Guide to Abu Dhabi Book Fair 2024: From sessions to concerts and award ceremonies

Annual literary event will also explore impact of Nobel Prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz

The week-long event will return to the capital with authors, panel sessions and musical performances. Antonie Robertson / The National
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The literary career of renowned Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz will be the focal point of this year's Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

The event, taking place from April 29 to May 5, will feature discussions between authors and cultural personalities about Mahfouz’s influential work, which propelled him to become the first Arab author to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1988. In a career spanning 70 years, Mahfouz, who lived from 1919 to 2006, produced tens of novels and hundreds of short stories, as well as plays, movie scripts and essays.

There book fair will also feature insights into the rich literary tradition of Egypt itself, which has been awarded guest of honour status.

Another pillar of the event being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre is the Books of the World programme, with sessions exploring an important work hailed for advancing understanding between different cultures.

This year’s title is Kalila and Dimna, by eighth-century Persian philosopher Abdullah Ibn Al Muqaffa. It follows the recent launch of the From Kalila wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables exhibition at Louvre Abu Dhabi.

“The Abu Dhabi International Book Fair continues to enrich the cultural landscape of the Arab world with its inspiring initiatives,” says Ali bin Tamim, chairman of festival organiser Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre. “Egypt specifically has been a pioneer in creative work on various fronts, including literary, artistic, intellectual and cognitive.

“Naguib Mahfouz is the dean of Arab novelists, a figure who placed Arab literature and the distinctive aspects of Egyptian local culture on a global platform. He introduced Arab culture to other people and civilisations, broadening its reach and scope, shedding light on its aesthetic quality and richness.”

Here is everything you need to know about this year's book fair.

The congress

Preceding the fair on April 28 is the International Congress of Arabic and Publishing Creative Industries.

Back for its third iteration at Manarat Saadiyat, the annual event has industry and cultural personalities taking part in panel sessions and keynote addresses exploring some of the latest trends in Arabic public and literature.

Speakers include Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak; Egyptian actor Karim Abdel Aziz; Egyptian screenwriter Ahmed Mourad; and the author and tech entrepreneur Nadim Sadek.

A masterclass will be available on screenwriting as well as workshops on multimedia storytelling, social media engagement and audio publishing. Attending the congress is free to visitors who register on the official website.

Notable sessions at the book fair

The full programme is still to be revealed, but dynamic discussions can be expected in some of the sessions announced so far.

On May 1, Tunisian actor Dhafer L'Abidine joins Egyptian director Amir Ramses to discuss their new film, A Nose and Three Eyes. The duo, to be joined by producer Shahinaz El Akkad, will talk about the process of adapting the film from the celebrated novel by late Egyptian writer Ihsan Abel Quddous.

The following evening will feature an appearance by Waciny Laredj, the Algerian writer and winner of the 2007 Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Literature for the novel The Prince's Book: The Paths of the Wooden Gates.

The future of publishing in the age of artificial intelligence will be the subject of a high-powered panel on April 30 with Abdulla Al Kaabi, president of the Emirates Publishers Association, who will be joined by his Egyptian counterpart Fareed Zahran alongside Jose Borghino, president of the International Publishers Association.

The list of all visiting authors is expected to be announced soon.

The literary prizes

The book fair is home to a number of prestigious literary awards. As per tradition, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction award winner will be announced on the eve of the book fair on April 28.

The shortlisted works include Bahbel: Makkah Multiverse 1945-2009 by Saudi author and former winner Raja Alem; Suleiman's Ring by Syrian author Rima Bali; and The Seventh Heaven of Jerusalem from Palestinian writer Osama Al Eissa. All shortlisted authors will receive $10,000, with the winner being awarded an additional $50,000.

The Sheikh Zayed Book Award ceremony will also take place during the book fair, on a date to be revealed soon, with authors acknowledged across 10 categories including best literature, translation and young author. All winners, chosen from over 4,200 submissions from 74 countries, receive Dh750,000 in prize money and a gold medal.

Also to be announced over the course of the book fair is the Kanz Al Jeel Award, which honours fields ranging from poetry and literary criticism to visual arts.

The Golden Narrative (Sard Al Thahab) Award will be presented for best Arabic short stories and illustrated works by emerging regional and Emirati writers.

The performances

Emirati pianist and opera singer Fatima Al Hashmi will headline a musical celebration of the Arabic language with a free concert on May 4 at Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Foundation, featuring a programme of songs with various dialects and genres.

Organisers have also stated that Emirati and regional poets will gather for a number of recitals throughout the book fair, with more details to be revealed closer to the date.

More information is available at

Updated: May 03, 2024, 8:20 AM