will feature a strong line-up of Emirati authors of all genres, with sessions of short story readings, poetry, panel discussions on diverse topics from writing for cinema, or women in education, to the art and science of being a collector.

An panel of experts will discuss the stigma of being in the arts, while another panel brings together three impressive Emirati women taking unconventional paths: Fatima Al Mansoori, Hana Al Hashimi, and Alamira Reem Al Hashimi.

Life coach Hala Kazim will share her insights into positivity, wellness and mental health, offering practical steps to acceptance.

Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, expressed the authority’s readiness to enrich this edition of the festival with several events aimed at celebrating culture and spreading the joy of reading and learning among society members, especially the younger generations, and supporting local and international talents.

He said: “We are proud to continue our partnership with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on the international scene, which cements Dubai’s position as a destination for the exchange of culture and knowledge among people, and as a model for spreading the values of tolerance and peace among different races and cultures.”

Kharbash added: “Through the dedicated Emirati day, we continue to support and empower local talent and provide them with the opportunity to reach global horizons. This contributes to strengthening the cultural and creative industries in the emirate, within the framework of our vision to cement Dubai’s position as a global centre for culture, an incubator for creativity, and a thriving hub for talent as well as achieve the objectives of the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, which aims to make Dubai the global capital of the creative economy by 2025.”

Writers of all genres

Novelists from the Arab World include acclaimed Egyptian poet and novelist Iman Mersal, winner of the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for her novel In the Footsteps of Enayat Al Zayyat.

Saudi fantasy writer of the popular trilogy, Orchards of Arabistan, Osamah Mohammed Al Muslim will be at the festival.

For preteens there’s award-winning author of the Shapeshifter series Ali Sparkes, with the final book in her most recent fantasy adventure — Night Forever — which reaches its heart-stopping conclusion at the top of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

The Arabic children’s programmes features Dubai Abulhoul with her retelling of Emirati folk tales for children, among others. Prominent Emirati figure Khalaf Al Habtoor will also speak at the festival about his books.

Marina Wheeler, an Anglo-Indian with roots in what is now Pakistan, explores the story of her mother’s early years which were shaped by the Partition in The Lost Homestead.

Lucinda Dickens Hawksley discusses What Makes Great Art: 80 Masterpieces Explained with Myrna Ayad, director of Art Dubai.

The man behind the internet sensation #DrawWithRob, Rob Biddulph, will be in Dubai to introduce you to Peanut Jones and her incredible adventures.

Well-known UAE TV personality Layne Redman will be making his first appearance at the Festival to celebrate his new series of books featuring Luam, whose first adventure Luam’s Balm, is set in Jamaica.

Other events

For the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize, this year will see the announcement of the very first batch of selected writers for First Chapter — The Elf Seddiqi Writers Fellowship, putting 10 talented people on the path to success through an international standard mentorship programme.

As always, there are workshops galore for all ages, covering poetry and poetry slam, creative writing and storytelling, drawing and illustration, translation and publishing.

The festival sees the culmination of the student writing competitions, with winners announced in special ceremonies for the Chevron Readers’ Cup, Emirates NBD Poetry For All, the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai Children’s Letter Writing Competition and The Story Writing Competition.

The Voices of Future Generations competition will host a special book launch at the festival featuring the second round of winning sustainability-themed stories.

The much anticipated announcement of the School Librarian of the Year award will also be made at the Festival.

There are plenty of sessions with authors for foodies, and those interested in history, science, art and design, business world, children’s and young adults’ fiction,