Emirati Vibes: With many award-winning poets, prominent writers, local authors in UAE enjoy a vibrant literary scene

In the second of a five-part series that explores what defines the UAE, Khaleej Times looks at some authors who make this country a hotbed for a rich and varied body of work



FILE. The first Emirati Book Fair (EBF) in Sharjah, showcasing the literary heritage of the UAE.- Photo by M. Sajjad
FILE. The first Emirati Book Fair (EBF) in Sharjah, showcasing the literary heritage of the UAE.- Photo by M. Sajjad
by

Lamya Tawfik

Published: Mon 28 Nov 2022, 6:00 AM

From the poetry of Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi, to the 'Letters' of Omar Saif Ghobash to the plethora of writers dedicating their pens to writing for young audiences, the Emirati literary scene is as rich as it is variant.

Khaleej Times takes a look at some Emirati authors who have made their mark on the local literary scene and made this country a hotbed for a rich and varied body of work:

Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suwaidi was an award-winning poet and important cultural icon in the UAE. She wrote Arabic Nabati poetry and was even the subject of poems written by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. She was known as Fatat Al Arab (Girl of the Arabs) and Ousha Al Sha’era (Ousha the Poet).

Mohammed Al Murr
Mohammed Al Murr

Mohammed Al Murr, author of Dubai Tales, The Wink of the Monalisa and more than 15 short story collections, is another important literary figure in the UAE. He is currently the chairman of the board of directors at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation and has previously served as the president of the Federal National Council (2011-2015).

Maha Gargash
Maha Gargash

Maha Gargash, who has had a prolific two-decade career in Dubai Radio and Television, during which she also served as station director for English FM 92 and vice-president of Dubai Television, wrote her first English novel, The Sand Fish: A Novel from Dubai, in 2009. She then wrote That Other Me in 2015 and is currently working on her third book.

Noura Al Noman
Noura Al Noman

Noura Al Noman wrote Ajwan, the first Emirati science fiction novel, in 2012. The book which was recently adapted into a series by Shahid won the 'Best Young Adult Book' at the Etisalat Children’s Books Award in 2013. In 2014, she published its sequel: Mandaan.

Omar Saif Ghobash
Omar Saif Ghobash

Omar Saif Ghobash is an Emirati author and diplomat. His book Letters to a Young Muslim was published in 2018 and has since been translated into many languages. He currently serves as Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy and has previously held posts such as the UAE's Ambassador to France (2017-2018) and Ambassador to Russia (2008-2017).

Mana Al Otaiba has written more than 135 poetry books and novels, including one titled Karima, which was adapted into a TV show in 2011. Al Otaiba is also a former Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources and in the 70s and 80s he dedicated much of his writing to the subjects of economy, petroleum and OPEC. Al Otaiba also served as personal advisor to the UAE’s two former presidents, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Writing for Children

When it comes to writing for children, the UAE publishing scene has seen authors who have written many books over the last few decades. In fact, according to Emirati children’s author, Dr Naseeba Alozaibi, the UAE’s heritage is rich with the oral tradition of folktales but the literary movement for children and young adults in the UAE can be traced back to the publishing of the children’s magazine Majid in the 1970s.

Dr Alozaibi, a pharmacist by training who then became a children’s author, has written nine picture books published by Dar Ashjar for Publishing and Distribution. These include Aliens Love Mulukhya (2013), The Princess of Shoes (2017) and the award-winning book My Mother is a Gorilla and My Father is an Elephant (2017).

In 2021, she said there are 150 publishing houses based in the UAE. “Many of them are specialised in books for children and young adults and, in fact, there are many Emirati authors and even non-Emirati authors who reside in the UAE who have published their first books through Emirati publishing houses,” she said, adding that many have had their books translated into many languages and have even received national, regional and international awards.

Dr Alozaibi said there are many Emirati authors that are important in their respective fields, such as Maitha Al Khayat, Alyzia Khalifa, Noura Khoori, Amira Al Marzooqi, Amira Bukadra and Ayesha AlMheiri.

“The UAE is the home of two important awards for children’s literature, the Etisalat Award for Children’s Books and the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, which has a category dedicated for children’s books,” she said.

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