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25 February 2024

Latifa bint Mohammed attends opening of 16th edition of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

By E247

Luminous line-up shares fascinating stories with audiences on opening evening of the LitFest, which is hosting 160 speakers from all corners of the world

Dr. Sultan Saif AlNeyadi, Hazzaa AlMansoori, Fatma Lootah and Ali Abu Al Reesh among Emirati trailblazers set to engage with Festival audiences

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024 will feature more than 200 sessions in a variety of formats until 6 February

Opening gala begins with the announcement of winners of the third cycle of First Chapter: the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the 16th edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the flagship event of the Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF), opened today. Her Highness Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture) and Member of the Dubai Council attended the inaugural event.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2024 is being held with the support of Emirates Airline as title sponsor and Dubai Culture and Arts Authority as founding partner.

The inaugural evening of what is one of the world’s top literary events began with an extraordinary night of readings featuring three exceptional authors and speakers in poet, novelist, essayist and winner of the 1991 Booker Prize for Fiction Sir Ben Okri; award-winning poet and author of ‘Just Us: An American Conversation’, Claudia Rankine; and best-selling Kuwaiti novelist and winner of the 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction Saud Al Sanousi. The three literary luminaries reflected on their own journeys, the state of the world, the promise of tomorrow, and the power of imagination to see us through. The headliners were accompanied by spellbinding performances from Emirati poet and member of ‘Untitled Chapters’ Amal Al Sahlawi; and locally based performer and composer Ammar Ashkar. The Festival continues until 6 February 2024.

This edition of the LitFest will host more than 200 sessions in a variety of formats such as Conversations, Workshops, Special Events, LitFest After Hours, Discovery Talks, Family Activities and Youth Day.

The opening gala began with the announcement of the winners of the third cycle of First Chapter: the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship – the only global standard mentorship programme in the region for aspiring writers. The fellowship has been lauded for its success with several of its cohorts in discussion with agents and publishers and Sara Hamdan, a cohort of the first cycle, signing a landmark two-book deal with US publisher Holt-Macmillan. Her debut novel ‘What Will People Think’ will be out in 2025.

Celebrating power of community
“The Festival is a representation of the world around us, the diverse stories that make the very fabric of our existence and we gather here tonight to let stories be our compass, to teach us, to help us understand our world and to offer us an escape into the infinite worlds of our imaginations, and the tools and courage to turn them into our realities,” said Ahlam Bolooki, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation, Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Managing Director of ELF Publishing. “This edition celebrates not just individual stories, but the power of community. From lively Conversations sparking unexpected connections to insightful Discovery Talks where ideas are shared, the Festival fosters a love of words and ignites joy. From LitFest Families nurturing curiosity in our future generations to the vibrant energy of LitFest After Hours igniting friendships under the stars, every corner of this event pulses with the magic of storytelling.”

Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Marketing & Brand for Emirates said: “Tonight’s opening gala sets the tone for the rest of the Festival, filled with inspirational performances and lively discussion as we embrace storytelling to bridge cultures and bring us closer together. Emirates has been a passionate supporter of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since the very beginning, helping it grow into an essential event on Dubai’s thriving arts and culture calendar. We look forward to seeing what else the LitFest has in store.”

The Festival will see an incredible line-up of 160 speakers, with a third of those being Emiratis, such as UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs, His Excellency Dr. Sultan Saif AlNeyadi; UAE astronaut Hazzaa AlMansoori; artist and cultural envoy Fatma Lootah; author and poet Ali Abu Al Reesh, whose novel ‘The Confession’ is widely considered among the top 100 most important Arabic novels of the century,  and writer Reem Al Kamali whose book ‘Rose’s Diary’ was shortlisted for the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The ‘Bil Emirati’ strand features local writers, performers, and moderators and showcases the creative talent of the UAE, in addition to its efforts to foster a knowledge and innovation-based economy.   

Dr. Saeed Mubarak Bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, affirmed that the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has become an integral part of the community calendar in Dubai, thanks to its annual offering of diverse programmes and activities that highlights the capabilities of the local culture and arts sector. He stated: “Dubai Culture, in collaboration with the festival, has succeeded in creating a conducive environment to enable Emirati writers and intellectuals to interact with their counterparts from around the world, exchange ideas and experiences, as well as empower and support emerging talent by providing them with quality opportunities that encourage them to express their creativity and unique ideas, reflecting the richness of the local scene and Dubai's ability to attract creators in various fields.”

He emphasised that the ‘Bil Emirati’ strand supported by Dubai Culture since 2009 contributes to opening up opportunities for Emirati creators and represents a chance for literature fans to explore the diversity of local production. This is achieved through inspiring workshops and intellectual sessions that contribute to enhancing knowledge and spreading an appreciation of culture among the public, he added.

Variety of events
Over the coming week, visitors will get to enjoy a variety of events such as Desert Stanzas, an enchanting evening of poetry and eloquent recitals performed amongst mystical dunes and beneath twinkling stars at Caravanserai; What Have We Done?, an evening of stirring stories and phenomenal performances at the Theatre of Digital Art in Jumeirah; Dinner With A Clue, making its much-anticipated return to Emirates LitFest, a show with a startling twist as its main act; Brunch With A MasterChef, not your typical Dubai brunch, which allows visitors to enjoy a selection of dishes from 2017 MasterChef winner’s breakfast menu and take home a jar of her life-changing granola; Without Hope We Are Lost, which will see Palestinian poet Dana Dajani joined by performers from across the Arab world to honour the legacy of Mahmoud Darwish and the enduring impact of his poetic vision in a fundraiser event; and TikTok Book Awards featuring Rashed Alnuaimi, a two-for-one event celebrating the #BookTok winners and Emirati musical theatre in one memorable night.  

More information on the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is available on the Festival website, while the latest updates can be accessed @EmiratesLitFest on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn.