Emirates Lit Fest 2018: 8 books by Arab authors you must pick up

Culture & Entertainment
Collage of photos from EAFOL (Emirates Airline Festival of Literature)

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, considered one of the most extensive and inclusive literary events in the Middle East will begin on March 1.

The Dubai event offers visitors the opportunity to meet and interact with famous authors, attend literary debates and listen to readings.

But with such an extensive list of panels, plus the hundreds of books on sale, it can be a little overwhelming. How do you decide what books to pick up during the event?

We’re here to help. We’ve rounded up some of the best regional titles to look out for.

A Strange Adventure by Taghreed Aref

A Strange Adventure by Taghreed Aref Najjar. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

In this exciting story of fantasy and adventure, Jordanian author Taghreed Aref Najjar takes you into the world of a young girl named Hind. While examining the contents of a straw basket she got as a present from her aunt, Hind is suddenly transported to a very strange world where thread spools talk and a lobster plays a musical instrument. But all is not what it seems, and Hind and her friends must deal with the darkness behind the scenes to escape and go back home.

Najjar is an award-winning author of over 50 books for children and young adults, which have been translated and published in English, French, Turkish, Swedish and, soon, Italian. She is also the founder of Al Salwa Publishing House.

Kilimanjaro Spirit by Ibrahim Nasrallah

Kilimanjaro Spirit by Ibrahim Nasrallah. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

Jordanian-Palestinian author Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Kilimanjaro Spirit is about a group of disparate individuals preparing to climb Mount Kilimanjaro; among them are two Palestinian adolescents who lost their legs in Israeli bomb strikes. The book is inspired by the author’s personal experience of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in January 2014 with a group of volunteers and two Palestinian adolescent amputees. This book is an ode to the resilience of the human spirit that is much needed today.

The Crocodiles: A Novel by Youssef Rakha

The Crocodiles: A Novel by Youssef Rakha. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

The second book by Egyptian author Youssef Rakha, this novel is set in Cairo between 1997 and 2011 and is narrated in numbered, prose poem-like paragraphs, set in the living, breathing city of Cairo. The narrator is a man looking back on a magical and explosive period of his life when he and two friends started a secret poetry club during a time of illegal drugs, messy love affairs, clumsy but determined intellectual bravado, and retranslations of the Beat Poets. This provocative and intelligent story is one of growth and change.

A Bit of Air – part of the Emerging Voices from the Middle East series by Walid Taher

A Bit of Air by Walid Taher. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

Award-winning Egyptian children’s author and illustrator Walid Taher takes inspiration from Egyptian colloquial poetry, and references it to the recent social and political movements in Egypt. In this book of poems, he uses visual art, poetry, and architecture to express the various mindsets that exist in the modern day. This book is especially significant in this age, as a rapidly changing social and political reality ushers in a generation that speaks in a new language. The poems employ dark humour, with ably supported images, to convey snapshots of a confused state of mind.

The Art of Surrender by Eiman Al Zaabi

The Art of Surrender by Eiman Al Zaabi. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

In The Art of Surrender, Emirati Eiman Al Zaabi shares her own journey towards fulfilment and joy. A Muslim spiritual teacher, facilitator and transformational coach, Al Zaabi attempts to offer a blueprint for true peace and authentic living. No matter what stage of your journey you are at, you will find this a useful guide to take you forward.

A Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan

A Small Death  byMohammed Hasan Alwan. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

In this fictionalised account of the life of the Sufi saint Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi, Saudi author Mohammed Hasan Alwan has a winner. The story follows Arabi’s life from his birth in Muslim Spain in the 12th century to his death in Damascus, tracing his mystic Sufi experience and travels from Andalusia to Azerbaijan, via Morocco, Egypt, the Hijaz, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. The book also explores his struggles with inner turmoil throughout the course of his travels.

The Seven Wise Princesses: A Medieval Persian Epic by Wafa Tarnowska

The Seven Wise Princesses: A Medieval Persian Epic by Wafa Tornawska. Images courtesy of EAFOL.

Lebanese journalist and author Wafa Tarnowska excels in the culture and folklore genre, and this book is the best example of that. Based on a classic of Persian literature, The Seven Wise Princesses is the story of a legendary prince, Shah Bahram, and how seven visiting princesses teach him about leadership. A translation of Haft Paykar, the great Sufi poet Nizami’s twelfth-century masterpiece, the story shows us how personal virtue and wisdom are necessary prerequisites for just rule.

Cydonia: Ajwan Trilogy by Noura Al Noman

Noura Al Noman_authorNoura Al Noman. Image courtesy of EAFOL.

Noura Al Noman won the Best YA Book award at the Etisalat Children’s Books Award in 2013 for Ajwan, her first novel. Cydonia, the final part of the trilogy, continues the story of the titular heroine, a 19-year-old girl on an interplanetary quest to rescue her infant son from a nefarious organisation that wants to turn him into a super-soldier. Noman, a UAE national, says that the plot reflects “men who have a hidden agenda to acquire power and use the pain and suffering of minorities or marginalised people to turn them into their own private armies”.

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is orgnaised by the Emirates Literature Foundation, a not-for-profit that works towards supporting and nurturing literature within the community and the region.

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