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Abdullah AlShaikh (extreme right), Isobel Abulhoul, Saeed Al Nazari (second from right) and Tiffany Delport during the session titled 'Careers of the Future', on the first day of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2022, at Hilton in Al Habtoor City, Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is back.

From a mix of Emirati authors, poets, artists and 180 international authors from across the world to meeting the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, readers and even non-readers will have a wide range of literary sessions and activities to soak up.

The festival is being staged with founding partners Emirates airline and Dubai Culture, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Day one of the annual festival, also known as LitFest, was dedicated to Emirati talents, writers and the local literary scene. Ahlam Al Bolooki, Director of the Festival, told Gulf News, that this year’s edition will witness the attendance of 180 international authors from more than 50 countries.

“This is one of the biggest literature festivals in the world. It is a celebration of the written or spoken word in the Arab world. We had three sessions sold out already and we are focusing on the first day on Emirati literature and discovering the local literature,” Al Bolooki said.

The festival, which will run until February 13, is taking place at the Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City and Habtoor Palace Dubai.

Following COVID-19 protocol

Organisers said the event will comply with all current COVID-19 regulations and visitors will be asked to wear masks and provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR taken within the previous 72 hours.

“It’s a lovely mix of subjects — fiction and non-fiction. The festival is not only for readers, but for non-readers too,” Al Bolooki said.

Last year, the edition couldn’t have international authors due to the pandemic, but this year, authors will be attending the festival physically.

“This year, we are back to having the authors in the festival. It is exciting to be reunited from across the world again. We have special features in the event and will even have the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens here, celebrating the novelist’s 210th birth anniversary on February 7,” added Al Bolooki.

Wide array of speakers

The first day witnessed local talents participating in a series of talks, panel discussions, workshops and poetry recitals.

Lt General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, the Director-General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA), Mohammed Saeed Harib, creator of the popular animation show ‘Freej’, and business leader Khalaf Al Habtoor were among the leading Emirati personalities in attendance on the opening day of the festival.

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Lt General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri on the opening day of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai today. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

The festival also has an international programme that highlights the source literature behind some of today’s most popular films and television series.

This year’s festival is being held under the theme ‘Here Comes the Sun’. Besides the new venue at Al Habtoor City, there will also be special events at Expo 2020 Dubai and Caravanserai for LitFest.

Career advise for the youth

Audience can also hear from Omar Ghobash, Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations and author of Letters to a Young Muslim. His latest book addresses his late father, former UAE diplomat Saif Ghobash.

The first session was about careers of the future, where the audience heard experts offering career advise to the youth.

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Visitors on the first day of Emirates LitFest at the Hilton in Al Habtoor City, Dubai, today. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Captain Dr Abdulla Bin Ahmad Al Shaikh, head of the Diplomatic and Consular Affairs at Dubai Police, Isobel Abulhoul, co-founder of Magrudy’s, a bookshop chain, and founder of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and one of the 100 Inspiring Leaders in the Gulf Cooperation Council, according to Arabian Business magazine, Saeed Al Nazari, the Director-General of the Federal Youth Authority and chief strategy officer at the Arab Youth Center, and Dr Tiffany Delport, co-CEO Environmental Operations and Educational Partnerships — MENA, co-founder of The Possibilities Project: Eco Edition, and Global Ambassador for One Billion Tree-Planting Initiative, spoke about how young people must develop their skills and find their unique talents as they move across an ever-evolving post-COVID-19 world.

They speakers urged the youth to incorporate reading into their lives in fields outside their scope and gain writing skills to tell their stories and share their challenges.

Special events

The festival’s first weekend wraps up with two unique events on February 7. Audiences can enjoy a three-course meal and celebrate Charles Dickens’ birth anniversary with an ‘invitation’ to Miss Havisham’s wedding, starring special guest Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, the great-great-great granddaughter of the novelist himself.

There is also an evening at Expo 2020 Dubai with Carlos Andres Gomez and Dubai’s own Dr Afra Atiq, accompanied musically by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Brent Shuttleworth.

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Some sessions at the 11-day event are free while others are priced from around Dh65 for adult sessions and Dh40 for children’s sessions. There is also a Dh100 digital pass for watching live-streamed sessions. For tickets and the full list of authors, the festival’s website has all the details.