Literature festival
The 11-day Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2022 drew to a close today. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The 14th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature drew to a close today after an 11-day extravaganza featuring more than 180 authors from 47 countries, and the biggest ever presence of home-grown talent.

The official ceremony was attended by Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and member of The Executive Council of Dubai, and Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth. The ceremony also featured authors including Sasha Bates, Danabelle Gutierrez, Arqam, Amal AlSahlawi, Salma Serry, Ashraf Al Ashmawi, and Ben Miller who each gave their interpretation of the Festival’s theme ‘Here Comes the Sun, followed by a joyous performance from Dubai Youth Choir and Repton School Choir.

Ahlam Bolooki, the Director of the festival, said: “This festival has been such a joyous experience, and it has been especially meaningful because we could see how much we were all starved for it. Throughout the event, we noticed audience members lingering after the sessions for spontaneous conversations with each other and clearly relishing the interaction. The Festival has lived up to its theme of bringing light and optimism, and a much longed for reunion of authors and audiences.

“Our festival would not be possible without the support of the Board of Trustees of the Emirates Literature Foundation and our many sponsors, especially our title sponsor, Emirates Airline, and our founding partner, Dubai Culture. We thank all our partners and supporters. We are a small team and rely on our wonderful volunteers to be able to run such a large and complex event, and we are deeply thankful for their hard work. Lastly, I would like to give a massive thank you to the Foundation’s team, who work year-round to make the Festival a reality,” Bolooki said.

Sold out sessions

Many sessions throughout the festival were sold out, including the session by the multi-talented top children’s author David Walliams, the dinner with maestro of Italian cooking Alessandro Borghese and the session with Gary Vaynerchuk that provided cutting-edge insights from the entrepreneur. Ahmed Mourad, Azza Fahmy and Ahmed El Ghandour were also popular choices with audiences as were French-Japanese animator Ken Arto, writer Toshikazu Kawaguchi, House of Gucci writer Sara Gay Forden, and Bridgerton author Julia Quinn. There was also a focus on space travel with NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, and UAE space astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori.

Boutros Boutros, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice-President, Corporate Communications, Marketing & Brand, said: “As long-term supporters of the festival, connecting avid readers and literary buffs with celebrated authors and thinkers remains at the heart of our sponsorship. This year’s successful Emirates Airline Festival of Literature once again saw some of the world’s best storytellers and authors engaging their audiences with ideas and offering their vision to imagine the world in a new way. We wait, with anticipation, for another exciting edition next year that will continue to raise the bar for literary excellence in the UAE.”

The Festival’s opening saw a particular focus on Emirati writers. Highlights of the day included Omar Saif Ghobash in a riveting conversation on his life and work, a panel of Emirati readings with authors Ibrahim Ali Khadim, Nadia Alnajjar, and Salha Obaid, an interview with Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, and many more.

Dr. Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, expressed his pride in the success of this edition of the festival, saying: “Year after year, the Festival affirms its important position among all society members as it provides a wonderful opportunity for culture and literature enthusiasts to communicate and interact with talents from around the world.”

Bin Kharbash added: “This year, we continued our support for distinguished Emirati talents on Emirati Cultural Day, which witnessed a remarkable turnout for its rich activities and sessions. We look forward to more creativity in the festival’s next edition, which we will certainly harness our energies to ensure its success and for the Festival to remain a unique platform for advancing the literature sector in Dubai, the UAE and the region as well as represent a bridge of knowledge and cultural communication between talents in various fields of literature and culture inside and outside the country.”

Special events included the return of the atmospheric Desert Stanzas, the festival’s signature evening of world poetry in the desert; a celebration of Charles Dickens’ birthday on February 7 with an invitation to Miss Havisham’s wedding, starring special guest Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, the great-great-great granddaughter of the man himself; and a magical evening at Expo 2020 Dubai 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.

The fun-filled programme for children entertained kids of all ages with particular highlights from Ali Sparkes, Ben Bailey Smith, Polly Dunbar and laughter-filled sessions from Ben Miller, illustrator Rob Biddulph and Layne Redman.

The Festival also saw a book launch featuring the stories from the second round of Voices of Future Generations for the Middle East Region, and the announcement of the first cohort of First Chapter, ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship and the winner of the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize.

A dedicated ‘Education Day’ brought hundreds of students to the festival, with a number of sessions live-streamed directly to class-rooms attended by thousands of students. The festival’s children’s competitions winners were celebrated on site with the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai Letter Writing Competition, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition, Chevron Readers’ Cup and Emirates NBD Poetry for All Competition for poetry performance ceremonies held live in person.

Appreciation to sponsors

The Festival organisers expressed their appreciation to title sponsor, Emirates Airline, and founding partner, the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, for making the festival possible. They also thanked the Habtoor Palace and the Hilton Dubai Hotels Al Habtoor City for hosting the festival. Organisers also extended their appreciation to the entities that play a key role as supporters and sponsors of the event.

The festival, 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, was organised at the Habtoor City Hotels from 3-13 February 2022. The Festival was held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture.

The festival sponsors are: Dubai Duty Free, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Emirates NBD, The Executive Council, Ministry of Culture & Youth, Investment Corporation of Dubai, Dubai Tourism, Oxford University Press, Chevron, Magrudys, The Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai, Italian Embassy, British Council, US Consulate, Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai Holding, Ain Dubai, MMI, Roads and Transport Authority, Tour Dubai, Careem, Art Dubai, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Heritage Center, Al Habtoor City, Dubai Police, General Directorate for Residency and Foreigners Affairs, Dubai Media Incorporated, Al Bayan, Emarat Al Youm, Four Communications, Government of Dubai Media Office, Zee TV, Zee Aflam, WION, CARMA, Lovin Dubai, Gulf News, Motivate Media Group, Ministry of Education, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, Seddiqi Holding, Abu Dhabi Legal Translation , Elmo, Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), 3DB, Scriptor, Prolab.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will return in 2023 for its 15th edition.