Dubai: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature kicks off tomorrow

Opening day will be dedicated to Emirati talent with literary sessions, discussions.


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 2 Feb 2022, 5:31 PM

Last updated: Wed 2 Feb 2022, 5:36 PM

The annual cultural extravaganza celebrates books, ideas, and creativity from authors in the UAE and across the globe

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature kicks off this Thursday with a stellar line-up of local and international authors and an exciting line-up of events.

The annual cultural extravaganza, that runs from February 3 – 13 at the event’s new canal-side home for 2022, the Habtoor City Hotels is being held under the theme, ‘Here Comes the Sun’.

The first day is dedicated to Emirati talent with literary sessions spanning discussions on issues like the cultural economy, trail-blazing women, and the careers of the future.

One of the highlights of the first day is a conversation with Omar Saif Ghobash on the UAE’s journey to Expo 2020, and his personal journey in writing his first novel.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor will also speak about his astounding journey and share his insights on business and life.

Freej-creator, Mohammed Saeed Hareb will share his story, while Dr. Habib Al Attar and Sameera Ahmed will shed light on the stigma of working in the arts.

Authors to talk about a range of issues

Ben Miller will talk about his latest action adventure for children. The man behind the ‘lockdown’ internet sensation #DrawWithRob, Rob Biddulph will also elucidate on his experiences.

‘Bake Off’ star, mental health campaigner and author Nadiya Hussain, will share how she has managed the stresses and strains of a life transformed since winning the hit show.

Top novelists

Brit Bennett of The Vanishing Half fame, Alka Joshi author of The Henna Artist and Toshikazu Kawaguchi, who has achieved cult status with his life-affirming tales of café-based time travel in Before the Coffee Gets Cold will also grace the event on its inaugural day.

Pakistani actress and model Mira Sethi will talk about her first book of short stories, Are You Enjoying?

There’s also Selma Dabbagh, who will chair a panel to comprehend the symbols for romance used by women writers in the Arab World.

Dubai-based novelist Avni Doshi will speak about the process of storytelling through the senses.

Anime fans can find out where graphic novelists and animators get their ideas from, with sessions featuring Fumio Obata, Ken Arto and Fadel Saeed AlMheiri.

For pre-teens, award-winning author of the Shapeshifter series Ali Sparkes will delight with the final book in her most recent fantasy adventure – Night Forever – which reaches its heart-stopping conclusion at the top of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Award-winning Erin Entrada Kelly is a Filipino-American writer of books including Hello Universe, The Land of Forgotten Girls, and her latest, We Dream of Space, a story of three siblings discovering that life rarely goes smoothly.

Glimpse of historical fiction

Ashraf Al Ashmawi will take the audiences back to Egypt in the twentieth century in his latest novel and will discuss the art of writing historical fiction with Lulwah Al Mansouri and Sultan AlMousa.

Instapoet Nikita Gill will perform her widely acclaimed one-woman show ‘Maidens, Myths and Monsters’, revisiting legendary Greek heroines through storytelling and poetry. Dubai Abulhoul and Hadil Ghoniem will discuss their favourite childhood tales and how they influence their writing today.

Sessions on mental health

Other sessions focusing on self-care, mental health and self-improvement will feature psychotherapist Sasha Bates who blends the personal and the professional as she comes to terms with the loss of her husband in The Languages of Loss: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Through Grief..

Jessica Moxham, a champion for disability rights and parenting, who will speak about what having a disabled child has taught her in The Cracks That Let the Light In.

Also featured are Mathilde Loujayne and Ruzina Ahad, pioneers of a new generation of self-help books for the Muslim women of today.

Special events, celebrating Charles Dickens’ birthday

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

There is also a magical evening at Dubai Expo with stars of the spoken word, the incomparable Carlos Andrés Gómez and Dubai’s own Dr Afra Atiq, accompanied musically by Nashville-based singer/songwriter Brent Shuttleworth.

Covid Protocols

The Festival 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.

For the full list of authors, visit Tickets for Festival sessions are available from

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