May 26, 2024

Emirates LitFest reveals the full speaker line-up and programme details for the 2024 Festival

 Emirates LitFest reveals the full speaker line-up and programme details for the 2024 Festival

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has revealed the full speaker line-up and programme details for the 2024 Festival with tickets available for purchase from their website.

Speakers at the 16th edition of the Emirates LitFest include 2023 Booker Prize-winner, Paul Lynch, author of the Prophet Song; beloved UAE astronauts Hazza AlMansoori and Sultan AlNeyadi, and meditation teacher of Hollywood stars, Gelong Thubten. The Festival will be held from 31 January to 6 February at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City with 160 events. Some highlights are Without Hope We Are Lost, a special evening of poetry and performance dedicated to the life and work of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish; a world-first conversation between Booker Prize-winning novelist Bernardine Evaristo and poet, essayist and playwright Claudia Rankine, and a special closing to the big LitFest weekend with a concert by Emirati musician Rashed Alnuaimi.

Ahlam Bolooki, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation, Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and Managing Director of ELF Publishing, said: “We know that storytelling is a powerful tool for collective expression, and we programme the Emirates LitFest with this in mind, with careful attention to global events and to the interests of local and international audiences. The festival is a place where people of diverse backgrounds unite in their love for the written and spoken word and form deep connections. We invite readers and non-readers alike to visit the Emirates LitFest and embark on a cultural journey unlike any other.”

The Festival is held with the support of Title Sponsor, Emirates Airline, and Founding Partner, Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

Spokesperson from Emirates said: “Storytelling is the bedrock of human connection, and, much like travel, helps to cultivate fresh ideas, introduce new experiences and celebrate our rich and diverse cultural tapestry. Emirates is committed to creating opportunities that enhance Dubai’s position as an arts and culture hub, fostering the exchange of ideas and breaking down barriers through world-class events. We look forward to uniting festival-goers with authors, artists, performers and more from all over the globe at the 16th Emirates LitFest.”
Dubai Culture sponsors this year’s Emirati strand, which celebrates the culture of UAE and provides an opportunity for Emirati and international authors to grace the Emirates LitFest stage together.

In this context, Dr Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts Literature Sector at Dubai Culture, affirmed the Authority’s commitment to supporting creative talent across various fields and aligning with its mandate to empower members of the creative community and create a sustainable environment that nurtures and stimulates them to showcase their work during the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature before both local and international audiences.
He stated: “Over time, the festival has evolved into an effective platform for talent support and idea exchange, envisioning the future of the cultural and literary sectors. Through its rich programme and engaging activities filled with fun and knowledge, this has become part of the cultural dynamism witnessed in Dubai. At Dubai Culture, we are proud to be the founding partner of the Festival that has influenced the local creative scene, shed light on many exceptional cultural experiences, and strengthened the cultural and creative industries, with publishing and literature being integral components of this movement.”
With a host of diverse experiences, the Festival will cater to people from all walks of life.

