The Festival Journey Begins Here

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The 2017 Author Line Up For Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Announced

Dubai, 19 October, 2016: The journey to Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2017 began today with the official launch announcing the line-up of 140+ authors who will be in attendance next year. The annual event, now in its ninth year, will be held over nine days from 3-11 March, during the UAE’s 2017 Month of Reading.

Key Features

  • More than 90 first time authors
  • Theme is ‘Journeys’
  • What’s New at Festival 2017
  • Peace, Tolerance, Happiness Strand
  • Emirates Literature Foundation Media Awards

The cast of authors at the ever-popular event include first-time guests Sana Amanat, the co-creator of Marvel’s Pakistani-American superhero, Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel), 2015 Great British Bake-Off Winner Nadiya Hussain, creator of the popular Emirati animated television series Freej, Mohammed Saeed Harib, entrepreneur Jo Malone, crime writer Kathy Reichs, whose books have been adapted into the hit television series Bones, renowned children’s author Tanya Landman (Buffalo Soldier, Hell and High Water), Kuwaiti writer Bothayna Wail Al Essa (Map of Wondering, I Grew up and Forgot to Forget) and International television presenter Alan Titchmarsh.


Returning authors include international bestsellers Jeffrey Archer, Ahmed Khaled Towfik, Francesca Simon, and Mourid Barghouti.

The author round-up was presented during a special event at the home of the Festival, the InterContinental Hotel, Dubai Festival City, featuring an illusionist whose captivating performance only added to the excitement as famous names were revealed.

‘Books allow us to take journeys far beyond the limits of our physical surroundings’ said Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. ‘They gift us an understanding of other cultures and communities, helping us to become a truly harmonious society. This is the vision of the Foundation, the Festival’s governing body, and one that aligns with the UAE’s aims as well. It dictates the work we do at the Foundation, through our year-round events, and especially during the Festival.

‘Our motto is Happiness, Tolerance, Diversity and Peace – which can be discovered through books. We have selected an exceptional group of authors of more than 30 nationalities who advocate this same message, and we hope that this year’s incredible Festival will entice even the most reluctant reader into loving books.’

For the full list of authors, visit


The theme for the 2017 Festival is ‘Journeys’, and it is reflected in the programme through a number of inspiring sessions. ‘When you think about journeys, it can mean so many different things. For example: a physical or emotional journey, a journey through life, a journey through a storybook, a journey towards happiness, or fitness, or achieving a dearly held ambition.’ explained Abulhoul.

Foreign Correspondent Christina Lamb and Syrian refugee Nujeen Mustafa will retrace Nujeen’s incredible 4000-mile journey from Syria to Hungary in her wheelchair, while Saudi Arabian social media sensation Abdullah Al Jumah relates his experiences flashpacking across Latin America.

Visitors can journey back in time with UAE history specialists Frauke Heard-Bey and David Heard, presenter of BBC Radio Series Museum of Lost Objects, Kanishk Tharoor, historian Bettany Hughes and cultural heritage expert Abdulaziz AlMusallam, and to the future with prolific science-fiction author Peter F Hamilton, Elon Musk biographer Ashlee Vance, and science writer Lucy Hawking, daughter of Stephen Hawking.

What’s New at the Festival

The nine days of the Festival will be packed with exciting events, appealing to every age group, and reflecting the range of diversity through its varied programme.

Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Emirates’ Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations Centre said: ‘We believe that art and culture are an integral part of our lives and this is why we are proud to be one of the founding partners of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. The much anticipated annual event is one of Dubai’s most diverse festivals, offering a rich programme of events that feature critically acclaimed authors who help us explore fresh ideas, learn something new, and most importantly – they inspire us. This year, we are confident that the Festival will continue to offer audiences even more opportunities for education, engagement and entertainment, which have become ever so important to Dubai’s cultural landscape.’?

