‘Hay Festival Abu Dhabi’ Announces 2020 Program Full of Literary Stars

The first-ever “Hay Festival Abu Dhabi” is scheduled to take place at the end of February (25-28) and although the lineup has been announced somewhat late, they are not stinting on famous and award-winning authors:

The list of writers includes those who won major awards in 2019, including three women who won the Man Booker International (Jokha Alharthi), the Booker Prize (Bernardine Evaristo), and the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF), popularly called the “Arabic Booker” (Hoda Barakat).

The popular Lebanese band Mashrou’ Leila — pulled from a festival in Lebanon this summer after church leaders accused them of blasphemy — is also on the list of participants.

Nobel Prize winning Nigerian author Wole Soyinka is on the schedule, as is popular historian William Dalrymple, former IPAF winner Ahmed Saadawi, acclaimed activist and author Ahdaf Soueif, and popular Lebanese singer and composer Marcel Khalife. According to organizers, Adonis will celebrate his 90th at the festival:


The seventy-odd participants listed on the Hay website include a handful of Emirati writers, but mostly acclaimed Arab writers (Qassim Haddad, Youssef Rakha) and many authors from the UK.

In an interview with The NationalHay Festival founder Peter Florence suggested that the Abu Dhabi festival will be a long-term addition to the Hay’s growing collection: “We absolutely want to make this festival work and to build on it, so that in 10 or 15 years’ time, people will perhaps look upon it in the way that the Colombians do with our festival in Cartagena.”

The Hay thus joins a number of European- and American-branded art projects in Abu Dhabi, including the local Louvre and a planned Guggenheim.

Hay’s website currently lists nine festivals set for 2020 around the world: in Colombia, Croatia, Mexico, Wales, Peru, Spain, and the UAE. Although, according to organizers, in the past three decades, there have been 125 festivals in 30 locations, the only other Hay Festival held in an Arab-majority city has been Hay Festival Beirut.