Literally, a foundation

Head of Magrudi, Dubai’s first private chain of bookstores, Isobel Abulhoul, the Founder of the Emirates Literature Foundation launched Dubai’s only literature festival in an age which knew no bounds.

Every year, the Emirates Literature Foundation hopes to curate a celebration of literary diversity. A recap of the last decade reflects an age of distractions and curiosities. Innovation took centre stage and revolutionised the way we expressed ourselves and accessed information. Some years were brutal as we witnessed violence; rendering millions homeless.

Brighter times saw a rise of visionaries who dared to dream. Everything made news and entertainment was limitless. Such was the time when the festival gathered people who listened to what artists had to say.

As the Festival turned ten, I took pride in being on the team.

I was surrounded by pioneers of world literature. Writers, journalists and artists came together from diverse cultures to reach out to people who still had faith in creativity more than innovation and war. Their attendance in the festival confirmed the existence of a world where we can set aside our territorial differences and celebrate a few balmy days of storytelling; especially in an age of mayhem.

I’m in the far right posing with my friends from England, Pakistan, Egypt and Africa. Without their diversity, the fest would have been lifesless

From the background, hidden behind desks and books, I witnessed the fruit of the cultural roots planted years ago by my role model, Madam Isobel. On a personal level, the fest was a great way to rub shoulders with colleagues and mentors who loved books. I interacted with my favourite authors and bumped into world-renowned faces, an experience etched in my memory.

As part of the programming department a part of my role was to welcome authors to the city. There were several close encounters with these literary geniuses. I welcomed a haggard Jeffrey Archer who complained about his first class flight from Heathrow. I waited with a  patient Lucy Hawking who forgot her boarding pass with me. War correspondent, Frank Gardner, who was determined to trek across UAE’s Wadis in a wheelchair, complimented my dress. A victim of Cerebral Palsy and war, Nujeen Mustafa hugged me as we parted with tears and unforgettable tales of her journey.

A souvenir from Lucy Hawking. I was lucky to wish her father well before he passed away.

Long after the caterers left and the mics went off, the tired smiles of the dedicated and pedantic team reinforced attachments with faces I was still getting familiar with. In that moment I realised just like the greatest fairy-tales ever told, this extra ordinary ‘fest-tale’ made me crave for more literature. And, this doesn’t go without saying that I recommend a quick stop at this ‘nerd heaven’ in the heritage walks of Shindaga to anybody who loves books!


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