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In its first weekend, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, one of the world’s foremost literary events, is set to enthrall, energise and entertain audiences with a range of sessions featuring some of the most prominent literary figures in the UAE and from across the globe. This year’s Festival, which runs from 3 – 13 February at the brand-new Habtoor City Hotels for 2022, is under the theme, ‘Here Comes the Sun.’

On the first day, Omar Saif Ghobash spoke about the UAE’s journey in preparation for Expo 2020 and his personal journey in writing his first book. Khalif Ahmad Al Habtoor also discusses his exemplary journey and shares his views on business and life. Mohammed Saeed Hareb, creator of Freej, shares his story, while Dr. Habib Al Attar and Sameera Ahmed describe the stigma of working in the arts.

Other sessions focusing on self-care, mental health and self-improvement will feature psychotherapist Sasha Bates who blends the personal and the professional as she comes to terms with the loss of her husband in The Languages of Loss: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Through Grief, and Jessica Moxham, a champion for disability rights and parenting, who will speak about what having a disabled child has taught her in The Cracks That Let the Light In. Also featured are Mathilde Loujayne and Ruzina Ahad, pioneers of a new generation of self-help books for the Muslim women of today.

Anime fans can find out where graphic novelists and animators get their ideas from, with sessions featuring Fumio Obata, Ken Arto and Fadel Saeed AlMheiri. Jessica Cerasi, curator of the 2019 Venice Biennale who will pose the question ‘Who’s Afraid of Contemporary Art?’ based on her course at the Tate Modern. Lucinda Dickens Hawskley will discuss What Makes Great Art with Myrna Ayad, former director of Art Dubai. Renowned high-end jewellery designer Azza Fahmy will recount her journey from the bustling shops of Cairo to becoming one of the most admired jewellery designers in the Arab world.

Anglo-Indian writer Marina Wheeler, whose ancestral roots are in what is now Pakistan, tells the story of her mother’s early years, which were shaped by the Partition. Rapahel Cormack will offer a taste of the cosmopolitan counterculture in Egypt during the inter-war years of the last century. The history strand also features paleoanthropologist Ella Al-Shamahi, who will be giving a highly entertaining talk on the history of the handshake, and Salma Serry and Daniel L Newman who will be delving back in time with unique insights gained from the history of cookbooks, in a session taking place at the Jameel Arts Centre.

In his latest novel, Ashraf Al Ashmawi takes the audience back to Egypt in the twentieth century, and he discusses the art of writing historical fiction with Lulwah Al Mansouri and Sultan AlMousa.