Seven storytellers on the importance of travel and journeys

In honour of the 2017 Emirates Airline Festival of Literature and its theme of  ‘Journeys’, seven acclaimed authors, explorers and travellers tells us what the word journey means to them

Leila Aboulela

Award-winning writer of The Translator, Minaret and the upcoming The Kindness of Enemies

One of the Sufis said, ‘Travel away from home and the difficulties will be a medicine for your ego, you will return softer and wiser.’ We often underestimate the challenges of a journey, so excited are we by what we will see, experience and gain. There is anticipation, the setting out full of hope, the exhilaration of new routes charted. Yet sometimes the journey can be lonely, beset by doubts, the conditions unfavourable. It takes courage to start but it takes resilience to keep going. It takes flexibility too. We might have to change. To start off as one person and end up as another.

Hananah Zaheer

Writer, editor and entrepreneur

Imagine standing at the edge of a cliff. Rooted, still. Imagine the ground below you. Imagine not wanting to jump. A journey is that step off that cliff and freefalling into the unknown. It is a creation of space, a suspension of being, a discovery of your own resilience, your bravery, a distance from who you have been in order to become, again. It is the absence of stagnation, of stillness, of rigidity, a dynamic state, a constant movement, a way of living. You will reach the ground but the falling is what matters. It is the destination, the end. 

Omaira Farooq Al Olama

Founder of Advanced Learning Formulas

A journey to me is the vision of the future. Something that I can hope for. Something that I can work for and develop. My journey today is to teach my nationals. To watch them grow into the people they dreamt of and the careers they aspired to achieve.

[This is an extract from Omaira's blog for]

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Photographer Ramesh Shukla has won awards for capturing life's journeys

Ramesh Shukla

Award-winning photographer

Journeys are not only a voyage from one place to another, they are the change from one state to another, the evolution not only of a place, but ultimately of ourselves. Upon every journey there is change that provides characteristics unique to that subject or person.  

Artists, such as photographers, are responsible for capturing these journeys and elevating them, whilst at the same time making such journeys accessible and understandable to all. In my case, I am very proud that my artistic journey since 1965 has contributed to documenting pivotal aspects of UAE history.

Ram Buxani

Businessman and author of acclaimed rags-to-riches memoir Taking the High Road

To me a journey is relentless movement towards a goal, passing through tests and turbulences, ups and downs, dunes and plains, highs and lows. It is to expect the unexpected and face any situation. Some people think that death is the end, when it is actually the continuation of another journey.

Mostafa Salameh

Explorer who has completed all seven summits, motivational speaker and author of Dreams of a Refugee

The journey for me is my destiny, which I believe is written by God. I believe that everyone has their own journey in life, designed by the individuals themselves, by the choices they take and the decisions they make. Each choice requires some kind of sacrifice; this will lead to great achievements.

To achieve, fully live and enjoy the journey, one has to work hard and increase his or her knowledge.

Hassan Al-Naboodah

Historian focusing on Arabic and Islamic history and civilization and dean of UAE University

Travel is a distinctly rich, humanizing experience that comprises of trans-cultural entanglements. It facilitates exploration and engagement with the civilizations, arts and socio-moralistic traditions of diverse nations and peoples. Any travel experience, regardless of its purposes, profoundly impacts the manners and intellectual orientation of the traveller. It penetrates deeply into the core of his or her psyche, punctuating relations with the inhabitants of the guest countries. It widens the traveller's horizons, highlighting possibilities of human potential and triggering ambitions, and motivations to fulfil dreams. The lust for travel that distinguishes our contemporary lives is part of the human momentum to explore unexplored territories and transcend cultural and ethnic barriers to gain knowledge and enjoyment in our era of post-globalization.

The 2017 edition of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature takes place from 3-11 March. For more on the festival visit