A written wonderland

The launch of an international writers centre ensured that the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is set to be a cultural force that reaches far beyond Dubai

For the second consecutive year the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (March 3-7 2015) has been awarded Best Festival in the Middle East. And with the launch of its Dubai International Writers Centre (DIWC), the festival looks set to move beyond a singular event to become a cultural phenomenon in its own right.

As the first of its kind in the Middle East, the DIWC is a meeting point for writers and thinkers from all over the world. This hub of creativity was launched with an evening reception for local dignitaries and authors, opening with a two-day Nabati poetry conference to celebrate and share Emirati culture with a multinational audience.

Isobel Abulhoul, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai
The line-up of authors planned at the festival includes bestselling children’s author David Walliams, David Nicholls, HH Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, and many more

‘We found there was such a hunger in the city, in the emirates and the region for literature. Having a Festival of Literature is fantastic, but it is not enough. The DIWC keeps the flame of literature burning throughout the year,’ says Isobel Abulhoul, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation which established the DIWC.

The centre aims to develop young talent and an appreciation of how other cultures express themselves through the written and spoken word. But Dubai seems to be the key ingredient.

‘People are intrigued by Dubai,’ adds Abulhoul. “For many of our authors it will be their first visit not just to Dubai, but also to the Middle East. We invite [them] to stay for the whole Festival of Literature, which does not happen at other literature festivals. They have time to meet other international authors who they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to meet.”

A focus on world writers and creating a dialogue between cultures firmly embodies Dubai’s 2020 World Expo’s promise to ‘connect minds, and create the future.’ Now in its seventh year, the festival is bringing even more diversity to the stage, from award-winning authors like Chimanda Ngozi Adichie. poet John Agard and  children’s author David Walliams, to humanitarian Murkesh Kapila, TV director and science journalist Simon Singh, and BBC presenter Anita Anand.

The DIWC keeps the flame of literature burning throughout the year

Isobel Abulhoul, Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

‘The theme for 2015 is Wonderland. We live in a physical Wonderland, because we live in Dubai; but also for those of us who love reading, you open a book and you are transported to Wonderland through the writing,’ says Abulhoul.

The theme perfectly reflects the intention to create a space for innovation and creativity, words synonymous with Dubai, through extensive opportunities and events made possible by the DIWC.

The overarching goal of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is to establish Dubai as a cultural hub, bringing people and ideas together and inspiring creativity. The DIWC facilitates this, demonstrating Dubai’s support and desire to reach out culturally.