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Costa Debate


It’s the question that gets to the heart of what makes a good read – which is best, Fact or Fiction? Tell us your view, in not more than 300 words, and see if you can craft the winning argument.

Congratulations to the 2019 Costa Debate Winner and Runners-up!

  • Ahmed Alshaali (Winner)
  • Shrish Janarthanan (Runner-up)
  • Sarah Rinne (Runner-up)
  • Mohamed Waleed Aleyan (Runner-up)
  • Youssef Homma El Idrissi (Runner-up)

Click here for the winning entry.

In my youth, I soared on the skies on the backs of dragons and cheered at the victories of heroes. As I aged, Keyes laid a wreath for my childhood with “Flowers for Algernon” and Huxley’s “Brave New World” illuminated mine.

These stories are not true, but Truth. They are honest not to the muddled, hazy real world, but the deeper and infinitely more valuable inner mind of the authors – a conversation, clear and legible, between the reader and writer. From our earliest days, we were story-tellers; the nature of the innumerable threats in the dark nights conveyed not with factual, staid descriptions but impressions of grasping claws and bloody teeth. In fiction we find the hyper-real.

My library contains worlds, not books. I walk between them and thus between the minds that wrote them. Cervantes’ reproach against over-indulgence in fantasy, Tolkien’s glorification of the meek and humble, Dostoevsky’s meditations on the nature of justice, Golding’s refutation of the innocence of children. Each of them carries their message more clearly than any non-fiction possibly could, simply because there is no world outside of their pages, no alternate take on events that muddle the narrative. Is any non-fictional indictment of war as visceral and final as Twain’s “The War Prayer?” Is any illustration of the lunacy and hypocrisy of the Soviet Communist party more potent and digestible than Orwell’s “Animal Farm?”

Non-fiction is useful, certainly, as reference and history. But for a philosopher, a reader who wishes to grapple with ideas and ideologies, for whom the mind takes primacy over the mundane, fiction is simply incomparable.

Who can enter?

  • This competition is open to anyone who is currently resident in the UAE and above 14 years of age
  • The submission can be in Arabic or English
  • To be submitted online

What is the prize?

The grand prize-winner will receive:

  • An AED10,000 dnata travel voucher valid for 1 year from the official claim date
  • A year’s supply of free coffee, restricted to one cup per day

Please note: Obtaining visas and necessary travel permissions, where required, will be the responsibility of the winner

The four runners-up will receive:

  • A month’s supply of free coffee, restricted to one cup per day

What are the rules?

Please read these competition rules carefully. If you enter, you have agreed to the terms, conditions and rules pertaining to the competition

  • The entry must not be more than 300 words
  • The entry must present an argument for the debate topic
  • The entry can be in either Arabic or English
  • One grand prize winner will be chosen
  • No images can be included

The entries should not include any inappropriate content and should adhere to common standards of decency in the UAE i.e. submissions with explicit nudity and/ or violence would be disqualified immediately.

Terms and Conditions:

  • The competition is not open to employees (or members of their immediate families) of Emirates Literature Foundation and Emirates Leisure Retail
  • The competition opens on 21st October 2018 and closes at midnight on 2nd February 2019
  • Entries must be an unpublished piece and an original work and not more than 300 words.
  • Entrants must be 14 years of age or over
  • Entries may be in Arabic or English
  • Copyright of submissions belong to the Festival/ Costa Coffee to use in any marketing/ promotional collateral
  • Must not contain anything that is distasteful or abusive
  • No part of a prize is exchangeable for cash or any other prize
  • The prize will not be transferable to another person
  • The judges’ decision is final and they cannot engage with entrants for future editorial work or respond to email communications
  • By entering the competition, the winner agrees to participate in such promotional activity and material as Costa and Emirates Airline Festival of Literature may require
  • The winner will be announced during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2019 and the winner must be available to attend the prize-giving event in Dubai
  • One grand prize winner will be selected and gifted the main prize, a voucher for dnata travel to the value of AED 10,000 which can be redeemed with dnata Travel
  • There will be four runner-up, two Arabic and two in English, who will each receive a  month’s supply of free coffee, restricted to one cup per day
  • It is the responsibility of the winner to ensure that the travelling parties have valid travel documents and visas as required
  • Prize valid for 1 year from issue date.

Closing date February 2, 2019

This competition has now closed.


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