The International Publishing Conference, held from 5-6 March in partnership with The Executive Council of Dubai, will bring together renowned speakers from the UAE, MENA and across the world to look into the heart of what good publishing means, from starting up a business to managing runaway bestsellers and discussions on online successes transforming into offline hits. In addition to the main speaker and panel sessions there will be masterclasses on key skills necessary in today’s world of books.

The Residential Creative Writing Course, held from 5-8 March, will be a three-day writing course for new writers and established writers, set against the stimulating backdrop of the Festival. Participants will have the unique opportunity to mix with attending authors and publishers whilst receiving expert advice at lectures from leading literary agents and editors and from the course tutors, award-winning authors Patrick Gale and Sue Moorcroft.

In a first for the Festival, visitors can enjoy a live ‘radio play’ reading of an author’s work. Leila Aboulela’s Mystic Life, an adaptation of a short story from her book Coloured Lights and originally adapted for BBC Radio 4, will be performed as part of a session by local actors.

Visitors are also invited to the Murder Mystery Dinner, with an original script by 2017 Festival crime author, Martin Edwards. Unravel the mystery behind the murder of a literary agent at the fictional ‘Mammoth Literary Festival’. Wandering crime authors will act as ‘consulting detectives’ to help diners solve the crime.

And, for those wishing to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, the master of Austen adaptations for the big screen, Andrew Davies, will conduct an evening to celebrate her storytelling and favourite characters such as Elinor Dashwood, Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.

His Excellency Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General of Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, said: ‘Dubai Culture is proud of its long-standing partnership with the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature – an important event in Dubai that aims to build a strong culture of reading among the city’s youth and the wider community. The initiative supports the UAE’s National Strategy for Reading 2016 – 2026, and via its strategic objectives it aligns with the UAE’s Month of Reading in March 2017. The Authority maintains a core focus on promoting culture and reading to all UAE community members, and we are committed to work in collaboration with all of our stakeholders to fulfil this vision in line with the directives of the Dubai Plan 2021 and the vision of our wise leadership to further establish Dubai’s credentials as a city of happy, creative and empowered individuals.’

Al Nabouda added: ‘Our partnership with the Festival, the key initiative that will mark the beginning of Dubai Art Season in its coming edition next year, continues to celebrate the essential contribution literature makes towards inspiring creative thinking, and empowering the younger generation to understand the different cultures of the world.

‘Through this association, we demonstrate a model for the Private-Government sector partnerships, which shows that none of the parties can work in isolation.  There is no doubt that the Festival continues to contribute to representing the multicultural nature of the United Arab Emirates and the harmony between all community segments of the society.’

Peace, Tolerance and Happiness

Palestinian doctor, Izzeldin Abuelaish, known as ‘the Martin Luther King of the Middle East’, will be talking about his memoir, I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, on the experience of losing his daughters in Gaza and his dedication to promoting a message of peace.

Sana Amanat, Director of Content and Character Development for Marvel, and co-creator of Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline a graphic novel, Kamala Khan aka Ms Marvel, will be speaking on the challenges of diversifying Marvel’s comic book characters, and the importance of sharing a message of cultural understanding on behalf of young Muslim Americans.

A panel discussion featuring Jo Marchant, award-winning British science journalist will focus on the importance of happiness and its central role in the UAE vision and policy, the impact of emotional wellbeing on health and productivity, and the steps we can take to help the next generation cope with adversity.?

The impact of technology on the wellbeing on today’s youth is constantly being discussed. Take a look at the many facets of technology’s evolution and the influence of technological advancements, social media and gaming trends such as Pokemon Go and Minecraft at a panel presented by non-fiction author Jon Ronson (So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed), leading games editor, Keith Stuart, and renowned tech journalist Ashlee Vance,.

