Literature is an important part of any culture, says Emirates Literature Festival CEO

Isobel Abulhoul discussed the festival's evolution into the UAE's premier literary event while speaking with Arab News. (AN photo)
Updated 20 February 2018

Literature is an important part of any culture, says Emirates Literature Festival CEO

DUBAI: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. The 10-day festival kicks off in Dubai on March 1 and will once again welcome tens of thousands of literature lovers through its doors to meet more than 180 authors from 47 different countries. Last year, roughly 44,000 visitors attended the event.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the press conference announcing this year’s edition, the festival’s director, Isobel Abulhoul, discussed the festival’s evolution into the UAE’s premier literary event, winning a number of awards. It has, she said, been a rollercoaster ride.
“I’ve been on the rollercoaster for the last 10 years and I’m still whizzing around at great speed,” she said. “Organizing an event of this size, thinking about different languages, thinking about our audiences, is a very complex composition and so we have to break it into tiny, tiny bits. Organizing a live event is all about details.”
It has become slightly easier over the years, Abulhoul explained, as the organizers have come to better understand the requirements of the audience.
“The most important thing is choosing authors who are not just wonderful writers but also performers,” she said. “Then, the audience have an amazing experience: It’s live, it’s happening, it’s conversation… It’s a kind of package deal.”
Abulhoul is aware that a literature festival may seem somewhat out of touch with the digital world ­— as reading and writing become less common pastimes. But she is also aware of the festival’s potential value.
“Literature is important in any culture,” she said. “It is a challenge in today’s busy world, because of technology and all the distraction, but we are succeeding. We are creating writers. We support the Emirati writing community and the expat (writers) living here.”
She said that, aside from book lovers, the festival also targets those who don’t yet read for pleasure.
“We believe if they come to the festival and meet great writers, listen to their live sessions and enjoy them, then they are more likely to pick up their books,” Abulhoul explained. “This can be the key that unlocks reading for them. And that is what we have been doing for the last 10 years: Getting more and more people into reading for pleasure.”
To help with this, the festival also organizes education programs, which include education days, student sessions and authors visiting schools. Student competitions for poetry, short stories and reading are also held, in both Arabic and English. Last year, more than 25,000 students across the UAE took part in the various programs.
Ultimately, Abulhoul said, the festival offers something that just cannot be found in the digital realm: A live experience.
“It’s a unique opportunity. It’s happening live. It’s a contrast to spending our lives on our laptops in the virtual world,” she said. “This is not the virtual world. This is the real world.”


From the UAE to Jordan, viral songs keep thousands entertained during self-isolation

Emirati social media star Rashid Al-Nuaimi has become a viral sensation. (Instagram/@r__a__n)
Updated 30 March 2020

From the UAE to Jordan, viral songs keep thousands entertained during self-isolation

DUBAI: From singing opera on their balconies to performing online concerts, musicians all around the globe are finding different ways to keep themselves — and others — entertained while self-isolating at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some are doing their part by rewriting the lyrics to their favorite songs into COVID-19 parodies, while others are creating clever new compositions to bring a little levity to these unprecedented times.

Emirati social media star Rashid Al-Nuaimi has become a viral sensation after taking to his Instagram on Sunday to upload a coronavirus-themed song about being bored in quarantine.

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What a moment to be alive. So many emotions take place at the same exact time. It’s important however to remind ourselves that we are all in this together. The world comes together for once in a common cause, and I personally will aim to not let this tragic scenario send me into a pit of fear, but use it to dig for every ounce of love. Love is expressed is many ways, and right now it’s expressed by staying at home. We will come out of the other side of this changed humans! Changed for the better. So let’s start being better now and stay home. My heart is filled with gratitude for every effort and risk the people are taking to protect the whole! Thank you to food delivery drivers, thank you to nurses and hospital workers, thank you to government officials who are working day and night to keep us safe. Thank you thank you thank you! #خلك_في_البيت Piano credit / Sing2piano

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“Has it been a month/No it’s only been a day,” croons the singer, who is surrounded by a pile of books and a cup of tea while wearing yellow sweatpants paired with a hoodie. “I read through a pile of self-help books/ The Uber Eats on the way,” continue the ultra-relatable lyrics.

“Bored in quarantine/I’ll sit with the parts of myself that I have never seen/I’ll be bored in quarantine/I know for a fact, it’ll all be over one day/So I’ll stay in today,” the young jazz singer belts out.

As of this week, the musical clip has garnered nearly 30,000 views and over 200 comments. “Love this. Embracing individual boredom for the greater good,” wrote one user. “Thank you for making this,” quipped another user.

Meanwhile, Jordanian choir The Mosaica Singers came together online to record the song “Khalik bil Bait,” which translates to “stay at home.” 

Legendary singer Neil Diamond remixed his own song, “Sweet Caroline” with some new lyrics, while former “The Voice” contestant Chris Mann released a brilliant coronavirus parody based on Adele’s “Hello,” wittingly titled “Hello (From Inside).”

During troubled times, people often turn to music for comfort, a distraction or to calm the nerves. The coronavirus crisis has produced several moments of musical communion across the globe, including in Italy, where countless online videos have captured scenes of Italians under lockdown playing instruments and singing from apartment windows and balconies. Last week, actress Gal Gadot posted her own Instagram video — a montage of celebrities taking turns to croon John Lennon’s “Imagine” into their cellphone cameras.