Isobel Abulhoul came to Dubai in 1968 and co-founded Magrudy’s, a bookshop chain, in 1975.
In 2008 Isobel is the CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation and the founder of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Arab World’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, bringing people of all ages together with authors from across the world to promote education, debate and, above all else, reading. The Festival won the Best Festival title at the Middle East Event Awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and in 2016 was declared Best Family Friendly Day Out at the Time Out Dubai Kids Awards and Favourite Festival at the What’s On Dubai Awards.
In 2013, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and also the Festival patron, issued a Decree forming the Emirates Literature Foundation, naming Isobel as one of the trustees on the Board. In addition, Isobel also holds the position of CEO of the Foundation.
Isobel has received several awards and accolades over the years, including Cultural Personality of the Year by Dr. HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah in 2010 and an OBE by HM Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain in 2012. In 2016, Isobel accepted the UAE Pioneers Award for Best Non-Governmental Organisation for the Emirates Literature Foundation’s work in promoting reading initiatives during the UAE Year of Reading. This year, Isobel was chosen as one of the 100 Smartest People in the UAE by Arabian Business magazine.