UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi, director-general of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority Hala Badri, Rafia Ghubash, founder of the Women’s Museum, and president of the International Publishers Association Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi. These are just a few of the women shaping Emirati culture today.
The creative sector is replete with inspiring examples of Emirati women who are helping the country’s cultural scene flourish. and this is especially true when it comes to literature.
Ahlam Bolooki, director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, says there is no better time to highlight the contributions and impact of female Emirati writers than on Emirati Women’s Day, which is celebrated annually on August 28.
We sat down with the festival director to learn more about five of the female Emirati authors shaking up the literary scene.
“When it comes to literary talent, Reem AlKamali’s runs through her veins,” Bolooki says. The author and journalist won the 2015 Al Owais Creativity Award for Saltanat Hurmoz and the 2018 Sharjah Award for Creativity for Statue of Delma.
“Both books are rich in history and culture, with deeply interesting and original characters in breathtaking story settings,” Bolooki says. “With her noticeable production and participation in the local and international cultural society, AlKamali is definitely a name to remember.”
Maytha Al Khayat
“Author and illustrator Maytha Al Khayat is a special kind of superhero who takes her love for storytelling to another level with 160 books published in less than 10 years,” Bolooki says.
“Through her captivating writing and illustrating skills, Maytha has beautifully introduced the culture of the GCC to both children and adults. Books like Naqshon, My Own Special Way and When a Camel Gets the Munchies are all excellent examples of what happens when passion and art blend.”
Shamma Al Bastaki
“Shamma Al Bastaki may be young in age, but this immense talent is an award-winning poet, artist and has been the ambassador for the Louvre Abu Dhabi since 2015,” Bolooki says.
Al Bastaki won the 2019 Admaf Creativity Award for her ethno-poetry collection House to House and was “featured on CNN for her distinguished writing skills and breathtaking poetry performance in local and international platforms".
An acclaimed short story writer, whose works effortlessly navigate through time, Salha Obied is the author of several short story collections including The Postman of Happiness and The Hidden White Thread, which won the 2015 Al Owais Creativity Award for Best Fiction.
“Her book, It Might Be a Joke, is a time machine that takes us on a historic trip into memories and brings us back to contemporary times with original and lively settings. [The novel] caught the attention of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award committee and was longlisted,” Bolooki says.
Alamira Reem Bani Hashim
Alamira Reem Bani Hashim was the first Emirati woman to receive a PhD in urban planning.
“She is considered to be one of the leading researchers on urban development,” Bolooki says. “Her book, Planning Abu Dhabi: An Urban History, explores the infrastructure of Abu Dhabi and the rapid development in its urban course.
“Combining her love for writing and architectural knowledge, Dr Alamira takes readers on a journey through the marvellous growth of this country’s capital.”