Credit: Adam Tatton Reid


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We are looking forward to visiting the first edition of Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi

The first edition of Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi was just announced and will happen this February 2020 at Manarat Al Saadiyat (25-28 February 2020). This art and cultural event is supported by the UAE’s Ministry of Tolerance, and is featuring a range of award-winning writers, journalists, historians, film-makers and artists in an international programme spanning nearly 100 events over four days.


25-28 February 2020

The festival spotlights the latest ideas in the arts, sciences and current affairs, with over 20 nationalities and 7 languages represented. The programme reflects 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.

A unique four-day celebration will feature agenda-setting conversations from some of the world’s finest writers and liveliest minds, addressing the world as it is and as it might be. 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.

Explore the programme and book tickets here at

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

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 editions in Beirut (2009-2012) and the publication of its celebrated anthology of short stories by the best Arab writers under the age of 39, many of whom are now distinguished authors and journalists, in collaboration with Beirut World Book Capital 2009.

Hay Festival Abu Dhabi joins the global family of Festivals and forums programmed by the Hay Festival in more than 30 locations worldwide. Forthcoming Festivals include Hay Festival Medellín (Colombia), Hay Festival Arequipa (Peru), Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias (Colombia), Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye (Wales), Hay Festival Europa 28, Rijeka (Croatia, for Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture), Hay Festival Segovia (Spain), Hay Festival Forum Dallas (Texas, USA), and Hay Festival Querétaro (Mexico).

More details about the programme overview

Award-winning writers from around the world take to the Festival stages to discuss the power of fiction, including Nigerian Nobel Prize-winner Wole Soyinka, Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif, Filipino writer Miguel Syjuco, Pakistan’s Fatima Bhutto, Hoda Barakat from Lebanon, and two 2019 Booker Prize winners: Jokha Alharthi from Oman, winner of the Man Booker International Prize, and British writer Bernardine Evaristo.

The Festival’s #Beirut39 selection of the best writers of Arab heritage under 40, published in 2009, is represented by novelists Ahmed Saadawi (Iraq), Najwa Bin Shatwan (Libya) Youssef Rakha (Egypt) and Mohammed Hasan Alwan (Saudi Arabia). Meanwhile eminent Emirati short story writer Mohammed Al-Murr discusses a lifetime adventuring in the world’s literary cultures and libraries.

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 Sharjah World Book Capital, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Abu Dhabi’s longest-running book club Al Multaqa, The Department of Culture and Tourism, Sharjah Book Fair and UAE publishing house Kalimat.

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. Other poets in conversation and reading their work include India’s Tishani Doshi, Bahrain’s Qassim Haddad and Inua Ellams from the UK.

Also in conversation will be Bulgarian-British writer Kapka Kassabova, who will be part of Hay Festival’s #Europa28 celebration in June. Three winners of the Nobel Prize will be sharing their experience and insights in conversations during the festival, Iranian Shirin Ebadi, Tunisian Ahmed Galai, and Nigeria’s Wole Soyinka.

Historians put some of the biggest issues of our time into context as Bettany Hughes discusses the rebuilding of Syrian heritage, Peter Frankopan talks about new silk roads, Jung Chang tells a gripping tale of life and power in 20th Century China, Shashi Tharoor discusses his Hindu identity and William Dalrymple talks about the British in India.

French physicist Christophe Galfard will be in discussion about space, time and beyond, Palestinian medical doctor Izzeldin Abulaish addresses the link between health and peace, while Oxford Professor for the Public Understanding of Science Marcus du Sautoy talks about geometry and number mysteries. 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. Award winning garden designer Kamelia Zaal shares her knowledge of regional plant life in the creation of some of the UAE’s most celebrated gardens.

Film-makers from the region will reflect current social and political situations in the Arab world in a series of screenings curated by Sheyma Buali, Director of BBC News Arabic, including the Grierson Award-winning documentary, Iraq: A State of Mind, as well as a special session of short films by female directors.

A vibrant programme for families includes children’s authors Andy Stanton, Noura Al Khoori, Ed Vere, Maitha Al Khayat, Jenny Valentine, Philip Ardagh, Onjali Q Rauf and Michelle Paver. Teenage Emirati author Dana Alblooshi will introduce audiences to 13 amazing women of Arabia.

Evening entertainment is always an essential part of the Hay Festival experience. At Hay Festival Abu Dhabi each evening one eminent international guest will be invited to host a ‘Writer’s Table’ where they will be joined in an informal session by a selection of speakers to discuss ideas that have emerged over the day. Also musical performances will go on into the night featuring international stars including Souad Massi, Marcel Khalife with Bachar Mar-Khalife, Lebanese indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila and a remarkable collaboration of Senegalese and Welsh harpists Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch. On the last night, Rooftop Rhythms are hosting The Silent Party, with five DJs playing Afrobeat, Reggae/Caribbean, and Arab Fusion music.

Full-time students and those involved in Hay Festival’s education and outreach programme will have free access to all Hay Festival Abu Dhabi 2020 events. Hay Festival Abu Dhabi is collaborating with Zayed University, Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, New York University Abu Dhabi to bring speakers onto their campuses for workshops, lectures and seminars, as well as a three day series of creative writing workshops at NYUAD.

Keep up to date with Hay Festival news and follow on:

Facebook: hayfestivalarabic

Instagram: @hayfestivalarabic

Twitter: @hayfestarabic



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Ahdaf SoueifAhmed El ShamsyAhmed SaadawiAndy StantonBahrain’s Qassim HaddadBernardine EvaristoBettany Hughesbook club Al MultaqaChristophe GalfardDirector of the Environment Agency Abu DhabiEd VereEmirates Airline Festival of LiteratureFatima BhuttoHAY FESTIVALHAY FESTIVAL 2020HAY FESTIVAL ABU DHABIHoda BarakatIndia’s Tishani DoshiInua EllamsIranian Shirin EbadiJenny ValentineJokha AlharthiJung ChangKamelia ZaalKapka KassabovaMaitha Al KhayatMarcus du SautoyMichelle PaverMiguel SyjucoMohammed Hasan AlwanNajwa Bin ShatwanNigeria’s Wole SoyinkaNoura Al KhooriOnjali Q RaufPalestinian medical doctor Izzeldin AbulaishPeter FrankopanPhilip ArdaghPierre JorisRazan Khalifa Al MubarakSerge PeySharjah Book FairSharjah World Book CapitalShashi TharoorSheyma BualiThe Department of Culture and TourismTunisian Ahmed GalaiUAE publishing house Kalimat.Volker BraunWilliam DalrympleWole SoyinkaYang LianYoussef RakhaZuleikha Aburisha

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