Fourth Annual Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Begins in Dubai

Tuesday, 6 March, 2012

The wait is over for book lovers as the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opens today. The Festival, which lasts through Saturday 10 March, is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and in partnership with Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage.

This year’s Festival features more than 120 writers and speakers from 30 nations and embraces a broad diversity of genres, topics and subject matter in some 200 events. Sessions are primarily conducted in Arabic and English (with simultaneous translation into the other language). This year sessions are also be held in French, Italian and Chinese (all with translation) in recognition of the multi-lingual audiences who attend. Ticket sales have been strong, with several workshops and sessions selling-out in record time. Organisers expect at least 30,000 people to come to the Festival.

Visitors will experience live debates, in-depth interviews, informed lectures, master-classes, workshops, panel discussions, celebratory recitations, book launches, live cooking demonstrations, and a huge range of family activities including the ever popular Fringe and Time Out Kids Zone. There are also plenty of new things at this year’s Festival too.

Most of all though, Festival-goers will enjoy meeting the best-selling, award-winning authors they know and love!

Festival Director Isobel Abulhoul said. 'We’re so thrilled to be getting our amazing Festival underway again with so many wonderful authors and events. Some people wonder what all the fuss is about and it can be hard to describe the incredible buzz that comes from live and lively sessions which fire up the imagination and get your brain cells fizzing. You have to come along and find out! Once you come, that’s it, you come back again. Just as so many of our authors do as well, I’m glad to say!

'Let me borrow a very simple explanation from one of our guest authors, Patrick French, in an interview he gave last week about why he comes to Festivals:

"They're fun, and you meet interesting people. .........I think it can be a great thing for a reader — particularly a reader who has no connection to the world of writing or publishing — to come and listen to writers talk about their work"

'I know I’m going to have fun, starting with today’s amazing Opening Events. I hope everyone else will too. Love of the written word is for everyone, everywhere, so come and join us!

'I would just like to thank our partners, sponsors, the authors and of course, our visitors, for making this amazing dream come true,' she concluded.

'As an airline that encourages cultural exchange and strongly supports the Arts, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is an event that is very close to our heart' said Sir Maurice Flanagan, Executive Vice Chairman, Emirates Airline & Group. 'What is most inspiring for us is to see that the Dubai community has also received the Festival with the same amount of passion and enthusiasm as we have.'

‘We believe the power of literature as a cultural force is not to be underestimated and we look forward to sharing in this inspirational energy at this year’s Festival,' he added.

Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General of the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, said: 'We are delighted to extend our continued support to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. This partnership has provided a richer and more comprehensive experience to audiences.The Festival is the perfect venue for bringing together writers, poets, artists and other arts professionals, stimulating intercultural dialogue and further strengthening the literary heritage of the Emirate. The introduction of literary sessions in multiple languages this year builds on the unique multicultural diversity of Dubai.'

Opening Day and Evening

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opens with two special events that usher in five inspiring days of literary celebration.

Today’s programme starts with a VIP Opening Ceremony at The Dubai Cultural and Scientific Association, which is Dubai’s largest purpose-built theatre complex complete with a 900 seat theatre, orchestra pit, and state of the art rehearsal and changing rooms. Built in a traditional Arabic architecture, the complex overlooks the picturesque shores of Al Mamzar Corniche.

The Opening Ceremony is a spectacular cultural performance by a cast of over 500 performers and features guest appearances from some of the Festival’s best loved international authors including Kate Adie, Mourid Barghouti, and David Nicholls.

The Opening Night promises to be an equally memorable event: Billed as A Magical Evening of Words and Music it headlines international broadcasting star Sir Terry Wogan, followed by performances and readings from four of today’s most celebrated poets: Imtiaz Dharkar, John Agard, Yang Lian and Daljit Nagra. This is the first part of the 2012 Festival open to the public and is also held at the Al Mamzar Theatre.
From Wednesday 7 March through Saturday 10 March the Festival will move over to the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, for the rest of the packed festival programme.

Attending Authors

This year’s authors are particularly distinguished as well as popular. The roster contains no fewer than 45 authors who work has been recognised – and of those many have received multiple awards.

