The prestigious Hay Festival has today announced the line-up for the first edition of its Abu Dhabi chapter which begins next month on 25 February, 2020 for 4 days.

Supported by the Ministry of Tolerance, the much-anticipated event will feature a range of award-winning writers, journalists, historians, film-makers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days.

“The Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important celebration of tolerance and cultural exchange. It will help in our quest in the UAE to build positive relationships with others. We are confident that the Hay Festival Abu Dhabi will be an important celebration of the values of human fraternity that have enabled the success we enjoy today in our country….” Said His Excellency Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance of the United Arab Emirates.

The festival spotlights the latest ideas in the arts, sciences and current affairs, with over 20 nationalities and 7 languages represented. Reflecting the diversity of communities in Abu Dhabi itself, including writers from all around the Middle East, North Africa, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, China, Nigeria and Europe, a vibrant programme for schools will welcome over 70 local schools, inspiring and entertaining thousands of local students aged 7-16 years in Arabic, English, Hindi and Tagalog.

Film screenings in partnership with BBC News Arabic will reflect current social and political situations in the Arab world, while live performances of music and poetry will open and close the festival, and a welcoming free-to-enter festival site with a dedicated bookshop will extend the reach of the festival to a wide audience.

Award-winning writers from around the world will take to the festival stages to discuss the power of fiction, including Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif and two 2019 Booker Prize winners: Jokha Alharthi from Oman, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and British writer Bernardine Evaristo.

Arabic literature past and future will itself be a subject for conversation, including Ahmed El Shamsy on how print culture transformed Islamic intellectual tradition, and panel discussions featuring representatives from various literary festivals and fair’s in the region.

Celebrated Syrian poet Adonis will participate in a celebration of his 90th birthday, with fellow poets Volker Braun, Zuleikha Aburisha, Pierre Joris, Serge Pey and Yang Lian. French physicist Christophe Galfard will be in discussion about space, time and beyond and Palestinian medical doctor Izzeldin Abulaish will address the link between health and peace.

Discussing global responses to the climate emergency will be Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Director of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi, the largest environmental regulator in the Arabian Gulf.

Film-makers from the region will reflect on current social and political situations in the Arab world in a series of screenings curated by Sheyma Buali, Director of BBC Arabic Festival, including the Grierson Award-winning documentary, Iraq: A State of Mind.

The Hay Festival aims to establish a long-term presence in the Arabic-speaking world from its newest platform in Abu Dhabi, building on the success of its three previous editions in Beirut. Hay Festival Abu Dhabi joins the global family of Festivals and forums programmed by the Hay Festival in more than 30 locations worldwide.

Explore the programme and book tickets online HERE. Those in full-time education and/or under 25 years of age are able to book tickets to events free of charge.


Hermoine Macura-Noble

The first Australian English speaking News Anchor in the Middle East. She is also the Author of Faces of the Middle East  and Founder of US-based 501c3 charity – The House of Rest which helps to ease the suffering of victims of war. For more from our Contributing Editor, you can follow her on Instagram, here.



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