Calling all bookworms and culture-vultures…

Fans of the written word, we have news for you. For the first time, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will include a variety of events including art, film, food, performances in addition to all things literature. The event will also be spread across three venues across Dubai – another new exciting change for the festival. 

The highly anticipated literary event is set to take place from January 29 to February 13, 2021, on the weekends. The festival will open at Jameel Arts Centre on January 29 and 30 and will end at Alserkal Avenue on February 12 and 13.

At InterContinental, Dubai Festival City, the event will take place from February 4 to 6 and will welcome around 70 authors hosting talks, workshops and live performances. Virtual sessions are also planned by the festival which brings the total to around 90 authors partaking in the festival in 2021. 

Excited? Here just a glimpse at some of the top authors that are heading to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature 2021.



Inspiring activist and author, Malala Yousafzai will be at the festival telling the audience about her story, her mission and her vision for the future.

Malala was just 17 when she became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. This year, she completed her philosophy, politics and economics three-year degree at the University of Oxford. Malala even launched a book club called Fearless this year thinking about the millions of girls who are at the risk of losing their education due to the pandemic. The books have been curated by Malala herself. 

In 2012, when she was just 15, Malala was the target of an assassination attempt for fighting for the rights for girls to receive an education in her native Pakistan. She continues to advocate for the 130 million girls around the world who aren’t in school.

Malala’s father – Ziauddin Yousafzai who has supported Malala from the start will also be at the literature festival speaking about his determination to ensure girls attain a better life by receiving an education, despite those violently trying to prevent it. He is the Co-founder and Chairman of the Malala Fund that champions girls’ rights to education all over the world.

Thomas Erikson

thomas erikson

Non-fiction writer and human behaviour expert Thomas Erikson will be giving insights into how we can communicate more effectively with our colleagues. Because you know, our personalities vary depending on which colour we fall under – red, blue, green and yellow and this greatly affects our communication with each other.

And this is not just for the bosses and managers as Erikson states that the ‘boss is not the only one that could benefit from reflecting over how they communicate and connect with colleagues and fellow human beings.’ 

The Swedish behavioural expert and lecturer is the author of a series of books – Surrounded by Idiots, Surrounded by Psychopaths and Surrounded by Bad Bosses. His latest book, Surrounded by Setbacks is due to be out next year in October 2021.

He will be joined by self-development author, editorial cartoonist and public speaker Sherif Arafa to address the challenges of cross-cultural communication and the always challenging art of getting on with people. 

Bolu Babalola

For those who are a fan of romance novels, the fabulous Bolu Babalola will be taking part in a panel discussion – ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ on the delicate balance between fact and fiction.

Babalola is the author of Love in Color which contains a collection of classic stories about love and romance but with a modern, sometimes feminist twist. 

Other literary greats to watch out for include award-winning novelist and women’s rights activist Elif Shafak, Lebanese-born French novelist Amin Maalouf, and Avni Doshi, author of Burnt Sugar, who will be kicking off the festival extravaganza alongside other headliners at Jameel Art Centre.

Virtually, Psychologist, philosopher, sailor and navigator David Barrie will be joining the festival hosting an educational session with Major Ali al Suwaidi – the UAE’s last pearl diver. Several more virtual sessions will be held. 

Lemn sissay

Poet, playwright, broadcaster and speaker Lemn Sissay will also be returning to the festival in 2021 performing for its closing at Alserkal Avenue along with Afra Atiq, and award-winning Palestinian actor and writer Dana Dajani. Sissay is the author of My Name is Why – a story of neglect and determination, misfortune and hope, cruelty and triumph.  

And of course, there’s plenty for the children as well including Sam Copeland – author of phenomenally popular Charlie Changes Into a Chicken, Ben Bailey Smith aka Doc BrownBritish actor, rapper, comedian and screenwriter, and much more. 

An entire line-up of authors can be found on the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature website here

Tickets for the general public go on sale on January 14, 2021 and cost Dhs60 for adults and Dhs40 for children. Opting to watch it digitally? Get a Dhs100 pass and watch live-streamed sessions. 

Due to social distancing, there will be fewer tickets available for every session, so early booking is recommended. Even if the session is free, you will still need a ticket. They will be available to purchase on the official website.  

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, various locations across Dubai, from January 29 to February 13, 2021 (weekends), Dhs60 adults, Dhs40 for children, Dhs100 for the virtual pass, tickets go on sale January 14, 2021.

Images: Getty Images/Supplied