Amongst those attending are best-selling novelists including Nicholas Sparks, David Nicholls, Mark Billingham, Tom Rob Smith, Paolo Giordano, Ahmed Mourad and Chetan Bhaghat.

The LitFest2012 also welcomes many literary fiction writers, philosophers and historians including Nawal El Saadawi, Romesh Guneskekera, Ibrahim Al Koni, Kate Pullinger, AC Grayling, Patrick French, Samir and Roseanne Saad Khalaf, Sadakat Kadri, Mansour El Souwaim, Abdulaziz Al Musallam, Chan Koonchung, Nasser Iraq, Bashir Mufti and Mohammed Achaari, who will hold sessions on a wide range of thought provoking topics.

News and current affairs followers won’t want to miss the former UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Portillo, double Pullitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Steve Coll, or award-winning news correspondents Kate Adie, Jeremy Bowen and Riz Khan.

Other genres are well served too. For example, there are many dedicated Poetry sessions featuring such internationally acclaimed poets as Mourid Barghouti, John Agard, Grace Nichols, Imtiaz Dharkar, Daljit Nagra and Yang Lian as well as such well-loved Emirati verse writers as Nujoom Al Ghanem, Mohammed Al Murr, and Dha'en Shaheen

Sports and fitness are on the agenda with rugby legend Brian Moore and star trainer Matt Roberts. For those who feel hungry after even talking about exercise, there is the wonderful Foodie Strand featuring Bobby Chinn, Giorgio Locatelli, Josceline Dimbleby and many more.

As usual the LitFest has a tailor made programme for the young. This year they will meet favourite authors including Jacqueline Wilson, Darren Shan, David Almond, Kes Grey, Tim Bowler, Abdulaziz Al Musallam and Maitha Al Khayyat to name a few. There are sessions, book signings and workshops and classes.

To sum up, this year’s line-up is a who’s who of favourite, award winning authors, writers and speakers who between them cover every taste and preference from art to zoology via crime and travel and indeed all points beyond!

New For 2012

New for 2012 is the wonderful new Arish Heritage Venue. Brainchild of Festival Director, Isobel Abulhoul, architect and author, Sandra Piesik, and Dubai Municipality, the 240 seater open-air auditorium located at the Intercontinental Hotel has been built specially for the LitFest. It opens for the first time for Heritage Night – an extraordinary evening starring David Nicholls and Mourid Barghouthi. The Arish hosts a number of other heritage themed events throughout the Festival.

New in Education: More Author Meetings! More Competitions! More Fun!

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has education as a core mission and this year’s, Education Days, supported by Dubai Culture, will see more than 60 authors visiting schools and colleges over two days. Thousands of young children will be reached.

In addition, student competitions are an ever more important facet of the Festival and this year offers a greatly expanded series. New for 2012 is the Taaleem Poetry Award in Arabic and English. Also new is the Arabic strand of the popular Boeing Readers’ Cup. The third competition has taken on a new title sponsor and is now the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition. All three of these competitions hold their prize-winning ceremonies during the Festival so everyone can get a flavour for the young winners’ enormous talent.
Of course there are lots more for kids including the ever popular Fringe and an Art Exhibition but watch out as the new Adult Fringe tries to take centre stage.

Organisers will also run quizzes and competitions throughout the Festival on site and via social media. Spot rewards include session tickets, books from Kinokuniya, and complimentary meals at the Intercontinental, plus some wonderful surprises.

New For Food. Take Time for Tea!

Building on the success of the Literary Lunch, which returns this year with the amazing Bobby Chinn (Friday 9 March), new for 2012 is the Literary Tea. Hosted by the elegant, charming and multi-talented cookery writers and travellers Josceline Dimbleby and Ariana Bundy, the Literary Tea - A Passion for Persia - promises to soothe the senses and round out the Festival experience (Saturday 10 March).

Special Events and New Strands

Working alongside Festival Sponsors and Partners, the LitFest has created many other special events which take place throughout the rest of the Festival, starting with Heritage Night on 7 March.

