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18 July 2024

Dubai gets down to read

Sir Ranulph Fiennes will be in Dubai on February 26. (AFP)

By Safura Rahimi

The world's best-selling authors will open the Middle East's first literary festival this week in a bid to kickstart a reading revolution among the UAE's younger generation.

British explorer and author, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, fiction writer Kate Mosse and Rajaa Al-Sanea, author of the controversial Girls of Riyadh, are among the famous faces taking part in the four-day Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature (EAIFL), which takes place in Dubai Festival City from February 26 to March 1.

These top writers from around the world will also lead workshops and debates and visit a number of classrooms around the city.

One of the main aims of the event is to introduce younger generations in the UAE to world-renowned authors and their works and to encourage reading and writing.

Confirmed speakers for the four-day event include children's novelist and screenwriter Anthony Horowitz, Egyptian writer Khaled Al Khamissi and literary icon Wilbur Smith.

Canadian author Margaret Atwood will not be present at the festival as planned due to unforeseen circumstances, but EAIFL director Isobel Abulhoul remains upbeat about the selection of writers attending, saying: "When we began approaching authors to attend the Middle East's first literary festival we could never have dreamed of securing such an incredible collection of global literary talent."

The packed programme includes more than 50 events, including debates, discussions and readings, and will take place at the InterContinental Hotel.

EAIFL is also hosting a free Fringe Festival on the grounds, which will display art works by local artists, poetry readings, music events, cultural shows, creative writing classes and book signings.

Tickets cost Dh35, with a limited number of events costing Dh60 and Dh100. The "boarding pass" tickets are available at all Magrudy's bookstores in the UAE and online at www.eaifl.com.

To plan your appointment diaries, Emirates Business brings you the top highlights for each day.

Day 1 February 26

The first day of the festival kicks off with a session on the impact of literary prizes on writers. The panel will include Chimamanda Adichie, Mohammed Bennis and Kate Mosse, among others.

In another session, three major Arab novelists – Ibrahim Al-Koni, Gamal Al-Ghitani and Fadhil Al-Azzawi – will explore the notion of the 'Arab novel'.

Internationally-renowned journalist Kate Adie (OBE) is also set to talk about her latest book, Into Danger.

Iranian-American author Anita Amirrezvani will talk about her inspirations, the origins of her first novel and the new book she is currently working on.

Must not miss: Sir Ranulph Fiennes will share photos from his 40 world expeditions, including the first Polar circumnavigation of the earth.

Day 2 February 27

Famed children's novelist, Anthony Horowitz, Labyrinth writer Kate Mosse, and award-winning children's illustrator Lauren Child will hold special talk sessions.

Festival-goers will also have a chance to hear leadership guru and trainer Robin Sharma, author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, who usually addresses business conventions, top entrepreneurs and royalty.

Must not miss: Best-selling author Wilbur Smith will read excerpts from his new novel Assegai. The book will be published in April but advance copies will be made available to festival-goers. Smith will also talk about his expeditions to research his novels, many of which were inspired by his love for Africa.

Day 3 February 28

Pencil in a seminar session for The Novel in Saudi Arabia, which brings together three prominent novelists from the Kingdom – Rajaa Al-Sanea, Hani Nakshabandl and Youssef Al-Mohaimeed – to discuss the contemporary Saudi novel.

Must not miss: A poetry session will celebrate the life and works of Mahmoud Darwish, the revered Arabic poet who was set to feature prominently in the festival but passed away last August.

Day 4 - March 1

The final day is dedicated to encourage literacy amongst Dubai's younger generation. Visiting authors will travel to schools and colleges to promote reading and writing by holding lectures, workshops and readings with students.