Quick Guide to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Emer O’Doherty previews this year’s celebration of the written and spoken word

Quick Guide to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

For a nine-year-old, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature doesn’t half have a smart head on its shoulders. Just one year shy of a decade of delivering A-list authors to the emirate and celebrating the written word across all of the many demographics within it, this year its programme is even stronger than ever.

Writers drawn from no fewer than 25 genres – from fiction to crime, politics to sci-fi – are heading to the InterContinental Dubai Festival City from Friday March 3 to Saturday 11. And there will also be competitions, performance poetry and workshops along with a bonanza of big brains who will be on hand to help you expand yours. Here’s our blurb…

1 “The strongest principle of growth lies in human choice.” George Eliot, Daniel Deronda
The choice on offer here is staggering. What began as a nod to reading and literature in the UAE back in 2009, with a roster of 65 writers across a four-day event, has evolved into a well-oiled global literature machine with 140 authors and influencers descending on the city to rejoice in the written word – and share their stories. This year, the festival has a jam-packed eight-day run with a varied programme that also includes masterclasses, film screenings and prize-givings for new authors.

2 “In love of home, the love of country has its rise.” Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop
The spotlight is firmly on the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, the event’s long-running home. Dive into a tome down here on one of the coffee decks or hit the huge book fair to restock your personal library. Right next door, in Festival City Mall, the stage is set for the fringe festival, which will bring us music, drama and dance performances by hundreds of students from across the UAE.

3 “What a charming reconciler and peacemaker money is!” William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair
But you don’t have to have the wealth of Miss Matilda Crawley to enjoy the festival. Readings, workshops and experiences start at just Dhs50 (tickets can be booked at
www.emirateslitfest.com). But if you’re planning to attend several events then it’s worth becoming a Foundation Friend. A 12-month adult membership costs Dhs235 and offers benefits including ten percent off tickets, priority booking and reserved seating.

4 “There is safety in reserve, but no attraction. One cannot love a reserved person.” Jane Austen, Emma
Everyone knows it pays to base many of your life decisions on the thoughts of Jane Austen, so why not ditch that reserve, be bold and try your hand at writing? Over the course of the festival there are a whole host of writing classes and seminars. As J. K. Rowling proved, all you need is a laptop and a kitchen table, so what are you waiting for?

5 “We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the never-ending contest in ourselves of good and evil.” John Steinbeck, East of Eden

The line-up of authors this year is, frankly, stunning, and features speakers from every corner of the globe. In fact, the 2017 festival will have a strong focus on peace, tolerance and happiness, with a number of panels dedicated to discussing the challenges of turning noble goals into reality. There are too many participants to list here, but, for a taster, there will be the likes of Hollywood satirist Jon Ronson, gardener-turned-novelist Alan Titchmarsh, thriller writer Jeffrey Archer and even John “grandson of Ernest” Hemingway.

6“After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance
This year, the food strand of the festival is also particularly strong. Don’t miss afternoon tea with Great British Bake Off champion Nadiya Hussain, lunch with Indian chef extraordinaire Nisha Katona and an enlightening supper with noted authors Sabrina Ghayour and Peter Frankopan, as they discuss the impact of the Silk Road on our history and our cuisines.

7 “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’” Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
For lovers of language, and Arabic specifically, there are plenty of fascinating sessions, with some of the finest writers in the region bringing their stories to life. Some of the highlights will be the award-winning Hooda Al Shawa Al Qaddumi outlining the incredible voyage of one of the world’s most famous elephants in The Elephant’s Journey and Sahar Naja Mahfouz delivering extracts from The Story Maker.

8“He thought her beautiful, believed her impeccably wise; dreamed of her, wrote poems to her, which, ignoring the subject, she corrected in red ink.” Virginia Woolf, Mrs Dalloway
Increasingly massive around the world, performance poetry will also form a key spine of the festival, and this year you can hear the innermost thoughts of some fantastic poets such as Palestinian Mourid Barghouti and Jamaican Kei Miller. A big hit is bound
to be Desert Stanzas, a night under the stars on which you can enjoy a series of performances from five of the best poets in the world in a traditional desert camp. Count us in!
Fri Mar 3 to Sat Mar 11. InterContinental Dubai Festival City, www.emirateslitfest.com.

In Numbers

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

The number of countries represented by these writers, making this one of the most diverse and inclusive festivals across the world.

The number of writers, thinkers and influencers who will descend on Dubai to celebrate the written word this year.

The amount of dirhams J. K. Rowling earned, every week, in 2016. Just saying…

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