Art – the natural companion to Literature

New for 2012 is a wonderfully eclectic Art-themed strand. The line-up includes Professor Martin Kemp, Leonardo da Vinci expert and author of Christ to Coke who explores how icons come into being. Ranjit Hoskote, poet and curator, discusses this with Kemp but also shares his experience of curating the first Indian national pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Art historian and Islamic architecture specialist Yasser Tabbaa discusses Islamic architectural influences while architect Sandra Piesik talks about her Arish architectural research and observations.
For a change of pace, Qais Sedki is sure to startle with his bold Emirati Manga while the enigmatic French cartoonist Lewis Trondheim is unlikely to be outdone. Add to this mix the chance to learn illustration from Nasim Abaeian or traditional calligraphy from the resident instructors and the chance to let your children try their hand at painting and drawing with Time Out Kids Zone and Moorfields and it’s hard to imagine not finding something to enjoy.

More Special Events

On Friday 9 March, Dubai Duty Free, sponsors for the day, are presenting the extraordinary Irish Travelling Legend, Dervla Murphy. Dervla talks about her amazing life and adventures in a session – Undaunted, Unstoppable, Indefatigable - which will be unforgettable.

Dubai Airports is the sponsor of the Emirati Strand which runs from 8-10 March. This allows local and international visitors alike to identify sessions led by and with a particular focus on Emirati writers. Taken as a whole, attendance at these sessions allows visitors to enjoy an in-depth and satisfying cultural journey.

One of the prevailing themes for the 2012 Festival is Identity and Dubai Culture have put together a series of sessions which adopt this theme with particular emphasis on the living history and culture of Dubai in all its forms. There are several events that share with the public aspects of UAE heritage and which also discuss preservation and development programmes currently underway. There will also be a number of sessions led by DCCA on related topics including the role of philanthropy, language, and poetry.

For all information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and to buy tickets visit


For more information please contact:

Mohammed Barghuthi, Communications Manager, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Telephone: 04 353 4002 / 050 714 7170

Christina Bruce, Head of Communications, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Telephone 04 353 4002 / 050 650 7251

About the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, bringing people of all ages and backgrounds together with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and above all else, love of reading and writing.
The Festival creates a wonderful opportunity for UAE nationals, residents and visitors to meet world famous authors, attend literary debates, listen to readings, participate in workshops and experience the exciting fringe and children’s events. With simultaneous translation between Arabic and English for all sessions, the Festival is a meeting of minds where ideas are shared and friendships are formed – not least among the authors themselves.

The 2012 Festival will be held between March 6-10, 2012 at Al Mamzar Theatre and The Intercontinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City. Details at

About Emirates

Emirates is one of the fastest growing airlines in the world and has received more than 500 international awards for excellence. Emirates now flies to over 120 destinations in 72 countries. Emirates operates over 172 wide-body Airbus and Boeing aircraft, and has orders for an additional 233 aircraft, worth more than USD$84 billion.

About Dubai Culture & Arts Authority

The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) was launched on March 8, 2008 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai. Dubai Culture plays a critical part in achieving the vision of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 of establishing the city as vibrant, global Arabian metropolis that shapes culture and arts in the region and the world. The organisation has announced several initiatives that strengthen the historic and modern cultural fabric of Dubai. These include:

The Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Patrons of the Arts Awards: The first of its kind initiative in the Arab world honouring individuals and organisations who have made financial or in kind contributions through sustained support to visual arts, performing arts, literature and film in the region.

Sikka Art Fair: An annual art fair aimed at promoting Emirati and local artists in the UAE.

Dubai Festival for Youth Theatre: An annual festival that celebrates and fosters the art of theatre in the UAE.

Dubai Next: To encourage and sponsor initiatives that contribute actively to the development of the cultural events and activities in Dubai. Recently, Dubai Culture showcased Dubai's aspirations in culture to an international audience at one of the world's most prestigious platforms, the Art Basel 39 art fair.

The Holy Lands: A collaboration with the unique and creatively rich Reiss Engelhorn Museen of Mannheim to bring an exclusive collection of never before exhibited rare photographs to the region and more specifically Dubai.

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