“The response from authors this year has really been incredible,” Festival Director Isobel Abulhoul said in a prepared statement, “so we felt we had no alternative but to expand the event from its traditional five-day slot to cover a whole two weeks in order to accommodate the wealth of bestselling writers, thinkers and speakers who want to come to Dubai.”
Organizers also announced twelve more writers who’d be coming to Dubai for the festival, including 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction winner Shukri Al Mabkhout, poet Simon Armitage, 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction winner Saud AlSanousi, Emirati author Maha Gargash, and Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi.
Abulhoul praised the “eclectic mix” of the Emirates LitFest authors. Twenty-four names had already been announced, including Man Booker International finalist Hoda Barakat, poet Carol Ann Duffy, and 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction winner Youssef Ziedan.
Last year, more than 130 authors held talks, debates, and workshops. At the end of this year’s festival, organizers estimated that more than 30,000 visitors attended sessions, and reported that the 2015 festival had seen a 25 percent increase in ticket sales.
Unlike events at the Sharjah and Abu Dhabi book fairs, the LitFest events come with a price tag, but UAE residents are apparently willing to pay.
Next year will mark the fair’s eighth year. It is certainly the largest stand-alone literary festival in the region, attracting high-profile authors from around the world, and another sign of the literary presence concentrating in the Emirates.
The UAE is also the guest of honor at this year’s Beijing International Book Fair.