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Discover the Hidden Gems of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2016

Dubai, 9 February, 2016: What does the hit Korean song Gangnam Style have in common with an expedition across the Rub Al Khali Desert and the 1948 film Hamlet? They are all featured in the 2016 programme of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (1-12 March), a rich mosaic of topics, literary genres and thought-provoking sessions encompassing everything from Arabic science-fiction to Shakespeare, the vagaries of history to the challenges of modern life, the difficulties in overcoming adversity and the joy of following your dreams.

New Sessions

In an exclusive pre-launch event for his first book, award-winning journalist Faisal J Abbas, will be talking about his years in media and about getting your book into print.

Boost your enthusiasm for writing with businesswoman and columnist Kiran Chhabria, who ventured into unfamiliar territory when writing her first book Kitty in the City, a witty account of the trials of modern love in a global city.Kiran Chhabria 2

Finding Inspiration

If you’re looking for a little inspiration, look no further than Another Taste to Life, visually-impaired Emirati writer, radio presenter, broadcaster and actor Mohammed Al Ghafli’s autobiography about living and achieving your dreams in the face of adversity. Al Ghafli will also be in discussion with Sulayman Al-Bassam, renowned Kuwaiti writer, playwright, director and founder of Zaoum and Sabab Theatre to discuss how the theatre can help us better understand ourselves, our relationships and society.

For more conversations about dreams, youngest World Slam Poetry Champion Harry Baker, journalist and oceanic writer Susan Casey and comedian and offbeat travel writer Dom Joly were all headed for humdrum careers when they realised this is a brave new world. Find your way with their insightful session, Finding Your Place in the Post-Career World.

Stories from the Arab World

Mountain's RibScience-fiction and fantasy have a huge readership in English fiction, yet only a few authors specialise in these genres when writing in Arabic. Emirati science-fiction authors Lulwah Al Mansouri and Noura Al Noman investigate the reason behind this with Hugo Award-winning sci-fi novelist Brandon Sanderson.

And just how much reality is changing is demonstrated by author, columnist, documentary film-maker and analyst Afshin Molavi, who will be discussing how hit Korean song Gangnam Style is the perfect example of the cultural effects of our hyper-connected world and what these changes mean for Dubai.

Some changes we are aware of, but others will take us by surprise. Author and explorer Mark Evans has a longstanding association with the Arab world and he will speak about re-visiting the journey of Bertram Thomas, who crossed the Rub Al Khali Desert 85 years ago.

Learning from History

islandWhat drives writers to look back into the past and write stunning fiction novels where fact and fiction are so cleverly interweaved? Historical fiction authors Rachel Billington (Glory), Victoria Hislop (The Island) and Kate Lord Brown (The House of Dreams) get together at the Festival to discuss how challenging crafting a story in the past can be.

For a very different historical perspective, John Julius Norwich shares the letters his mother wrote to him when he was evacuated as a child and spent two years away from home.  An aristocrat, actress and social figure, his mother Lady Diana Cooper, provides a vivid account of the world in the early 20th century. Her letters always started with ‘Darling Monster’ which is the title of this wonderful collection of letters.


As part of the international celebration of 400 years of Shakespeare, the Festival is bringing the Sonnet Exchange project to the UAE. Acclaimed poets Imtiaz Dharker and Khalid Albudoor and many more regional voices will be reciting their responses to Shakespeare’s famous sonnets. It promises be a poetic experience like no other.

A particular highlight of this year’s Festival is the screenings of film and theatre adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Among the many titles available, the two Hamlet screenings will be of interest to all students. The 1948 film Hamlet was one of Laurence Olivier’s most defining roles and in 2015, Maxine Peake brought her own twist to the role of the title character on stage. What would Shakespeare have made of these diverse castings?Maxine Peake as Hamlet in HAMLET (Royal Exchange Theatre. Photo - Jonathan Keenan

CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Isobel Abulhoul said, ‘With more than 300 sessions, it is a case of choosing your favourite authors and genres, but my advice is to always attend at least one session that features a writer you have not read, or is about a subject you know little about. Try a session that is in a language you don’t speak (simultaneous translation means that language is never a barrier). Be prepared to be surprised and entertained! As a three-time award-winning Festival it is important that we introduce new names and upcoming writers. It will expand our horizons – my experience has taught me that these sessions can enrich in so many ways. So be adventurous!’

These are part of several sessions at the Festival, including Wahat Al Zaman, the Literary Cruise with philosopher AC Grayling, Time Travel Dinner, Desert Stanzas, the UAE’s first performance of Steven Berkoff’s Shakespeare’s Villains and a number of panels and workshops featuring award-winning authors such as Jacqueline Wilson, Anthony Horowitz, Ian Rankin, Holly Smale, Saud Alsanousi, Susan Abulhawa and many more.

Ticket prices start at AED 50 and can be purchased via the Festival website (https://tickets.emirateslitfest.com/) or at select WHSmith stores across the UAE.

All information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is on-line. Check for updates at www.emirateslitfest.com. Join us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/emirateslitfest), Twitter (www.twitter.com/emirateslitfest), Instagram (http://instagram.com/EmiratesLitFest) and YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/EmiratesLitFest) for competitions and more updates.