Emirates Airline Festival of Literature: A Global Literary Extravaganza
Dubai became the literary epicenter as the 15th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature unfolded, bringing together 270 of the world most celebrated writers and thinkers. Regarded as one of the premier literary gatherings globally, this year festival treated aficionados of the written word to an eclectic array of literary luminaries, making it one of the most diverse editions in its history. The week-long extravaganza, which concluded recently, showcased a mix of international icons, beloved past participants, and emerging literary voices.
From its inception in 2009, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has burgeoned into an international stage for writers to showcase their talents and a platform for the literary world to engage in conversations ranging from politics to technology. The event growth has been remarkable, with the past two years alone attracting over 100,000 enthusiasts of literature, largely owing to its extensive digital reach.
Over the course of 15 years, nearly 1,800 authors from across the globe have graced the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.
The inaugural edition in 2009 featured 65 authors worldwide, including acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Scottish poet and playwright Carol Ann Duffy, Emirati poet Nujum Al-Ghanem, and historical fiction author Philippa Gregory. Since then, the festival has welcomed not only revered literary giants and popular fiction maestros but also international celebrities, social advocates, business leaders, and political figures whose books have captured readers' imaginations worldwide.
The festival stage has witnessed the likes of Turkish novelist Elif Shafak, French-Lebanese journalist and novelist Amin Maalouf, Pulitzer Prize-winning Irish author Frank McCourt, who made his final appearance before his passing, and prolific writer Jeffrey Archer, the only author to achieve number one bestselling status in fiction, short stories, and non-fiction, with sales spanning 97 countries and totaling 275 million copies.
Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Other masterful storytellers gracing the festival include Shashi Tharoor, an eminent Indian writer, politician, and public intellectual; David Walliams, the English comedian, actor, writer, and TV presenter; Thomas Erickson, renowned for his bestselling non-fiction works; and Jeff Kinney, the American writer and cartoonist famous for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. In 2021, the youngest Nobel Laureate, Malala Yousafzai, delivered a poignant message advocating for enhanced access to education for girls.
While fostering global literary discourse, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature also champions a deeper appreciation for Arab literature, poetry, and Emirati culture. Each year, the festival unites prominent UAE writers, speakers, and emerging talents through sessions, panels, and workshops. These gatherings, held in Arabic and English under the theme ‘Bil Emirati’ and sponsored by the Dubai Authority for Culture and the Arts, cover a spectrum of subjects, from the publishing industry to culture, folklore, literature, and sustainability.
This year festival continued its journey of celebrating captivating narratives with events hosted at Intercontinental Festival City and Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, connected by the Abra waterway, symbolizing the festival bridging of cultural gaps.
With nearly 300 events encompassing live music, poetry performances, workshops, film screenings, and talks by literary luminaries, the 2023 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature showcased an array of talents. The lineup featured Emmy Award-winning writer Bryan Cox, renowned authors Mohsin Hamid and Alexander McCall Smith, children writers David Walliams, Ben Miller, and Oliver Jeffers, Indian journalist Barkha Dutt, world-renowned writer and producer Reza Aslan, Malaysian journalist Marina Mahathir, Iraqi author Inaam Kachachi, esteemed Saudi poet Jassim Al Sahih, and Emirati writer Maisun Saqer Al Qassimi, recipient of the 2022 Sheikh Zayed Book Prize