Dubai, UAE, 15 January 2020: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” according to the philosopher George Santayana, and as a new decade begins, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (4-9 February) reveals an impressive line-up of historians to evaluate the lessons learned from the past and bring insights for the future.

Best-selling author Bettany Hughes has written acclaimed books and broadcast TV series on the ancient civilisations of Greece, Egypt and Rome and a history of Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities. She examines what we can learn from ancient civilisations with professor Jonathan Phillips, an expert on the legacy of the Crusades in East and West, and also joins a panel to consider the great roles women have played through the ages.  From leading the charge in battles, to negotiating a truce, they will look at how women have changed history and their impact. Joining Bettany Hughes will be Moroccan writer and researcher Abdelillah Benarafa, Emirati writer and journalist Reem Al Kamali and Dr Rafia Ghubash, the founder of Dubai’s Women’s Museum and publisher of books documenting UAE heritage and history.

As with his acclaimed Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood, historian and journalist Justin Marozzi captivatingly combines history with reportage, bringing storytelling to the fore. In Islamic Empires he looks back at the history and the rich civilisation of Islam’s greatest cities, once the envy of the world and unrivalled powerhouses of artistic grandeur, commercial power, spiritual sanctity and forward-looking thinking. He also takes part in a discussion with Jonathan Phillips and distinguished Emirati author Mohammed Al Murr, a collector of fascinating historical artefacts and manuscripts relating to the Arabian Nights and the region’s history. They discuss the significance of preserving tangible pieces of history, and the role artefacts play in forming stories around cultural identity and historical memory.

The authors of new books about the history of the UAE will be at the Festival to discuss the convergence of factors that led to the UAE’s sudden rise to global prominence. Focusing on the capital, Abu Dhabi, in the period since the discovery of oil in the 1960s, they will discuss the intertwined arts of city- and nation-building and the journey from desert tribal kingdoms to the thriving metropolis of today. Taking part will be Alamira Reem Bani Hashim, the author of Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History – the first urban history book to be published by an Emirati in the English language; David Heard CBE the author of Oil Men, Territorial Ambitions and Political Agents, a heavily researched account of the negotiations over oil that shaped the transformation of the Trucial States into the UAE; and Nick Cochrane-Dyet,  the author of Early Days in the Emirates, a recollection of his times in the UAE during the 60s and 70s and the influence Sheikh Zayed had on his upbringing.

The human history of the United Arab Emirates stretches back much further, to the emergence of the modern human from Africa, who went on to populate the earth from one of the world’s harshest environments. Author and journalist Alexander McNabb reveals the vast and fascinating history of the people of the UAE in his new book, Children of the Seven Sands.

Jamal Bin Huwaireb, cultural Advisor to the Government of Dubai, continues the theme with the enlightening session, Building Tomorrow, featuring speakers  sharing stories from the life of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, one of the world’s most forward-thinking and visionary leaders who left an inedible mark on the political, economic and social well-being of the UAE, and whose accomplishments place him among history’s greatest.

More recent world history is also considered by a number of Festival authors.  Investigative photo-journalist and broadcaster Jeremy Hunter entered North Korea just before the death of Kim Jong-Il. His photographic record shines a light into this corner of the world and gives an extraordinary account of daily life in one of the least-known states on Earth.

In his new book How to Argue with a Racist writer and broadcaster Adam Rutherford explains how history and science can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be. There is also the story of the astonishing life of the indomitable Edna Adan Ismail in her autobiography, A Woman of Firsts. Surviving imprisonment, persecution, and civil war, she was Somaliland’s first midwife, campaigning tirelessly for better healthcare for women, and fought for equality on a global stage as the first female Foreign Minister of her country.


The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is 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.

To buy tickets and for the full list of authors, visit http://www.emirateslitfest.com/shop

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.