New Authors and Strands Added to Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2017 Line-Up

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Dubai, 20 February, 2017: The highly anticipated 2017 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature takes place from 3-11 March during the UAE’s 2017 Month of Reading, with more than 180 authors from 33 countries, including 70 authors from the UAE and Arab World. The stellar line-up of authors includes more than 120 authors attending the Festival for the first time.

At the pre-Festival press conference, Isobel Abulhoul, OBE, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said, ‘2016 was the Year of Reading, celebrating books and reading in the UAE, but we cannot lose momentum now. We have a dazzling array of writers who will entertain, inspire, and a rich diverse range of genres and topics that will fascinate avid readers and surely spark an interest in those who don’t often pick up a book. This year, the Festival takes place for nine days, spread over two weekends, providing our widest range of subjects so that visitors can be sure of seeing their favourite sessions. I believe it is going to be our best Festival yet.’

Abulhoul also introduced Ibrahim Khadim, newly-appointed Deputy Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival Literature and Business Development Director of the Emirates Literature Foundation. Khadim joined the Foundation in 2016 and brought his long professional history in the publishing, translation and literature industries to the Foundation’s many initiatives. He has played an integral role in securing Arab World authors for the 2017 Festival, a key contribution to the growing popularity of the event, and one which he will continue to develop in coming festivals.

New Authors Added

A record number of authors are participating in the Festival this year, with the numbers significantly increasing since the official launch of the event in October. Exciting new authors include:

  • Ernest Hemingway’s grandson, writer and translator John Hemingway, will discuss his memoir and also present the first-place winner of the Montegrappa Writing Prize with a limited edition Montegrappa ‘Hemingway: The Writer’ pen
  • Jordanian author and social and cultural intelligence coach Rana Nejem
  • Jessica Jarlvi, 2016 Montegrappa Writing Prize runner-up and latest Festival success story
  • Founder of #MTGcollective and writer and editor from Pakistan, Hananah Zaheer
  • Publisher of the bestselling sequel to The Devil Wears Prada Thalia Suzuma
  • Professor of Arabic at the University of California and currently translating al-Ḥarīrī’s ‘Maqāmāt, Michael Cooperson
  • Proprietor of Four Seasons Ramesh Gallery Neel Shukla will be joining his photographer father Ramesh Shukla at the Festival
  • Founder and current leader of the SLOW FOOD convivium in Dubai, Laura Allais-Maré
  • Francis Matthew, Editor-at-Large of Gulf News

Authors returning to the Festival are:

  • Dubai One TV executive and media coach Mai El Khalifa
  • Palestinian filmmaker and poet, founder of the Poeticians collective Hind Shoufani
  • Fanteer the Fluffy Flamingo author Noura Al Khoori
  • Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Dubai Duty Free Colm McLoughlin, who will be joined at his session by Salah Tahlak, Executive Vice President – Corporate Services at Dubai Duty Free
  • Sarah Amiri, deputy project manager and science lead of the Emirates Mars Mission

Emirati Authors

These is always a strong emphasis on showcasing the works of home-grown talents at the Festival, more than 40 Emirati authors will be attending the Festival.

Recently added to the Emirati strand:

  • His Excellency Jamal Bin Huwaireb, Cultural Advisor to the Government of Dubai and Managing Director of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation (MBRF)
  • Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs in Dubai
  • First female Emirati spoken word artist and slam poet Afra Atiq
  • Head of the UAE Travelers team Awad Bin Mojrin and UAE Travelers team member Ahmed Farooq Alawar
  • Emirati visual artists – wildlife photographer Ahmed Al Ali, illustrator Maryam Alzaabi, award-winning filmmaker Eman Talal Alsayed and creative landscape designer Kamelia Bin Zaal
  • Self-development coach and specialist Hend Albadwawi
  • Food presenter, columnist, entrepreneur and author of Food, Love and Life from Dalia’s Kitchen Dalia Dogmoch Soubra
  • Hassan Al Naboodah, Arabic and Islamic historian and Dean of UAE University
  • Chairman and Co-founder of the Gulf Roleplaying Community, Omar Ismail
  • Hany Torky, Project Coordinator and Chief Statistician of the Arab Knowledge Report at the United Nations Development Programme
  • Emirati entrepreneur Nawal Alnuaimi is a self-taught chef and the co-founder of Paper Fig in Sharjah, which she runs with her husband and business partner Ahmed Almazrouei
  • Captain Abdallah Al Saadi of the Dubai Police

The Dubai Police will be holding a special display of four supercars from their fleet at the waterfront outside the InterContinental Hotel during the Festival on Saturday, 4 March. The exhibit will also be accompanied by a performance by marching horses and the official police band at 1pm.

