Group photo of some of the authors and participants who will grace the upcoming edition of the festival Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Hollywood stars, award-winning authors and thought leaders shaping the world today will headline the 2023 edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai, it was revealed on Monday.

The biggest celebration of stories in the Arab region and one of the top literary festivals in the world will be celebrating its 15th anniversary from February 1 to 6, 2023.

Bringing together more than 250 of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers in more than 300 events, the line-up features prominent names, many of whom are returning to Dubai as ‘old friends’, reflecting this year’s festival theme.

Top author names were revealed at a grand ceremony at Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, which began with Lara Zaid performing at the Waterfront Garden.

Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation, recollected that the very first festival back in 2009 welcomed just 65 authors.

“Since then, so much has happened… 2023 will be our 15th anniversary and more than 250 renowned authors and speakers will be joining us next February and it will be our largest event yet… We are so lucky to have authors from each year of the festival, making a triumphant return and thrilling us once again, the Emirates literature foundation,” she said.

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Isobel Abulhoul Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

The author line-up was revealed in the form of an animation movie showing images and names of the authors and their books

Dubai Youth Choir presented the song ‘Hello friends, our journey never ends’, the first-ever jingle created for Emirates LitFest. The ceremony ended with a special performance by singer Zigzag Ghanim.

Who’s coming?

The line-up includes Brian Cox, Emmy-award winning patriarch of the hit streaming series Succession; master-storytellers Jeffrey Archer, Cecelia Ahern, Mohsin Hamid, and Alexander McCall Smith; Indian politician Shashi Tharoor; renowned religious commentator Reza Aslan, who will be in conversation with Omar Saif Ghobash; Malaysian journalist and activist Marina Mahathir; notable Bahraini poet Qasim Haddad; and Emirati author and poet Maisoon Saker Al Qassimi, the 2022 winner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

The full list of authors can be found on the Emirates Lit Fest website.

For the first time, the Festival has welcomed a guest curator - poet and author Lemn Sissay - who brings his own inimitable flair to selected events.

The programme is believed to be one of the most diverse line-ups of any literary event in the world, representing almost 50 different nationalities including a strong representation of Filipino writers.

Ticket prices
Ticket prices start at Dh25 and there will be 15 per cent off general session tickets in a special early bird anniversary offer from November 15 to December 15.
Also new are day-long, weekend, student and publishing day passes starting at Dh199. - as well as an all-access Crystal Pass with exclusive entry to the Green Room.
Returning to the event is the Festival Fringe, with a host of fun free events and performances.
Members of the Festival Friends loyalty programme receive a 15 per cent discount on tickets and a range of additional benefits including priority booking, reserved seating, access to the Foundation Friends Lounge, and year-round invitations and discounts to Foundation events and additional benefits from Festival partners.

Two venues

Celebrating 15 years of storytelling, the Festival will take place at the Intercontinental Festival City, and across the Creek at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library – with the two venues connected by an abra service across the water.

Ahlam Bolooki, festival director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said: “We are overjoyed at the amazing line-up we have secured to celebrate our 15th Year, welcoming old friends and new. We are so proud of what has been achieved in that time. We have welcomed almost 1,700 writers to Dubai, who have transported us to new worlds and different times and introduced us to characters we might not have ordinarily met.”

She added: “Through discussion, dialogue, and stories, together we have made sense of the world, learnt about ourselves and each other, connected with and appreciated others’ viewpoints. We have ignited a passion for reading and words in the many thousands of children who have been inspired by meeting an author. We have been able to do all of this through the steadfast support of our title sponsor, Emirates, and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, who along with all our other partners and supporters, enable us to make the Festival happen.

“We are truly grateful and appreciative for all of their support over the years. We know we have made a difference and we couldn’t have done it without our old friends.”

Tribute to late Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid

This year’s Emirati strand, sponsored by Dubai Culture, runs throughout the programme, celebrating the culture of the country and providing an opportunity for Emirati and international authors to share stage and ideas and have meaningful conversations on a range of topics that appeal to the multicultural audiences that fill the sessions.

Highlights include Sheikha Latifa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum discussing her literary tribute to her late father Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum and ‘Portraits from the UAE’, bringing together 50 portraits of the country’s people, flora and fauna, through the UAE’s history and memories, painting an intimate picture of life in the Emirates, the transformation it has witnessed and its ambitions for the future.

Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, said: “The Emirates Airline Literature Festival is an annual coming together of literary minds from around the world in celebration of the written word and contributes to educating community members and raising public awareness of the role that literature plays in our lives. We are proud to be continuously supporting such an inspiring initiative to help empower the status of books and reading and enrich culture and literature of all kinds across the emirate and beyond towards making reading a daily habit.”

Members of the Festival Friends loyalty programme receive a 15 per cent discount on tickets and a range of additional benefits including priority booking, reserved seating, access to the Foundation Friends Lounge, and year-round invitations and discounts to Foundation events and additional benefits from Festival partners.