The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature operates at a different pace to most Dubai events. It doesn’t have the same loud, in-your-face quality of the best music festivals. Nor is it as raucous as the Rugby Sevens, or as glam as the Dubai World Cup. Believe us when we tell you, however, that it is one of the first events in our calendar each year and is part of the fabric of the city’s entertainment scene.
From Tuesday March 1 to Saturday 12, writers, illustrators, publishers, poets and more literary figures will gather at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City to celebrate the written word. More than 150 authors will take part in more than 300 events with topics ranging from Shakespeare to Charlie and Lola. Check out our pick of the event’s highlights and find out more about the guest speakers at this year’s festival.
Montegrappa Writing Prize with Luigi Bonomi and Selina Walker
This competition for UAE residents has become one of the highlights of the festival. Previous entrants include Annabel Kantaria and Rachel Hamilton, both of whom have gone on to secure book publishing deals and who return to this edition of festival as guest speakers. Literary agent Luigi Bonomi and publisher Selina Walker will reveal the winners of this year’s prize and answer questions on writing, publishing deals and the quality of entries.
Best for: Wannabe writers
Dhs70. Fri March 11, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Anti-heroes in crime: Inspector Rebus and Robert Hunter with Chris Carter and Ian Rankin
Through the pages of their dark detective fiction, authors Rankin and Carter have given us some of the most memorable police characters of the past 30 years. Their fictional detectives are anti-heroes charged with getting inside the minds of the most despicable of criminals. Find out what makes the men behind the novels tick and take the opportunity to learn more about their books at this joint session.
Best for: Thriller fans
Dhs70. Fri March 11, 7pm-8pm.
The joy and horror of life: Not happily ever after with Chris Cleave and Ann Cleeves
A good book is not always about happy endings and neatly tied-up loose ends. Sometimes an author puts protagonists into unimaginable tragedy and deep horror, and that is what the authors on this panel will discuss. Award-winning writer Cleeves is the creator of Vera Stanhope, while Cleave has received numerous awards and widespread critical acclaim. They will give insight into layering plot to give depth to characters.
Best for: Plot-twist-seekers
Dhs70. Sat March 12, 9.30am-10.30am.
The Sir Maurice Flanagan Poetry Diwan with Carol Ann Duffy
As the British Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy has been appointed by Queen Elizabeth II to be the official representative of poetry and follows in a line of famed scribes that includes William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson, John Betjeman and Ted Hughes. Having also been awarded a Damehood and having won every major poetry prize in the UK, Duffy is one of her country’s best-loved poets and performs in Dubai with musician John Sampson for what promises to be an enthralling collaboration.
Best for: Poetry lovers
Dhs70. Fri March 11, noon-1pm.
Behind closed doors: writing family life with Maha Gargash, Gill Hornby and Marco Missiroli
You don’t need to look far to find fascinating characters. Just look within your own family and you will see comedy, drama and tragedy. This panel discusses the importance of family life in their works, and bestselling writer Hornby in particular should know a thing or two about fascinating families. Her brother is writer Nick Hornby and she is married to novelist Robert Harris.
Best for: Anybody with a complex family Dhs70.
Fri March 11, 1.30pm-2.30pm.
An astronaut’s guide to life on Earth with Chris Hadfield
The Canadian astronaut has seen things almost no other human has – Earth from outer space. As the commander of the International Space Station, he enthralled audiences with his YouTube updates and his An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth is crammed with entertaining anecdotes and the philosophy developed 400km above the Earth’s surface. Can you really miss the opportunity to meet a David Bowie fan who is the only human to have recorded an album in space?
Best for: Stargazers
Dhs100. Sat March 5, 8pm-9pm.
Glamour or grit? The reality of exotic settings with Katie Hickman and Victoria Hislop
A good book, it is said, should transport the reader to a far off place. Take them away from the couch or armchair they are sat on and to another world. Hislop’s writing about the reality of Mediterranean life has made her an international bestseller, while travel writer Hickman has published fiction in far flung locations such as Bhutan and Mexico.
Best for: Travellers
Dhs70. Sat March 12, 9.30am-10.30am.
Trigger Mortis with Anthony Horowitz
How do you pick out a career highlight for prolific and critically acclaimed author Anthony Horowitz? Is it as writer of the Alex Rider series, which is believed to have sold around 20 million copies? Or as the creator of Bafta-winning TV series Foyle’s War? Or perhaps his Sherlock Holmes novels? For many, it will be his official adventure in the James Bond series, Trigger Mortis. Horowitz will answer questions about Bond and more.
Best for: Super sleuths
Dhs70. Fri March 11, 1.30pm-2.30pm.
A Muggle’s-eye view of Harry Potter with Jim Kay How long do
you think Dumbledore’s beard is? What shade is Hermione’s hair? These are the kinds of questions that have kept Kay awake at night since he became the official illustrator for new editions of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Meet the artist as he brings some Hogwarts magic to Dubai.
Best for: Wizards and witches of all ages
Dhs50. Sat March 5, 4.30pm-5.30pm. Screen 1, Novo Cinemas, Festival City.
Favourites new and old with Jacqueline Wilson
Sometimes controversial, often copied and always readable, Dame Jacqueline Wilson is a megastar of youth literature. For book-loving girls, this will be as important as a One Direction concert. Wilson, once named the “most borrowed author in public libraries”, will discuss her characters from novels such as Hetty Feather and Tracy Beaker.
Best for: Kids
Dhs50. Sat March 12, 2pm-3pm.
I know that face
You may recognise more than just the writing style of certain authors at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Check out these talks with familiar-faces-turned-writers
A Master Chef Indeed with John Torode
The chef, restaurateur and MasterChef presenter shares food and show business insights.
Dhs70. Thu March 10, 8pm-9pm.
Hiding Away with Meera Syal
Best known for comic writing, this emotionally charged talk from the acclaimed writer and actress looks at the subject of surrogacy in India.
Dhs100. Sun March 6, 8.30pm-9.30pm.
Eat Y’Self Fitter with Nadia Sawalha and Joe Wicks
Actress and Celebrity MasterChef winner Sawalha will share secrets from her weight loss and cookery book.
Dhs70. Sat March 12, 5pm-6pm.
A Tough Act to Follow with Robert Lindsay
The much-loved, award-winning actor speaks of his time on stage and screen.
Dhs100. Mon March 7, 8pm-9pm.
Shakespeare’s Villains with Steven Berkoff
One of Hollywood’s greatest bad guys delivers a one-man show in which he gets under the skin of William Shakespeare’s most villainous of characters.
Dhs200. Sat March 12, 6.30pm-7.30pm.
Here Comes the Clown with Dom Joly
The surreal practical joker and hidden camera star shares stories from the world of celebrity and discusses his true passion: travel writing.
Dhs70. Sat March 12, 1.30pm-2.30pm.
Three to try bookstores
It doesn’t stock the largest selection in Dubai, but it does have all the latest releases, plus a section selling toys and souvenirs.
Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.jashanmalgroup.com (04 340 678904 340 6789).
Okay, we admit we are book-lovers, but we genuinely think this Dubai Mall megastore is one of the very best attractions in the city, and we include waterparks, beaches and brunches in that boast.
The Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai, www.kinokuniya.com (04 434 011104 434 0111).
Low rise mall has a boutique villa feel and an excellent book store which has been supplying beachgoers with paperbacks to flick through for decades. Has a good selection of toys and kids’ books as well.
Jumeirah 1, www.magrudy.com (04 344 419304 344 4193).