Emirates Airline Festival of Literature Holds Its Final Weekend

In News by Porter Anderson

Lemn Sissay is a headliner as the three-week Emirates Airline Festival of Literature closes its hybrid run for 2021, having engaged more than 90 authors in digital and physical events.

The organizing leadership of Dubai’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2021 at the InterContinential Dubai Festival City complex. Image: EAFL

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Dubai Joins Sharjah in Staging a Physical Book Festival
As it enters its final of three weekends in Dubai,  the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature moves to its Alsserkal Avenue venue today (February 12), having been at the Jameel Arts Centre (January 29 and 30) and at the soaring InterContinental Dubai Festival City (February 4 to 6).

emirates airline festival of literature logoA combination of digital and physical events, as Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, the program today features:

  • “Fashion, Football and Feminism” as the topic of a discussion between Hafsa Lodi and FIFA coach Houriya Altaheri, whose specializations are in fashion and football, respectively
  • “Literature Live Around the World,” a whistle-stop tour of some of the festival’s sister international literary events, with the participation of Norway’s Bergen International Literary Festival
  • The Emirati diplomat and author Omar Saif Ghobash in a far-reaching conversation touching on his experience as the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador, first to Russia, then to France
  • “Change the Story,” a program in which Wisdom Warehouse hosted creative writing workshops for children, while at KAVE, the spoken-word artist Farrah Chamma gave a seminar for adults

Lemn Sissay

The program’s Saturday highlights include:

  • Julia Johnson is sharing her latest children’s book Where is Everyone?, for children age 6 and older
  • Lemn Sissay appears in a sold-out (physical setting) program focused on his memoir My Name Is Why
  • Kateb Maktub, the Emirates Literature Foundation’s initiative offers a free workshop on first steps to becoming a verified Wikipedia editor
  • The Montegrappa Letter Writing Competition winners in the adult category are to be revealed, the winning letters getting readings
  • The Festival Finale features Sissay, Dana Dajani, Afra Atiq, Mark Fiddes, Shamma Al Bastaki, Zeina Hashem Beck and Danabelle Gutierrez
Writing Competition

The Emirates Airline Festival’s ‘Fashion, Football and Feminism’ event. Image: EAFL

The festival includes a competition for unpublished novelists from the UAE’s very active author corps, open to first-time novelists from the Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

The top honor has gone to Benjamin Crossland for a science-fiction novel titled MindSet.

The latest winner of the competition to be published is Polly Phillips whose debut novel, My Best Friend’s Murder, has been signed by Simon & Schuster, and is being made available as an ebook and audiobook. The paperback is to be published in July.

Charlotte Butterfield has announced a new publishing deal with the UK’s Hodder & Stoughton for her novel My Second-Chance Life, to be released in April 2022.

Festival director Ahlam Bolooki is pleased, she says, with the growing traction for this program, saying, “Anyone serious about their writing should take the opportunity provided by this competition to get their work noticed. It has been very exciting for us to have played a part in enabling publishing success for so many new authors.”

Other authors participating this year have included Elif Shafak, Malala, and Amin Maalouf, and we look forward to news of attendance figures after the staff has finished the three-week program and worked up the figures for both the physical and digital offerings.

One of the few such international book events to have attempted a physical component, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, with Isobel Abulhoul as its CEO, now stands with the Sharjah International Book Fair for having mounted a physical event during the pandemic. Under the direction of Sharjah Book Authority’s chair Ahmed Al Ameri, the Sharjah fair drew a reported 382,000 attendees, with extensive COVID-19 spread-mitigation measures.

The Emirates Airline event has similarly worked with Dubai’s health authorities for regulatory efforts, in an attempt to make the event as safe as possible.

The Coronavirus in the UAE

At this writing, the 4:23 a.m. ET (0923 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 339,667 cases in the United Arab Emirates’ population of 9.6 million, with 986 reported fatalities.

Abeer Abu Omar at Bloomberg reports that Dubai is now being seen as a potential test market for aggressive vaccination programs, and high testing rate. “Cases in the UAE quadrupled to almost 4,000 a day by the end of January,” Omar writes, “though they’ve since fallen to just under 3,000.

“Notwithstanding that rise, the UAE’s 0.3-percent fatality rate remains one of the lowest globally, partly due to its youthful population.”

At this weekend’s Alsserkal Avenue venue for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Image: EAFL


More from Publishing Perspectives on literary festivals is here. More from us on the United Arab Emirates is here.

And more from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As as an arts critic (National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.