Emirates Airline Festival of Literature announces sustainability-focused partnerships

This year, the festival will hold sessions at Mohammed bin Rashid Library for the first time

Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr, chairman of the board of directors at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Library Foundation, and Isobel Abulhoul, chief executive and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is under way. Launching its 15th event on Wednesday, a series of new collaborations were announced.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, tweeted about the event's importance on Wednesday.

"Today, the Emirates Festival of Literature completes 15 years of creativity, culture and book celebration," he posted in Arabic. "We celebrate cultural events in Dubai in particular because they reflect the depth of the human being in our society. Culture is the evidence of civilisation."

The new partnerships announced include collaborations with the Mohammed bin Rashid Library, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre and Expo City Dubai through the festival’s parent organisation, the Emirates Literature Foundation.

Organisers said partnering with the library gives the festival scope to host a more expansive programme, while being able to welcome larger audiences. It is also aimed at helping to position the festival as a platform not only for literature, but for art, culture and lifestyle, across the region.

The foundation, often shortened to Elf, also announced the launch of Elf in Space, to develop an interactive and educational programme together with Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre. Elf in Space aims to create an engaging dialogue between children and Emirati astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi on his six-month journey aboard the International Space Station.

It also unveiled a nine-month partnership with Expo City Dubai, culminating in November when the UAE hosts Cop28. Following President Sheikh Mohamed declaring 2023 as the “Year of Sustainability,” the foundation and Expo City Dubai will work on a programme centred on sustainability, the environment and reducing gender inequalities, among other themes derived from the UN sustainable development goals.

“The journey to Cop28 begins tonight at the opening ceremony of the festival, the iconic Desert Stanzas, interpreting a narrative that calls for climate change through poetry, performance and music,” said Isobel Abulhoul, chief executive and trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation.

The festival’s programme includes a number of sessions on sustainability, including discussions by Mariam Al Mheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment; Paul Polman, co-author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take; Major Ali Al Suwaidi, President of the Emirates Marine Environmental Group; and environmental journalist, Anna Turns.

Part of the collaborative programme with Expo City Dubai will also include the neighbourhood's Connecting Minds Book Club. Curated by the festival, it will host talks, inviting people to reflect, challenge and implement sustainability through different means.

“The themes of the book club really resonate with the themes of the festival this year,” Nadia Verjee, executive director at Expo Dubai Group, tells The National.

“We joined forces with the festival to identify the ways we can bring different voices to the table to talk about and break down sustainability more broadly, to make it more interesting and to help people understand what the UAE means in the year of sustainability."

Verjee says collaboration is a crucial way to share knowledge and welcome a large number of people from different cultural backgrounds through literature.

“Books are absolutely critical,” she adds.

“Expo 2020 was an exchange of information and really that turns into knowledge. And then when you have that knowledge, what do you do with it? You have agency and you have action, and it empowers you to make the right kind of choices about the role that you can play in society.”

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature runs until February 6 at the Intercontinental Dubai Festival City and the Mohammed bin Rashid Library. More information and tickets are available at www.emirateslitfest.com

Inside Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Library - in pictures

Updated: February 01, 2023, 3:27 PM