Special Events
There are particular experiences that sell out fast – from the extraordinary opening gala featuring Saud Al Sanousi, Ben Okri, and Claudia Rankine accompanied by Amal Al Sahlawi, Hala Alyan and Ammar Ashkar, to Dinner with a Clue – a murder mystery where appetisers and accusations share a plate. Take a detour to caravanserai to commune with a line-up of some of the world’s best international and local poets at the Festival’s jewel event – Desert Stanzas – or to the Theatre of Digital Art in Madinat Jumeirah for an evening of stirring stories and phenomenal performances by Leila Aboulela, Mai Al-Nakib, Dana Dajani, Awais Khan and Roger McGough.
Meet three giants of Emirati literature, His Excellency Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, Ali Abu Al Reesh and Dr Rafia Ghubash for an expansive discussion about their significant contributions to the UAE’s body of cultural work. Stay up late with us to hear from some of the Arab world’s most wily of writerly wits – Khulood Amir, Ahmed Bakheet and Ashraf Fagih – hosted by broadcaster Ibrahim Ustadi. Join historian Aanchal Malhotra, filmmaker and explorer Nadir Nahdi and philosopher Martin Puchner for an exploration of the cultural forces that shape us. Watch Kyung-Sook Shin, author of I Went to See My Father, join forces with her translator, Anton Hur, for an incredible love letter to South Korea. Travel across the continents with explorers Alex Bescoby and Levison Wood; discuss the importance of decolonising stories and language with ethnomusicologist, perfomer and community leader Grace Nono and Vietnamese writer Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai and banish the energy vampires to the backseat with behavioural psychology expert Thomas Erikson.
LitFest Afterhours
For those who crave nightlife, from Thursday to Sunday, the doors will open for a feast of performances, games, activities, and food at the LitFest After Hours. Each night will feature an exciting cabinet of curiosities with local and international voices such as 8th-generation Sarangi artist Nabeel Khan, fusion pop duo WYWY, Emirati quartet Four Manos, celebrated pastry chef Philip Khoury and Korean group The Choego Club.
LitFest Families
The Festival has gathered some of the finest children’s storytellers and illustrators from across the UAE and world for an action-packed weekend perfect for tiny bookworms. Dubai’s youngest and brightest writers will dazzle and delight at the Children Take Over LitFest, young performers, dancers, musicians, poets and storytellers from the seven Emirates will showcase their talent on the Fringe Stage and AlDhabi AlMheiri, Saeed Rashed AlMheiri and Mezna Najib will lead inspiring conversations about literature, writing and following dreams. Children and adults alike will enjoy sessions with award-winning author of the hilarious Meet the Maliks series, Zanib Mian; illustrator and visual artist, Nora Zeid: YA novelist, Candy Gourlay; the brains behind the bestselling Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz and the very silly and very funny author of Mr Gum series, Andy Stanton.
Whether one is a published author or just picking up that pen, there will be an industry-focused event that meets their needs. Those that are looking for a community to share the joys and challenges of writing, or on the lookout for an agent, can join The Mingle. And those who are ready to commit can sign up for the two-day novel-writing bootcamp with writer and tutor, Susan Breen.
Discovery Talks
People can nerd out about unique topics with their favourite authors in this free-to-attend series on a wide range of topics from Teaching Robots Arabic with artificial intelligence expert Nizar Habash to Bringing Chinese Mythology to Life with YA author Sue Lynn Tan, seek inspiration on overcoming gender and diversity issues with Mthayel Al Ali and deep dive Into the Spiderverse with graphic novelist Deena Mohamed.

Youth Day
Students ages 16+ are invited to be a part of important conversations and ignite their imagination at Youth Day, a day of specially curated events for curious minds, covering themes from artificial intelligence to literature to business and sustainability, all with an anchoring focus on Arabic culture.
Student Sessions
Education is at the core of the Festival’s mission and the Emirates LitFest will be hosting sessions for students in-person at the Festival as well as arranging school visits for the authors. Join Baroness Floella Benjamin on an uplifting journey about the power of positivity and kindness through her new book Keep Smiling; hear from bestselling author Lucy Hawking who co-wrote Unlocking the Universe with Stephen Hawking about living in space; buckle up and join the quest with The Treasure Hunters’ writer Lisa Thompson; get some Not Always Entirely Useful Advise from poet A.F. Harrold and discover the real-life tales of courage which inspired Phil Earle’s book Until the Road Ends.
Award Ceremonies
Winners of the Emirates Literature Foundation’s competition for young writers, readers and performers will be recognised at award ceremonies at the Festival. There will be events for winners of Chevron Readers’ Cup, Emirates NBD Poetry For All competition, the Royal Grammar School Guildford Dubai Children’s Letter Writing competition, the Oxford University Press Story Writing competition, the Arcadia Book in a Box competition and Al-Futtaim Foundation Digital Storytelling competition.
The winners of the School Librarian of the Year award held in partnership with The Executive Council Dubai will also be honoured at a special event. And ten lucky writers will get their literary career break of a lifetime at the First Chapter: ELF Seddiqi Writers’ Fellowship third award ceremony.

Book Launches
The Voices of Future Generations for the Middle East competition will host a special book launch at the festival featuring the fourth round of winning sustainability-themed stories. ELF Publishing will launch several books for children including Aisha’s Pearl by Julia Johnson and Cleo the Curious Camel by Wendy Meddour in Arabic, as well as Aisha’s Cake by Julia Johnson, A Dragon Called Blue by Ebtisam Al-Beiti and The Encyclopaedia of the UAE by Francesca Afleck. There will also be a free event for the launch of the English translation of Rose’s Diary by Reem Al Kamali, which was shortlisted for the 2022 International Prize for Arabic Fiction.

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