Dubai, 4 February: The UAE’s premier annual literary celebration, The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, begins today (4 February) featuring a record breaking 206 authors from 43 countries and a strong contingent of home-grown talent, the largest number ever featured at the festival. For the first time selected festival sessions will be live-streamed to almost 100,000 students at 284 schools from all of the seven Emirates. This is in addition to the full programme for students attending Education Day sessions, and the author school visit programme.

The packed programme has been curated to put the spotlight on the world’s most pressing issues with the brightest and best writers, thinkers and creators coming to Dubai to inspire, enlighten and entertain. All events take place at the InterContinental, Dubai Festival City.

Ahlam Bolooki, the festival director for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature said: “There is no question of where you need to be this weekend to find out the latest thinking  on a multitude of topics,  discovering  new ideas, igniting your imagination  and  giving you a fresh point of view. From climate change and conservation, to spirituality and mindfulness, space exploration to stories of heroism, over-coming life’s greatest challenges to celebrating its joys, we have something for everyone, along with comedy, romance, crime writers, history and more.”

There is a fun-filled programme for children with more free family fun events, up 50 per cent from last year, including an interactive session with Magic Phil, one of Dubai’s best-known entertainers and a hit with all his young fans, and the Festival Fringe showcasing drama and music from schools and community groups around the region.

Big names include explorer Ranulph Fiennes, TV astronomer and space scientist Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, environmental campaigner Tony Juniper, plus from the UAE space programme, Hazzaa AlMansouri fresh from his first venture into space. Bestselling fiction writers include Rosie Project author Graeme Simsion, epic romance writer Santa Montefiore, Killing Eve creator Luke Jennings, and two spine-tingling crime writers, Jo Nesbø and Linwood Barclay.

Award-winning novelists include  Tayari Jones, Winner of the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction, for An American Marriage; Jokha Alharthi, author of Celestial Bodies, the 2019 Man Booker International Prize winner;  Hoda Barakat, who won the 2019 IPAF for her most recent novel, Night Mail: Omaima Alkhamis who won the 2018 Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature for her novel Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Aga, 2018 Booker prize nominated Esi Edugayan for Washington Black and Mohammed Hanif, who won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Novel for A Case of Exploding Mangoes, is also here with his latest novel Red Birds, a satire on American military intervention which lays bare the absurdities and monstrosities of war.

The Festival opens with an atmospheric evening of world poetry in the desert, Desert Stanzas. On Sunday 9 February, the Festival will be brought to a close with an extravaganza of music, poetry and readings in support of Dubai Cares’ programmes for child refugees across the region, featuring exceptional performances from the best of the Festival’s renowned poets and writers and  featuring the premiere of a song composed to celebrate the extraordinary story of refugee Nujeen Mustafa – Everyday Wonders: The Girl from Aleppo. All proceeds will go to Dubai Cares and tickets are priced from AED 99 to AED 799.

Big names taking part in the Festival Finale include:

  • Bettany Hughes; Historian, writer and TV presenter.
  • Cecilia McDowall; award-winning Oxford composer whose distinctive style speaks directly to listeners, instrumentalists and singers alike.
  • Chris Read; award-winning jazz musician and songwriter.
  • Farah Chamma; Dubai-born Palestinian writer and performer whose work is mainly focused on multilingual poetry performances.
  • Harry Baker; World Poetry Slam Champion.
  • Hazzaa AlMansoori; the first Emirati to travel to space.
  • Kevin Crossley-Holland; prize-winning poet who has worked with acclaimed composers, including Cecilia McDowall with The Girl from Aleppo.
  • Markus Zusak; the international bestselling author of six novels, including The Book Thief.
  • Nujeen Mustafa; the inspiration for The Girl From Aleppo. Aged 16, with her sister, Nujeen braved inconceivable odds to travel in her wheelchair from Syria in search of a new life.
  • Onjali Q. Raúf; author of novel The Boy at the Back of the Class, a story inspired by a Syrian mother and baby she met in a Calais refugee camp which portrays the refugee crisis through the eyes of a child.
  • Ziauddin and Toor Pekai Yousafzai; best known as the parents of Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

More information about the Emirates Literature Foundation can be found online and year-round news about #EmiratesLitFest is available on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.