UAE: Abu Dhabi’s Arabic Language Centre Debuts ‘Arabian Days’

In News by Porter Anderson

Set to culminate on the United Nations’ Arabic Language Day, Abu Dhabi’s new Arabian Days festival runs December 15 to 18.

A graphic from the promotional material being developed for the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre’s ‘Arabian Days’ festival. Image: ADALC video

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

‘The Richness of the Language’
When UNESCO’s 2023 observance of its World Arabic Day arrives on December 18, its theme this year will be Arabic: The Language of Poetry and the Arts.

The annual arrival of “World Arabic Day,” the 18th, coincides with the date in 1973 when the United Nations’ General Assembly adopted Arabic as its sixth official language. Now believed to be used daily by more than 400 million people, Arabic is understood as one of the most influential and pervasive languages in the world, something close to the mission of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center led by Dr. Ali Bin Tamim.

And the language center’s new festival, Arabian Days, will be staged on Saadiyat Island, where the cultural district Manarat Al Saadiyat includes Louvre Abu Dhabi; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi; the new Abrahamic Family House and more.

Programming is designed to welcome both Arabic speakers and those who don’t know the language, and is to feature music, poetry, visual artistry, and other elements in explicating the heritage and contemporary creativity of Arabic.

Interactive installations, film, live performance, and workshops are part of the plan, which is to include discussion among scholars as well as the public-facing festival events.

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

In a prepared statement about the new festival, Bin Tamim is quoted, saying, “Arabian Days is a celebration of the diverse world of Arabic, from its historical origins to the vibrant language of contemporary art, culture, poetry, and knowledge.

“Through live performances, engaging discussions, artistic installations, and immersive experiences, the festival invites visitors to come together to experience and celebrate the richness of the language through all its creative forms.

“Whether Arabic is your native language or a new linguistic interest, the festival promises enriching experiences tailored for everyone to enjoy.”

  • Some of the work on hand is to include the process pieces of the Lebanese graffiti artist Georges Ekmekji, who will develop a new piece in real time during the festival.
  • Cinema Akil is to provide a cinema setting to showcase a selection of long-form films centered around the themes of Arabic writers and poets.
  • The festival is also to feature bonfire storytelling, presenting a mix of traditional and contemporary Arabic narratives.

Workshops themed on literature are being organized alongside historical re-enactments depicting key characters from Arabic culture including Mutanabbi, May Zyada, Khalil Gibran, and Naguib Mahfouz. In addition there are to be art exhibitions, including a gallery displaying work of finalists of the Kanz Al Jeel award, combining poetry and abstract art and a new exhibition of Mahmoud Shubbar paintings themed on traditional Arabic stories.

While not a publishing industry event, the festival is to include literary discussions with specialists including German Arabists Stefan Weidner, Mustafa Al-Sulaiman, and Carmen Gau; Ida Zilio Grande, a professor of Arabic literature at Cafscari University in Italy; Anne Millet, a co-founder of Leila (Arabic Literature in European Languages); Mehmet Hakkı Suçin, head of the Arabic language department of Gazi University in Türkiye; and Khaled Al Masri, a professor of Arabic language and literature at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania in the United States.

Irene Domingo, the director of Madrid’s Casa Árabe near El Retiro, is to make a keynote address.

More information on the new program is here, and a program of events is available here. An atmospheric abstract video trailer for the event is below.

 More from Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. 

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson 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 International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, 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.