These new authors will be joined by renowned Emirati personalities:

  • Ajman’s HH Dr Abdullaziz bin Ali Al Nuaimi (The Green Sheikh) will speak on environmental issues and his work to raise awareness about it
  • Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Ambassador to Russia and author of Letters of a Young Muslim will feature as part of the Tolerance strand
  • Bader Najeeb, the young Emirati defying gender norms, will talk about his journey to become a culinary chef
  • 2016 Emirates Novel Award winner Eman Al Yousuf will discuss her writing career

Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communication, Marketing & Brand for Emirates said: ‘We believe the Festival of Literature is a vital element for Dubai’s growth as a cultural and arts hub, and Emirates is proud to be able to help bring renowned authors from around the world to share their vibrant, diverse ideas to inspire audiences.’

Happiness and Tolerance

In 2016, the UAE government established two new Ministries, one for Tolerance and the other for Happiness. The ideals of these two government entities will be examined at the Festival through a number of panel discussions including the session ‘A Time for Tolerance’ with Cabinet Member and Minister of State for Tolerance Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi leading the panel.


The Tolerance sessions include an homage to Al-Mutanabbi Street, the historic centre of Baghdad that was bombed on 5 March ten years ago. The session will be Dubai’s contribution to a global series of readings from an anthology celebrating the literary connection of the Street, with readings by Sadjedah Al Mousawi, Ibrahim Bin Hatem, Zeina Hashem Beck, Joan Scott-Minter, Ammar Bin Hatim and Shahad Al Rawi.


Discover the many aspects to finding happiness with sessions including ‘Winning at Life: The Secrets of Not Having It All’ with Mad Girl author and The Telegraph columnist Bryony Gordon, Omaira Farooq Al Olama, Founder of Advanced Learning Formulas and blogger Sara Sadik. Visitors can also listen to the inspiring ‘Lifeshifting Journeys’ of authors Mostafa Salameh, Robert Twigger and Sarah Outen.

His Excellency Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General at Dubai Culture, said: ‘We are proud to continue our longstanding support for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, organised under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai. This partnership is of significant importance, with the Festival representing the opening event of Dubai Art Season, as well as coinciding with the National Reading Month 2017. We are confident that this year’s edition of the Festival will attract the attention of the UAE’s citizens, residents and visitors, enriching their lives by providing literature all across the Emirate, and promoting a positive reading habit through a number of engaging activities.’

Al Nabouda added: ‘Literature represents one of the most key art forms that touches the human spirit, as it upholds noble values such as understanding and harmony between different people. Our involvement in celebrating literature falls in line with the directives of our wise leadership, and the principles of the ‘Year of Giving 2017’ in the UAE. This promotion of knowledge has a direct link towards the achievement of happiness, and the spread of positive energy across all members of society.’

Reading Survey Results

Each year, the Emirates Literature Foundation, governing body of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, conducts a nationwide survey on reading habits. The majority of those surveyed this year read every day, yet feel they don’t read enough. Of the respondents with children, recommending books and talking about books was of high importance.

The results show:

  • Despite a move to digitization, 72% of those surveyed still read physical books
  • 65% respondents said they read every day or almost every day
    • But, 67% still feel they don’t read enough
    • Only 7 of the respondents said they never or almost never read
  • Preferred reading medium was:
    1. Print
    2. Phone
    3. Computer
    4. Tablet
    5. E-reader
  • Word of mouth recommendations remain the most popular method of selecting books to read, with the majority of the respondents preferring Drama and Mystery
  • Bookstores continue to be the favorite place for 81% of the respondents to purchase books, while 40% purchase books online
  • 51% of parents surveyed were confident their children read enough, while 43% felt they didn’t
  • However, more than 74% of parents talk about books with their children, with 68% recommending books as well
  • The most recommended books by parents was unsurprisingly the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling, followed closely by Roald Dahl’s many stories

Nearly half of those surveyed spend between AED 400 and AED 1000 on books annually, which they see as a source of relaxation and entertainment.

