What's On (Abu Dhabi)

Meet the festival director Ahlam Bolooki

- Al Habtoor City, emiratesli­tfest.com

Can you tell us why you’ve moved the festival to a new location?

There are many reasons. The canal side of Habtoor City hotels is not just a beautiful setting but it’s a convenient location off Sheikh Zayed Road. But ultimately, it came down to the people. We knew this would be a great home for the festival after meeting with the Al Habtoor City team. We also have a couple of events at Expo 2020, including a stunning spoken word and music event.

Why did you decide to go back to the 10-day format for the festival?

Every year is different. We have had festivals running over anything from five days to three weekends, and it is dictated by what we want to achieve with each festival; the conversati­ons we want to host and the people we want to bring together. Our priority is always to design something truly magical for our audiences and our authors. This year, we are doing just that over the course of 10 days.

Tell us more about the theme for this year’s festival

Our theme ‘Here Comes the Sun’ is perfect for where we are today, two years into the global pandemic. We have all collective­ly been living under a dark cloud, and now is the time for a new dawn where we can look forward with hope. The 2022 festival will bring optimism and renewal. It will shed light on issues that are usually obscured by the dark, including some of the most important topics of our time.


How long does it take to plan such a big festival?

We start planning the festival 18 months in advance. It is a huge production putting together the author lineup, getting dates booked in, planning the conversati­ons, and the special events. With so many moving parts, including the calendars of more than 150 authors from all over the world, it is a complex operation.

What do you most love about the festival?

I love it all. On the opening day of the festival when I see people starting to arrive at our LitFest branded venue. It is the most wonderful time of the year. The Desert Stanzas, where we bring together spoken word performers from all over the world at Caravanser­ai desert camp is a magical event and it moves me deeply every time. Panel discussion­s with Arabic world authors together with internatio­nal speakers are often fascinatin­g. It is hard to pick just one thing to love the most – it is all wonderful.

Who are the top authors you personally are looking forward to seeing?

Choosing just three is hard. Julia Quinn is the author of the Bridgerton series, which I think has captured the hearts of everyone who had read it or seen it on Netflix. For first-class escapism, you can’t beat it. I am super excited about Toshikazu Kawaguchi, the Japanese author of Before the Coffee Gets Cold, a time-travelling magical realism novel that sold more than 800,000 copies in Japan. Nikita Gill is one of the world’s most successful instapoets, and I predict she will be spectacula­r. And Sara Gay Forden is a journalist who covered the Italian fashion industry for more than 15 years and wrote The House of Gucci, the nonfiction book that the movie was based on.

What book are you currently reading and what’s next on your reading list?

Right now, I’m reading How Much of These Hills is Gold by C Pam Zhang, and next on the list is My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future by Indra Nooyi.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Arab Emirates