Join top authors at one of the world’s leading international literary festivals


Festival theme for 2019 is United by Words


Dubai, 19 November 2018: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has announced a packed programme for 2019, appealing to all ages and nationalities and featuring outstanding authors, thinkers and opinion formers. The Festival will take place from 19 March 2019.


Recognised as one of the leading literary festivals in the world, highlights include Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, author of Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, and a leading name in the fight against climate change; Jane Hawking, whose best-selling memoir about her marriage with genius Stephen Hawking was turned into the film The Theory of Everything; IPAF winner Saud Alsanousi; Diary of a Wimpy Kid author Jeff Kinney; novelist and artist Douglas Coupland, who defined Generation X; Cassandra Clare, author of the Mortal Instruments books, made into a motion picture as well as a popular Netflix series; master of crime fiction Ian Rankin, and many more.

Celebrating stories that connect, entertain, inspire and intrigue, many of the sessions explore the Festival theme, ‘United by Words’. Festival director Ahlam Bolooki said: “Around the world, we have seen classifications and separations dividing people into colours, genders and faiths. The notion of ‘us vs. them’ is everywhere. What the world needs more than ever before, is unity. We want our Festival to be a meeting point for the world. Readers and non-readers, men and women, young and experienced, no matter who you are and where you are from, we have so much in common. We all share our uniquely human condition; our worries and concerns, our hopes and dreams. Throughout our programme, you will find sessions that speak to us all.


“With top authors and experts on all manner of topics to entertain, inform and surprise, we are the home of intelligent conversations that make you look at the world in new ways. Whatever your interests are, the conversation is happening at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.”


Hear stories of women who have stood at the crossroads of history, or delve into what the future holds with world experts and futurists on consumerism, technology and globalisation.  As always, the children’s programme is brimming with fun for all ages, and an amazing line-up of YA authors.  The Education Programme, at the heart of the Festival, goes from strength to strength, this year introducing a Youth Day to inspire the over 16s. Sessions are in Arabic and English, often with simultaneous translation.


Tickets go on general sale from 6 December. Foundation Friends can book in advance from 4 December.


Women at the Crossroads

Hillary Clinton’s Director of Communications for the 2016 Presidential campaign, Jennifer Palmieri, is using her insights to empower future leaders. Hear her observations in Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run the World. Former private secretary to Nelson Mandela, Zelda La Grange, is a white Afrikaner who grew up supporting apartheid in segregated South Africa. In this riveting session she explains how Mandela affected her life, and how she grew to respect the man she served for 19 years and came to call ‘Khulu’ or ‘grandfather’.  Award-winning economist and World Economic Forum executive committee member Saadia Zahidi tells the stories of the remarkable women leading the momentous revolution reshaping the Muslim world, with 50 million women entering the workforce. There is also Sue Nelson’s amazing tale of the redoubtable Wally Funk, who as part of the Mercury 13 crew, was one of the pioneering women training for space travel.


Future World

Futurist Gerd Leonhard, author of Technology vs Humanity, will be discussing the effects of consumerism and technology on our lives. Named one of the top 100 most influential people in Europe by Wired Magazine, Leonhard’s remarkable grasp on how recent breakthroughs will affect our lives covers everything from the future of music to the transformations sweeping the business sphere. The Future World strand also features America’s most celebrated transportation guru, Sam Schwartz, a.k.a. ‘Gridlock Sam’, on how driverless vehicle revolution will transform our cities, and leading globalisation expert Richard Baldwin. Having coined the term ‘globotics’ to describe the combination of globalisation and robotics, Baldwin believes this threatens to overwhelm and disrupt the working lives of millions in unprecedented ways. Lewis Dartnell, known for his work, The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch, is at the Festival with his new book, Origins: How the Earth Made Us, which looks at the human story from the perspective of the planetary forces that shaped our biology and history. Rowan Hooper, Managing Editor of New Scientist magazine, explores the science of peak potential and the role genetics can play in achieving greatness, long life and happiness. Cambridge geneticist and BBC presenter Giles Yeo, who has dedicated more than 20 years to studying how genes influence our eating habits, investigates ‘Why are we getting so fat?’ and ‘Clean eating – The dirty truth’. His latest book, Gene Eating, tackles the question of why some people eat more than others.


