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
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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.”


Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

Updated 18 June 2018
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Six charitable celebrities fighting for humanitarian causes

DUBAI: On Sunday, Hollywood heavyweight Angelina Jolie visited Iraq in the latest of a long line of humanitarian missions, but she isn’t the only celebrity with a cause.

Angelina Jolie

The Hollywood star this week called for a larger focus on conflict prevention rather than responding to its repercussions, during a visit to Iraq’s Domiz refugee camp with the UN refugee agency.
The visit marked Jolie’s 61st mission — and fifth to Iraq — with the UN refugee agency since 2001.

"I met parents whose 17-year-old daughter lost her legs in a mortar-strike. When they carried her to get medical treatment they were turned away, and she bled to death. It is deeply upsetting that people who have endured unparalleled brutality have so little as they try, somehow, to rebuild the lives they once had.” . UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie met Mohamed and his family in West Mosul's Old City, Iraq, on June 16, 2018. . During the offensive to retake the city from ISIS, Mohamed’s house was hit by an airstrike killing his 17 year-old daughter and destroying most of the home. Together with his three surviving children and his wife, Mohamed fled to the home of a family friend, where they have been living ever since. However the host family can no longer support them and Mohamed may have to bring his family back to live in the ruins of their home. . The visit marked Angelina Jolie’s 61st mission – and her fifth visit to Iraq – with the UN Refugee Agency since 2001. She arrived in the city on the second day of Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan. . Read her full statement and see more on Angelina Jolie's visit today on our Facebook page (Facebook.com/UNHCR) . Photo Credit - UNHCR / @andrewmcconnellphoto . #Mosul #Iraq #AngelinaJolie #UNHCR #eid #refugees #withrefugees #hope #eidalfitr #ramadan

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Amber Heard

In April, the actress said that a meeting with Syrian refugees and foreign medical volunteers left an “an indelible mark” on her soul.
Heard, 31, spent a week in Jordan as part of a delegation of the Syrian American Medical Society, visiting the kingdom’s largest camp for Syrian refugees and rehabilitation centers for those wounded in Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.

Shakira

She is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and supports foundations dedicated to development advocacy in Colombia and Latin America. She founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation when she was 18-years-old. The organization has six open-door schools providing access to education for underprivileged children in Colombia.

Priyanka Chopra

The UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador served as a National Goodwill Ambassador to India for ten years and founded a charity in the country — The Priyanka Chopra Foundation for Health and Education — to promote the education of girls and children in India.

I’m in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh today for a field visit with UNICEF, to one of the largest refugee camps in the world. In the second half of 2017, the world saw horrific images of ethnic cleansing from the Rakhine State of Myanmar(Burma). This violence drove nearly 700,000 Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh - 60% are children! Many months later they are still highly vulnerable, living in overcrowded camps with no idea when or where they will ever belong...even worse, when they will get their next meal. AND...as they finally start to settle and feel a sense of safety, monsoon season looms...threatening to destroy all that they’ve built so far. This is an entire generation of children that have no future in sight. Through their smiles I could see the vacancy in their eyes. These children are at the forefront of this humanitarian crisis, and they desperately need our help. The world needs to care. We need to care. These kids are our future. Pls Lend your support at www.supportunicef.org #ChildrenUprooted @unicef @unicefbangladesh Credit: @briansokol @hhhtravels

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Katy Perry

In 2013, Katy was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has traveled the world, from Vietnam to Madagascar, to raise awareness about the world’s most vulnerable children. In 2016, she received UNICEF’s Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award in recognition of her work with underprivileged children.

George Clooney

The Hollywood star has worked to address the suffering in the Darfur region of Sudan and even founded the Not On Our Watch organization, which raises awareness on the issue. The charity has reportedly raised millions of dollars, with much of the funding going through the World Food Program.