Feature Events

  • Pimp My Rice: Lunch with Nisha Katona (Friday 3 March, 1pm-3pm Vista, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City)
  • Murder Mystery Dinner: The Fatal Festival (Friday 3 March, 7.30pm-10pm Al Baraha 3, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City)
  • The Great British Afternoon Tea: with Nadiya Hussain (Saturday 4 March, 2.30pm-4pm Al Baraha 3, InterContinental Dubai Festival City)
  • Cook for Syria (Saturday 4 March, Saturday 4 March, 8pm-10pm Zaytoun, Crowne Plaza Hotel)
  • Mystic Life by Leila Aboulela: A Play Reading (Sunday 5 March, 7pm-8pm Al Ras 1, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City)
  • Spices on the Silk Roads: A Supper Club Discussion (Wednesday 8 March, 7pm-9pm Zaytoun, Crowne Plaza Hotel)
  • When in the Arab World: A Lunch that Means Business (Thursday 9 March, 1.30pm-3pm Vista, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City)
  • Desert Stanzas 2017 – Poetry under the stars, in a beautiful desert setting (Thursday 9 March, from 6pm)
  • Closing Ceremony – Letters to the Festival (Saturday 11 March, 7pm-8pm Al Ras 3, InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City)

Residential Creative Writing Course

For the first time, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will be holding four Creative Writing Courses in Arabic and English. The three-day courses, conducted by award-winning, internationally-acclaimed authors, cater to writers at different stages in their writing journey.

  • Creative Writing Course 1 – Start-up Writing with Sue Moorcroft
  • Creative Writing Course 2 – Writing and Improving Your Novel with Patrick Gale
  • Creative Writing Course 3 – Writing for Children (English) with Tamsyn Murray
  • Creative Writing Course 4 – Writing for Children and Young Adults (Arabic) with Fatima Sharafeddine

‘The Festival has a history of discovering creative new authors,’ said Isobel Abulhoul. ‘Budding authors meet, learn and are inspired by their idols and, in turn, become writers and idols for the future generation of readers. We have seen an unprecedented number of success stories at the Festival, through our writing workshops, our competitions and simple networking. Charlotte Butterfield, April Hardy, Jessica Jarlvi and Lucy Strange all entered writing competitions at the Festival and we are delighted to welcome them back to the Festival as published authors. I am sure that we will uncover more new writing talent at the 2017 Festival.’

Education Programme

A key feature of the Festival is its five-day Education programme from 5-9 March, which includes free Education Day events for students, Student Sessions, competitions and author visits to schools. Children can also enjoy free activities at the Time Out Story Corner and the first Disney Story Corner, as well as performances at the Festival Fringe Stage.

The Festival Art Exhibition, supported annually by Deira International School and held at Dubai Festival City Mall opened today, and will run till 12 March. The art is created by school students from across the UAE and has become a favourite feature of the Festival’s Education programme.

Judy Bishop, Director of the Festival Art Exhibition, said, ‘Come to admire our exhibition of student art work, based on authors, illustrators and our Festival theme of ‘Journeys’. Over 50 schools across the UAE have embraced the importance of visual imagery when reading, and inspired students of all ages to imagine and create their own interpretations of text.’

This year, a record 25,000 students will benefit from these events and enjoy the wonderful opportunity to interact with their favourite authors, take part in the Fringe events and also enter the various student competitions.

Dubai International Publishing Conference

In partnership with the General Secretariat of The Executive Council of Dubai, the Emirates Literature Foundation will hold the first Dubai International Publishing Conference from 5-6 March 2017. The two-day event runs concurrently with the Festival and will host sessions with world-class experts from all sectors of the publishing industry. The Conference is the ideal setting for all those interested in gaining an insight into the international and regional workings of the publishing field.

The Conference inauguration will take place on 5 March at 10:30am.

School Librarian of the Year Award

For the first time, the Emirates Literature Foundation, in association with The Executive Council, has instituted the School Librarian of the Year Award, celebrating the work of the UAE’s best school librarians in Arabic and international schools. Winners will be announced during the Festival on Monday, 6 March at 4pm.

Where’s Lina LitFest?

Visitors can look forward to a special guest at this year’s Festival – Lina LitFest, the new mascot of the event, will be making her debut appearance to delight children and adults alike this month in various locations around Dubai. At the Festival, she will be holding competitions and participating in several children’s activities.

Isobel Abulhoul concluded by thanking the Festival patron and partners: ‘Every year, we aim to align the work of the Festival with the vision of our patron, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, The Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Our ability to aim high is made possible through the support of our title sponsor, Emirates Airlines, our partners Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, as well as the Board of Trustees of the Emirates Literature Foundation.’

Ticket prices start at AED 40 and many children’s events and activities are available free of charge. Tickets can be purchased on the Festival website ( or via the ELF Dubai app, available on the iOS and Google Play app stores and at Magrudy’s outlets around the UAE. Become a Foundation Friend and enjoy benefits throughout the year, including priority booking on Festival tickets, as well as exclusive discounts at selected Emirates Literature Foundation events and workshops and retail outlets in the UAE.

More information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature can be found online. Fans can keep up to date with #DubaiLitFest action on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and year-round news of #ELFDubai on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.