United by Words

What role does literacy play in building a better society?  James Owens, founder of the charity The World is Just a Book Away, and Omar Saif Ghobash, author of the thought-provoking Letters to a Young Muslim, discuss how to make a difference.


Also in this strand is Guggenheim Fellow Martin Puchner, whose most recent book is an account of literature from the invention of writing to the internet, The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization. The book won advance praise from Margaret Atwood and was widely praised by critics.


Words are not the only thing that unite us, so authors and chefs will gather for the United by Food dinner to celebrate the stories that are told by our plates – and how strangers sharing a meal can lead to understanding of what else we share.



Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations for Emirates Airline said: “This year’s theme for the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is incredibly powerful, because words and books teach us, move us, give us new perspectives and help shape us.  For more than a decade, the festival has built a community around literature; from children’s sessions and writing workshops to author events. We are proud to support and connect people for the region’s most dynamic, interactive celebration of literature and books that showcases the diversity of cultures and backgrounds. As the title sponsor of the Festival, Emirates is making an important statement about the value of supporting the growing cultural, arts and creative industries in Dubai, and we look forward to uniting book-lovers with authors who inspire them for the coming years.”


Special Events

This year sees the return of the Festival’s landmark event Desert Stanzas. The atmospheric evening celebrates world poetry amidst the sand dunes, below a starlit sky, featuring the New Zealand poet laureate, Selina Tusitala Marsh, Anis Chochene from Tunisia, and Emirati spoken word poets Afra Atiq and Salem Alattas, amongst many others.


Get your festival off to a tranquil start with a Yoga breakfast with Mira Manek, or join Danish food writer and chef Trine Hanhemann for a Scandinavian supper, featuring Nordic treats inspired by nature.


Kate Young’s bookshelves stirred her to create culinary interpretations of the food her literary heroes were eating. See if your favourite books are on the menu in this quirky session – which will feature a chance to sample some of Kate’s recipes.


The all-new Business Day will feature a series of events aimed at helping working people live a life that is fulfilling as well as productive. Beginning with a healthy breakfast and series of short talks from inspiring speakers, the day will also feature a panel on artificial intelligence and a roundtable discussion of the tricky issues of today’s business climate.

Business Day is complemented by a series of workshops designed to improve your ability to tell your organisation’s story.


International Women’s Day will once again bring together a panel of inspiring speakers. Hear the opinions of Dubai Abulhoul, Saadia Zahidi, Zelda La Grange and Jennifer Palmieri on the most pressing issues that face women today.


As always, there’ll be workshops on a range of subjects, including creative writing and how to get published.


Page to Screen

Our page to screen sessions are always hugely popular, and this year we give you Their Finest, a 2016 romantic drama starring Bill Nighy, Gemma Arterton and Sam Claflin. Based on the book by Lissa Evans, it tells the story of producing a propaganda movie during The Blitz, told through the eyes of a woman in a man’s world. The multi-talented Evans will also be talking about her latest novels and as well as giving a session for children on her surreal and hilarious book, Wed Wabbit.


Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General, Dubai Culture & Arts Authority, said:

“The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is an extension of the values ​​and achievements of the late Founding Father who inspired us to encourage the next generations to love knowledge, culture, and the pursuit of science. The late Sheikh Zayed saw education as a gate of opportunity for the sons and daughters of the nation to embark on a promising journey, and we are proud of what the cultural, art, heritage, and literature sectors of the UAE have accomplished. We are delighted to continue our partnership with this prestigious festival that is positioned on the world’s cultural agendas and that also contributes to spreading the values ​​of tolerance and peace between different civilisations, strengthening our city’s presence among the world capitals, and regarding culture as a complement to the happiness of its inhabitants and a major contributor to its knowledge-based economy. ”


The Thrill of the Chase

Master of the crime genre, the matchless Ian Rankin returns with the latest case for detective Inspector Rebus, In a House of Lies. Clare Mackintosh and Sabine Durrant have both won critical acclaim for their taut thrillers, and are in Dubai with their latest novels. Shining a light into the fictional world of espionage is Charles Cumming, currently working on the script of the second series of the smash hit TV series, The Night Manager, who will be talking about his latest novel, The Man Between; and Frank Gardner, best known as the BBC’s security correspondent, whose first novel, Crisis was published to great acclaim in 2016. Gardner returns with the equally compelling sequel, Ultimatum.


Following the phenomenal success of The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan brings the story up to date in The New Silk Roads, examining the interconnected world of today, exploring how it is changing and explaining why this matters not just to politicians and businesspeople, but to all of us.  Historian Patricia Vigderman takes us back to ancient Greece to discover The Real Life of the Parthenon, while Nicola Tallis tell us of the scandals of Tudor times with her biography, Elizabeth’s Rival: The Tumultuous Tale of Lettice Knollys, Countess of Leicester. And in what is sure to be a revelatory session, veteran Indian foreign correspondent Ashis Ray will speak about his critically praised investigative book Laid to Rest: the Controversy over Subhas Chandra Bose’s Death.


The Storytellers

Arabic fiction stars include Lebanese writer Jabbour Douaihy, author of June Rain, and best-selling Saudi Arabian author Abdullah Al Maglooth, also a TV and You Tube presenter, whose books include Twittering In Happiness, Optimism and Hope and Tomorrow is More Beautiful. There is also Ahlam Bsharat, the Palestinian award-winning author of My Code Name is Butterfly, and Shahad Al Rawi, the Iraqi author who is the youngest woman author to be shortlisted for the IPAF, with her first book, The Baghdad Clock. Keith Stuart’s debut novel, A Boy Made of Blocks, was inspired by his real-life relationship with his autistic son. His second novel, Days of Wonder, is a story about family, love and finding magic in everyday life.


Crossing genres from crime to history and fantasy is Jasper Fforde, who brings his new standalone thriller Early Riser, set in a world where most humans hibernate through the long, cold winter. There’s also science fiction from Pierce Brown, known for his Red Rising series and Cixin Liu, representing the new generation of Chinese science fiction writers, the first author from Asia to win a Hugo Award for Best Novel with The Three Body Problem.


Ambrose Parry is the pen name for the wife and husband writing duo, Chris Brookmyre and his wife Marisa Haetzman, a consultant anaesthetist. Their first novel together is The Way of the Flesh, a historical crime series set in Victorian Edinburgh and influenced by Haetzman’s medical experience. Mumbai-based writer Murzban F. Shroff’s short story collection, Breathless in Bombay, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and his novel, Waiting For Jonathan Koshy, was a finalist for the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize.


Inspiration and enlightenment

One of Australia’s most successful fashion designers, Alannah Hill describes her journey of transformation from a joyless childhood to a dream-come-true career peak of love, loss and reinvention. Katherine Ormerod, journalist and social media mogul, explodes our social-media-addled ideas about body image, money, relationships, motherhood, careers, politics and more, and gives us the tools we need to control our own online lives, rather than being controlled by them. Feeling gauche and awkward? Psychologist and interpersonal relationship expert Ty Tashiro explores the characteristics that make people socially clumsy and how they can be harnessed to produce remarkable achievements.



There are many reasons why it might seem unwise to walk, mostly alone, through the Middle East. That, in part, is exactly why Leon McCarron, Northern Irish adventurer and filmmaker, did it, following a series of wild hiking trails that trace ancient trading and pilgrimage routes and traverse some of the most contested landscapes in the world. Leo Carew’s passion, aside from writing, is exploration, which led him to spend a year living in a tent in the High Arctic. The Wolf is his first novel in the Under the Northern Sky series. Matt Dickinson is a writer and award-winning film-maker. He became one of the first British film-makers to film on Everest’s summit. His autobiography based on the expedition, The Death Zone, has been published to critical acclaim in more than 15 countries.


