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Emirates Lit Fest opens in Dubai with a message for education and peace

School children seen during a painting workshop on the education day of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015 in Dubai. (Picture by Ashok Verma)

By Bindu Suresh

As the seventh edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature gets underway, the key message of literacy resonates amongst authors and visiting illustrators to Dubai.

Running until March 7 at InterContinental Dubai Festival City, the five-day event will see celebrity authors such as Adele Parks, Alexander McCall Smith, Joanna Trollope, David Mitchell and David Nicholls sharing their expertise and anecdotes about bringing to love some of the most beloved characters through the written word.

Visitors at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015 in Dubai. Ashok Verma

The opening ceremony on Tuesday centred around the theme ‘Wonderland’, with writers and performers Jason Kouchak, Dr Naif Al-Muttawa of ‘The 99’, Lemn Sissay and the Handspring Puppet Co. took to the stage to provide a glimpse into the festival’s offerings.

Attended by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development and Her Excellency Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Founder and CEO of Kalimat publishing house, the festival was opened by school students from all over Dubai to entertain the audience at the evening, which was sponsored by Dubai Culture.

Visitors at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015 in Dubai. Ashok Verma

Speaking at the event, Sheikh Nahyan spread the message of literacy saying: ‘We have access to books today than ever before in history.

‘Such a festival shows the UAE is fast becoming a literacy hub of the Middle East.’

Creator of ‘The 99’ Muslim superhero series, Kuwaiti author Dr Naif Al Mutawa, shared his own anecdotes of taking to writing despite all odds.

He said: ‘I don’t believe writers choose what they write about; it chooses them.’

The Festival is held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President & Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, in Dubai, in partnership with title sponsors Emirates and Dubai Culture, the Emirate’s dedicated Authority for culture, arts, and heritage.

The Festival is now part of the Emirates Literature Foundation, which was established in 2013 by Royal decree.

Opening Night commenced with the singing of the UAE National anthem and the 2015 Festival anthem, “Wonderland”, performed by the Combined Children’s Choir. Lyrics for the anthem were written by Yvette Judge, Assistant Director of the Festival, and Joan Scott-Minter with music composed by Yousef Khan.

Widely acclaimed French pianist Jason Kouchak then took to the stage to perform a short piece from Scheherazade, inspired by Arabian Nights, and Knight of Peace, a world premiere composed by Kouchak especially for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2015.

Poet, playwright and broadcaster Lemn Sissay made a triumphant return to the 2015 Festival, after mesmerizing the audience the year before, performing poetry from his collections to the rapt audience.

However, the highlight of the night was a film titled ‘Al-Jar Li ’l-Jar’ a poem celebrating the Spirit of the Union, recited by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, confirming the power of poetry in the UAE.

Capping off the evening was the first-ever UAE appearance of the life-size horse puppets from the ‘War Horse’ play, Joey and Topthorn, operated by the Handspring Puppet Co.

More than 130 authors are confirmed for the seventh Emirates Airline Festival of Literature with over 200 events taking place.

Also see: Movie Listings in UAE