The Festival opens its doors with its signature event, Desert Stanzas, followed by a fun-filled week of sessions, workshops, and special events
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (1-6 February), one of the world’s top ten literary festivals, begins tomorrow at InterContinental Dubai Festival City and Mohammed bin Rashid Library. The crystal edition is expected to be exceptional, with the largest line-up ever, featuring more than 260 authors and talents from around the world in 300+ sessions and workshops covering a wide range of topics such as literature, arts, culture, and more. Among the best-known names are Brian Cox, the Emmy-winning patriarch of the hit streaming series Succession; master storytellers Cecelia Ahern, Mohsin Hamid, Alexander McCall Smith, and Jeffrey Archer; Indian politician Shashi Tharoor, renowned religious commentator Reza Aslan, multi-talented top children’s author David Walliams, and others.
Desert Stanzas, the festival’s much-loved signature event will make its return on the opening night, 1 February, featuring poetry renditions and narratives that encourage reminiscing, paying tribute to ancestral wisdom and cultures of the past. There will also be an homage to the preservation of the planet and the COP28 story, interpreted through performance.
Festival Director Ahlam Bolooki says, “I can’t wait to welcome everyone to our new venue sponsor, Mohammed bin Rashid Library, and to the original home of the Festival, InterContinental Dubai Festival City to celebrate our joint success, the fruits of years of hard work, and the community we’ve built together over the years.”
The Festival is organised with the support of Title Sponsor Emirates Airline and Founding Partner, the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture and 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.
On the agenda are several special events like A Dinner with Bobby Chinn, a vegan feast crafted by the celebrity chef on 3 February, showing how elegant dining can still have a focus on sustainability, with an exclusive menu at Zaytoun Restaurant in the InterContinental Dubai Festival City, accompanied by a chat with the man himself.
Top novelists from around the world will be joining the Festival, among them are the art-historian and BAFTA nominated broadcaster James Fox, the influential best-selling British historical novelist, Kate Mosse, mathematician and author of popular mathematics and science books Marcus du Sautoy, Head of Business Marketing at TikTok MENA, Annie Arsane Mattar, the winner of the 2022 International Booker, Geetanjali Shree and more; and for the first time ever, the Festival has welcomed a guest curator, poet and author Lemn Sissay, who brings his own inimitable flair to selected events.
This year’s Emirati strand, sponsored by Dubai Culture, runs right throughout the programme, celebrating the culture of the country and providing an opportunity for Emirati and international authors to share stage and ideas and have meaningful conversations on a range of topics that appeal to the multicultural audiences that fill the sessions.
Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, stressed the importance of Dubai hosting literature and culture festivals, saying: “Over the course of 15 years, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has been able to turn into an effective global platform that contributes to supporting local talent, highlighting their achievements and creativity, and presenting them to the world, through its activities and sessions that enrich the local and regional cultural scene, and its qualitative discussions that encourage cultural exchange between human societies, which falls within the framework of Dubai Culture’s commitments aimed at creating a sustainable cultural environment that attracts intellectuals and literature from all over the world.”
Many sessions will be inspired by the 2023 Festival theme, ‘Old Friends,’ which will celebrate the friendships created over the past fifteen years. The Festival promises its audiences, family fun, enlightening talks, new ideas, and dynamic performances centered on books, art, science, current events, film, and food.
While the majority of the sessions take place at the Interconnectional Dubai Festival City, the audience can enjoy taking the Abra in Dubai Creek and attend a few sessions at the Mohammed bin Rashid Library.
“We at Mohammed Bin Rashid Library share a common vision with The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature to foster creativity in a thoughtful manner, which support advancing the literary and intellectual scene at the local and regional levels. The Festival has successfully strengthened its position and given Emirati authors across various fields of literature an ideal opportunity to learn about diverse global cultures and reach out to others. It also represents a positive step towards boosting the infrastructure of the writing and publishing sector,” said H.E. Mohammed Al Murr, Chairman of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation.
Ticket prices start at AED 25.
New this year are day-long, weekend, student and publishing day passes starting at AED 199 and an all-access Crystal Pass with exclusive entry to the Green Room.
Also returning is the Festival Fringe, with a host of fun free events and performances for all the family.