Emirates LitFest to showcase Emirati talent on opening day

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The inaugural day of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on February 3 will showcase top Emirati writers and speakers in a series of talks, panel discussions, workshops and poetry performances.

Presented in collaboration with Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, the Emirati Cultural Day will uncover important topics, including sessions looking at the careers of the future, preservation of the past and the stigma of working in the Arts.

It will feature prominent speakers such as Major General Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director General of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA); business leader Khalaf Al Habtoor; counsellor, artist and author Hala Kazim; and Freej-creator Mohammed Saeed Harib, as well as dynamic literary talents including Salha Obaid, Jamal Matar and Nadia Alnajjar.   

The 14th edition of the festival, which is the largest celebration of the written and spoken word in the Arab World, will run from February 3-13 in Hilton Dubai Al Habtoor City and Habtoor Palace Hotel.

Ahlam Bolooki, Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, said: “A day dedicated to Emirati literature is the best possible start to another fantastic Festival celebrating the written and spoken word. Arab and Emirati literature is rich in intellectual wealth, reflecting our diversity and heritage. It is wonderful to see the audiences grow along with the appetite for unique literary and cultural experiences.”

The majority of the sessions on Emirati Day will take place in Arabic, with the exception of a panel exploring what the future of work will look like, titled Careers of the Future, including Saeed Al Nizari, Director General of the Federal Youth Authority, and others.

The evening will also welcome a not-to-be-missed session with Omar Saif Ghobash in a wide-ranging conversation about life, writing and his new book, a work of fiction about his father’s last day.

Conversations taking place in Arabic include the Emirati readings panel with Ibrahim Ali Khadim, Nadia Al Najjar and Salha Obaid; Dr Aisha Bilkhair and Dr Saeed Al Dhaheri's discussion on the preservation of the past; and beautiful poetry performances by Abdulrahman AlHumairy, Amal AlSahlawi, Mohammed Yousef and Sheikha Al Mutairi.

"Through this platform, we also contribute to making culture and art accessible everywhere to everyone, enhancing the prosperity witnessed by the culture sector in the emirate, and supporting the creative industry and creative talents, in order to cement the emirate’s position on the global cultural and creativity map," said Dr. Saeed Mubarak bin Kharbash, CEO of the Arts and Literature Sector at Dubai Culture.

The first Festival weekend will go on to welcome book club favourite and author of The Henna Artist, Alka Joshi; children’s favourite, Be Miller; jeweller to the stars, Azza Fahmy; Demon Slayer animator, Ken Arto; and acclaimed literary star, Brit Bennett.

There is also the not-to-be-missed Saturday Supper with Nadiya Hussain, and a three-course feast with Italian TV chef Alessandro Borghese.

The first weekend will also see the announcement of the 10 winners of First Chapter: the ELF Seddiqi Writers’ fellowship, the announcement of the winners of the Emirates LitFest Writing Prize, and the launch of the second anthology of winning stories for Voices of Future Generations for the Middle East.

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