Our Story

How It Began

The Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature was conceived in Dubai and was the first festival of its kind on this scale to be held in the Middle East.

For those of you who may be new to the UAE, or want to know the full background  story, I need to take you, back though the mists of time, to a fateful meeting in Dubai over a coffee in 2007.

In May 2007 Bill Samuel (Family Director of Foyles Bookshops, London) was passing through Dubai on his way to India. He called in to Magrudy’s to see me, as he often does, for a chat and one of the things we talked about was how wonderful it would be for Dubai to have a literary festival on its annual calendar.

Normally these lovely ideas end just there, but as fate would have it, later that day I spoke to a dear friend (who happens to be very literary) who then passed the gem of this idea on. In due course it reached the ears of Maurice Flanagan (Vice Chairman of Emirates Airline).

Maurice Flanagan then very kindly gave me the opportunity to meet him and present this idea and the rest is history!

Emirates Airline, our headline sponsor, has taken the world by storm and in a relatively short time has become one of the world’s leading airlines. It is this trailblazing attitude, I believe, that led Emirates to decide that the time was right to sponsor such a festival. Their vision and faith in EAIFL were truly rewarded when EAIFL 2009 was declared a triumph, by the thousands, who attended, by the authors themselves, and by the global and regional press.

Right at the beginning, I discussed the idea of such a festival with HE Mohamed Al Murr, Vice Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), who is also one of the UAE’s most renowned authors and an authority on all cultural matters. From the first, he has been steadfast in his support of EAIFL and its goals. He advised on authors and programme content, and was both a keynote speaker at our opening ceremony at EAIFL 2009 and participated in several sessions as an author. Dubai Culture, our Patrons, made the impossible possible and EAIFL could not have happened without their keen involvement on every aspect of the festival.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai and Vice President of the UAE, has announced his vision of eradicating illiteracy from the Arab World. The results of a survey carried out after the first festival highlighted some amazing figures. Over 72% of the festival-goers in our survey felt they were more likely to pick up a book and read after attending EAIFL. This alone is a huge endorsement of the power of a literary festival to help foster a love of reading and thereby, over time, creating a reading culture.

Dubai is a wonderful place, a vibrant and alive city and the ideal place to host a festival of literature, as was proven to be the case in February 2009. All of the authors who attended had a marvellous time, meeting their readers, meeting other authors and discovering a different culture. They felt truly honoured to be one of our founding authors, and we felt honoured by the trust they placed in us to deliver a truly international festival. They knew the importance of such festivals and as writers recognised the importance of passing on the eternal flame of good literature down the generations.

Currently we are planning EAIFL 2010 which will run from 10th to 13th March 2010. By navigating to various parts of our website you can find out which authors are attending in 2010, and sign up to receive regular updates on the authors, the Programme, Education Day , the Fringe and workshops, and other news related to our festival.

We have set ourselves very high expectations. I am confident that we can, and will deliver the second Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature to packed audiences, excited students and once again, international acclaim. Our festival goers are prepared to travel from far and wide to breathe in the heady atmosphere of such a stimulating and fun festival and take away with them the long term benefits that we all support.


- Isobel Abulhoul, Festival Director

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Emirates Airline

Under the Patronage of:

Dubai Culture and Arts Authority

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