Eliza Reid, First Lady of Iceland, Romantic Comedy author Curtis Sittenfeld, Designer and author Sophia Webster.
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL) is bearing down on Dubai, with all pages flying. Bringing together some of the world’s renowned writers, creators and thought leaders (Jan. 31 – Feb. 6), it is hosting new events and experiences in the form of LitFest After Hours, Discovery Talks, LitFest Families and Youth Day this year. EAFL is the flagship event of the Emirates Literature Foundation, 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. It is held with the support of Title Sponsor, Emirates Airline, and Founding Partner, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture).
LitFest After Hours means the fun doesn’t stop once the sun sets! From Thursday to Sunday, doors will be open for performances, games, activities, and food. Then, besides books, authors and speakers converge for Discovery Talks, a series of free-to-attend “fun” lectures, offering perspectives on topics ranging from the Spiderverse to Chinese mythology to Arabic language and artificial intelligence. EAFL has gathered children’s storytellers and illustrators from across the UAE and world for an action-packed weekend, perfect for small bookworms. From dragons and superheroes to teen spies and poetry, there’s something for every little reader at LitFest Families.
Sultan Al Neyadi on board the ISS.
University and high school students are invited to be a part of important conversations and ignite their imagination on Youth Day, a day of curated events for curious minds. It covers themes from artificial intelligence to literature to business and sustainability, with an anchoring focus on Arabic culture. The writer’s line-up includes 2023 Booker Prize-winner, Paul Lynch, author of the Prophet Song; Booker Prize-winning author and President of the Royal Society of Literature, Bernardine Evaristo; UAE astronaut, Hazza AlMansoori and UAE’s Minister of Youth, Sultan Al Neyadi; BookTok sensation Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Romantic Comedy; and Rebecca Yarros, author of Fourth Wing (Sittenfeld and Yarros are both making their regional debut); award-winning translator best-known for his Korean to English translation of I Went to See My Father, Cursed Bunny and for his upcoming biography of k-pop sensation BTS, Anton Hur; renowned shoe and accessories designer and author of Oh My Gosh, I Love Your Shoes! Sophia Webster; gender equality and arts advocate Eliza Reid, the First Lady of Iceland; Emirati artist and cultural envoy, Fatma Lootah; and Egyptian graphic novelist and illustrator Deena Mohamed.
Booker Prize winner Bernardine Evaristo.
A highlight will be a special event, Without Hope We Are Lost, which is an evening of poetry and performance dedicated to the life and work of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and a world-first conversation between Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo and poet, essayist and playwright Claudia Rankine, plus a special closing to the big LitFest weekend with the first ever regional TikTok Book Awards and a concert by Emirati musician, Rashed Alnuaimi.
Ahlam Bolooki, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation, Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Managing Director of ELF Publishing said: “It is my pleasure and honour to elevate the UAE’s cherished literary festival to unprecedented heights. This is a new age for books, reading, and storytelling, and we are poised to lead the charge. Our innovative events and groundbreaking partnerships with trend-setting collaborators reflect our commitment to shaping a literary landscape that resonates with the pulse of our audience.”
Emirati artist and cultural envoy Fatma Lootah, and Emirati musician Rashed Alnuaimi.
The Festival will be hosting a series of book launches including Out of This World by Dr Sultan Al Neyadi. The upcoming publication by ELF Publishing is a photo journal of the recently appointed Minister of Youth’s 6-month visit to space. The collection not only showcases the universe from the vantage point of the International Space Station, but also grants an insight into the personal reflections and impressions of the astronaut fondly referred to as the “Sultan of Space”. Each page offers readers the opportunity to embark on a journey that takes them beyond the physical limitations of this world, and invites them to enjoy the wonders of space exploration. The book will be launched at a session titled Out Of This World: Sultan Al Neyadi at 15:00 on February 3. The event will give viewers a front-seat to hearing about Dr. Al Neyadi’s space adventures as well as the opportunity to get their copy of the book signed by him.
Author Rebecca Yarros.
Other highlights: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established official relations with the Emirates Literature Foundation for a renewable period of six years. Next, the Foundation will be making a strategic move to a vibrant new office in Al Shindagha Historic Neighbourhood, one of the cultural epicentres of the city. The relocation will also mark the relaunch of the Dubai International Writer’s Center. Commencing April, the Center will host an array of year-round events, from book clubs to book launches and film screenings. The Foundation has also collaborated with Dubai Civil Defence and will soon unveil the ELF Reading Caravan — a mobile library and event space. The electric vehicle will traverse neighbourhoods in Dubai, delivering the joy of reading to doorsteps.
The Festival have enhanced their partnership with Dubai Culture to promote Emirati and UAE-based authors on the global literary stage. At the ‘Bil Emirati strand’ at EAFL, Dubai Culture will identify talents, and the Foundation, through its links with the Global Association of Literary Festivals (GAOLF) and connections with almost 150 festivals worldwide, will secure coveted speaking and performance slots for the authors.
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