COMING UP: Top Authors at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

Discover the upcoming literary feast! Explore the lineup of top authors at the festival.
Elif Shafak, Photo Ferhat Elik

More literary-themed treats are in store this week as the 2021 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (29 January -13 February) builds up to its big weekend (4-6 February). Featuring a fantastic line-up which includes Nobel Prize winner Malala, acclaimed authors Elif Shafak and Amin Maalouf, and a day dedicated to Emirati talent, sponsored by Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

The action will be taking place at the Festival’s home, the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, with a mix of live sessions featuring home-grown writers, poets and experts combined with virtual appearances from international authors. Tickets for some events are already sold out, but the Festival’s digital ticket, giving access to at least ten live streamed sessions, including Malala and Elif Shafak, means that fans won’t be disappointed.

Not to be missed authors include internationally acclaimed writer and journalist Amin Maalouf with his timely work Adrift: How Our World Lost Its Way, and Thomas Erikson, author of the runaway bestseller Surrounded by Idiots, discussing the challenges of communication with self-development author Sherif Arafa.

The Festival is proud to host the celebration of the new children’s books from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The Festival is also hosting the launch of the Young Voices of Arabia book, supported by HH Sheikha Hissa bint Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Goodwill Ambassador of the Voices of Future Generations for the Gulf Region. The book features the winning entries from the 2020 competition.

The ‘Spotlight on Emirati talent’ day, 4 February, includes a discussion between HE Hala Badri and HE Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri on the UAE’s ‘Cultural Visa’ for creatives. H.E. Noura Al Kaabi will speak as part of a session about the future of the Arabic language.

The invitation-only Official Ceremony will feature Festival favourite Afra Atiq, performing a poem about the wonder of storytelling.

Booker Prize shortlisted Avni Doshi will be in conversation with award-winning Derek Owusu, comparing notes on debuts, making the awards lists, their writing journeys and more.

Oyinkan Braithwaite, Author of the smash-hit novel My Sister the Serial Killer

Other highlights include Oyinkan Braithwaite with her smash-hit novel My Sister the Serial Killer, self-confessed ‘romcomisseur” Bolu Babalola breathing new life into mythical love stories, and Immanuel Kim, the translator of Friend by Paek Nam-nyong, with insights into North Korean literature and cinema. There’s also Satyarth Nayak celebrating the phenomenon of Bollywood star Sridevi: The Eternal Screen GoddessEdward Brooke-Hitching taking us on a tour of The Madman’s Library, and Malala’s father Ziauddin Yousafzai, the Co-founder and Chairman of the Malala Fund that champions girls’ rights to education all over the world.

Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon Jay Jayamohan, star of the BBC’s fly-on-the-wall series, Brain Doctors and Children’s Craniofacial Surgery will join medical expert Nafea Alyasi  and Dr Rupy Aujla, author of Eat to Beat Illness on a panel debunking the misinformation surrounding topics from fad diets to the coronavirus outbreak. The route to wellness and good mental health will be examined by Heather Grace.

The conservation of the UAE’s wildlife is on the agenda in a fascinating panel discussing the plants and animals that make the mangroves, reefs and deserts of the UAE their home. Join Major Ali Al Suwaidi, president of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group and ‘the UAE’s last pearl diver’ and marine heritage expert Johannes Els, who will tell us about the steps being taken to conserve our natural world.

Victoria Montgomery Brown will discuss the lessons from her book, the Digital Goddess: The Unfiltered Lessons of a Female Entrepreneur with Afra Atiq, while Andy Fieldhouse will explain how to build more effective teams in his workshop and join a panel with Mimi Nicklin on empathetic cooperative workplaces.

Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, Photo Patrice Normand Leextra

Hisham El Kheshen and Mounir Al Hayek take part in an absorbing examination of the connection between the self and place, while Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin and Huda Hamed discuss how to find the balance between strength and weakness in their novels.

Other international names in the packed programme are Kuwaiti author Taleb Alrefai, and Egyptian writer Walaa Kamal who shares the story of his time on the road with a famous Egyptian band in My Days with Cairokee.

There will also be poetry performances from Amal Al Sahlawi, Shamma Al Bastaki, Kareem Maatouq and Alia Al Shamsi.

The fun-packed children’s programme features interactive sessions and workshops including lots of silly science questions asked – and answered - by award-winning scientist Isabel Thomas. There are also festival favourite Julia Johnson, Maitha Al Khayat and Ameera BuKadra with a modern twist on traditional Emirati folktales, and storybook fun for younger ones with Ebtisam Al-Beiti.

The Festival is a fierce champion of locally based writers and this year it is introducing a new feature, the LitFest Launchpad, giving UAE-based authors a chance to launch their latest book to Festival audiences.

The winner of the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize will be revealed, and as always there will be creative writing workshops and chats and advice from industry professionals such as publisher Allison K Williams, author of Seven Drafts: Self-Edit Like a Pro From Blank Page to Book.

The Festival’s big weekend follows last week’s opening at Jameel Arts Centre (29-30 January), which saw visitors of all ages enjoying the literary themed events, many with an art and design focus. The festival draws to a close with more events at Alserkal Avenue (12-13 February).

Due to social distancing, there are fewer tickets available, so early booking is recommended. Tickets will be required for each event, including free sessions, to ensure visitor numbers are restricted.

Ticket prices start at AED 60 for adult sessions, AED 40 for children’s sessions, and AED 100 for a digital pass to watch live-streamed sessions from home. A minimum of 10 top sessions will be streamed live from the big Festival weekend at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City.

The Festival will be fully compliant with all Covid-19 prevention regulations and guidelines from the Dubai Health Authorities, including social distancing measures across all three venues and mandatory masks. See full details on the Emirates LitFest website.

The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture, and is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai.

For the full list of authors, visit More information can be found online and year-round news of #EmiratesLitFest on LinkedInFacebookTwitterInstagram and YouTube.

You can also tune in to the Foundation’s two podcasts; the Best of the Emirates LitFest, and the Boundless Book Club.