Food, Glorious Food

Let your tastebuds take you on a delicious journey across the world. As one of the fastest-selling segments of the Festival, the 2017 Food strand will see celebrity chefs and television personalities sharing the secrets to their culinary successes with 2015 Great British Bake-Off Winner and author of Nadiya’s Kitchen as well as the children’s book Bake Me a Story, Nadiya Hussein bringing her vivacious presence with tales of her British-Bangladeshi heritage. Youtube sensation and self-titled curry evangelist, Indian chef Nisha Katona will enlighten audiences on the journey from Indian spices to delectable dishes, while Middle Eastern flavours will be brought to life by celebrity chef and author of Persiana and Sirocco Sabrina Ghayhour and young Emirati chef, Bader Najeeb, whose sumptuous desserts incorporate Emirati cuisine with international cooking styles.

Return of the Festival Favourites

Desert Stanzas has become a regular favourite among Festival visitors. Hosted under a starlit sky and nestled amongst the dunes of Dubai’s desert, the audience will be able to enjoy recitals by celebrated Arab World poets, Mourid Barghouti and Zainab AlBlooshi, and award-winning Jamaican wordsmith, Kei Miller, along with traditional Emirati music, food and more.

The Education programme has always been at the heart of the Festival. In 2017, the programme will be extended from one to five days, giving even more students the opportunity to interact with their favourite authors. The 2016 Festival reached 15,000 students in the country with its programme of Education Days, Student Sessions, School Visits and Children’s Competitions, but organisers are hoping to reach a record number of students attending the exciting line-up of specially programmed events across the age range. The Festival Fringe events will also return, this time with more performance opportunities for young, aspiring wordsmiths and dancers.

Competitions are an integral part of the Festival’s writing journey. Alongside the student writing competitions, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition and the Taaleem Award, youngsters can also enter the Readers’ Cup quiz competition and the Qasidah par Coeur performance poetry competitions. Adults also have the chance to showcase their writing abilities, with the fun Costa Debate, back with a new and exciting debate topic ‘Hot or Cold’, and the highly successful Montegrappa Writing Prize, which has seen five winners and runners-up win book deals in the four years the competition has been running. Former participants, Rachel Hamilton, Annabel Kantaria, Lucy Strange and Charlotte Butterfield will all be returning as Festival authors next year.

Festival visitors can also pitch their manuscript ideas at the ever-popular ‘Getting Published’ sessions. Quick Pitch and The Write Formula return with leading literary agents, Luigi Bonomi and Jonathan Lloyd, while budding writers for children can look for advice from agent Eve White.

Emirates Literature Foundation Media Awards

The Festival and the Foundation have benefited greatly from the enthusiasm of the media in the Gulf region. In recognition of their continued support, the Foundation will be instituting a Media Award open to all journalists and editors of online and print publications covering the Festival.

  • Competition coverage dates: 19 October 2016 – 15 April 2017
  • Best Feature in an Arabic and an English publication
  • Awarded to One Arabic publication and One English publication
  • Panel of judges will include international and regional industry experts
  • Winners receive a long weekend trip for two to New York or London with accommodation from the InterContinental Hotel
  • The Awards will be presented at a gala ceremony in April 2017

Dubai Translation Conference

The Foundation will also host the three-day Dubai Translation Conference, in partnership with The Executive Council of Dubai, from 20-22 October, featuring renowned authors and industry experts Ahlam Mosteghanemi, Ahdaf Soueif and Muhsin al-Musawi.

Foundation Friends

The Emirates Literature Foundation is happy to announce a new loyalty programme.

Categories of the membership are Individual, Couples and Family. From as little as AED 100 for annual membership, the programme provides cardholders with a number of perks including early-bird tickets to Foundation and Festival events, exclusive discounts on Foundation and Festival tickets as well as special discounts at select retail outlets around the UAE.

‘Reading and literacy in the region and the UAE has never been under a greater spotlight than today, and it is down to the support of our partners Emirates Airline and Dubai Culture and the commitment of our patron HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to this cause that we are able to create a programme of events that will hopefully spark a passion for books and reading amongst the youth of today.’

More information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature can be found online. Join us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube for competitions and updates.