Children and YA Highlights

YA fans will be thrilled to have Victoria Aveyard, best known for her Red Queen series,

at the Festival. The exciting line-up also includes Taran Matharu creator of the The Summoner,

and wildly popular authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare, who will bring their ‘King and Queen Tour’ to Dubai with details of their latest books and stories from a longstanding literary friendship.


Fantastic illustrators abound, with legendary Tony De Saulles of Horrible Science, who’ll be here with the latest book in his Bee Boy series; Fabi Santiago, whose Tiger in a Tutu was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2017 and Benji Davies, author of Grandad’s Island, with his newest title, Grandma Bird. Maya Fidawi, winner of Etisalat Award for Arabic Children’s Literature – best illustration category for 2017, and Mona Yakzan, award-winning Lebanese/Cypriot artist, who won the Etisalat award for Children’s Book of the Year 2017, are also featured in the programme.


There is fun and frolics for fans of the mischievous Isadora Moon, with her creator, Harriet Muncaster; Gillian Cross, talking about the hugely loved The Demon Headmaster series and Kate Pankhurst, bringing stories of Fantastically Great Women Who Changed the World.


Fire up your imagination for Pamela Butchart’s session. The author of There’s a Yeti in the Playground and My Head Teacher is a Vampire Rat continues Enid Blyton’s iconic and much-loved Secret Seven series, beginning with Secret Seven: Mystery of the Skull. Robin Stevens also requires you to sharpen your powers of detection. The author of the bestselling and award-winning Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries and The Guggenheim Mystery, is here with the long-awaited sequel to the late Siobhan Dowd’s beloved The London Eye Mystery.


Emmy Award-winning screenwriting duo Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler have scripted a host of children’s TV shows including Danger Mouse and Thunderbirds Are Go, and Moominvalley, a new television adaptation of Tove Jansson’s beloved children’s literature.


The author of award-winning children’s books such as Alex, The Dog & The Unopenable Door, Ross Montgomery, will entertain younger readers, while Chitra Soundar recounts folktales from around the world. Her latest title, You’re Safe With Me, has been recommended by BookTrust as a bedtime read for under-fives. We also have Hessa Al Muhairi Emirati author and winner of Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2018 for her children’s book The Dinoraffe.

Spotlight on Home-Grown Talents
Among the many new and returning authors that are based in the UAE are artist, cartoonist and comics author Khaled Al Jaberi; young writer Dana Al Balooshi; Rehan Khan, with his historical novel, A Tudor Turk, and Courtney Brand, with the latest in her steampunk, Gaslamp fantasy series, The Queen of England. Abdullah Al Neaimi the Emirati writer, novelist and social commentator, whose books include Espresso, Panision and The Moon of Riyadh will also be appearing at the Festival.

Education Focus
Education is at the heart of the Festival and the Education Days, Student Sessions, School Visits and Children’s Competitions last year reached more than 25,000 students across the country. This year a dedicated ‘Youth Day’ for over 16’s will feature the motivational story of Rafia Ghubash; Abdullah Al Maghlooth on the positive influence of social media, and Omar Saif Ghobash with Jennifer Palmieri explaining how to change your world. This is a unique opportunity to hear extraordinary talks, engage in fascinating conversations and be inspired.
Running alongside these events will be the student writing competitions, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition and the Taaleem Award for poetry, the Chevron Readers’ Cup quiz competition and the Poetry for All performance poetry competition.
A highlight of every Festival is the announcement of the winner of the Montegrappa Writing Prize for adults. The Prize has already seen eight previous winners and runners-up receive international book deals and become published authors. The competition is now open for first-time novelists to submit their entries.

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.