It was certainly a night to remember on March 3 at the Opening Ceremony of the Emirates Airline Literature Festival 2015. From life-size puppets, to spoken poetry, inspiring speeches and moving music, the performances enchanted and entranced a delighted audience, giving them a taste of what to expect over the next few days.
The night began with a touching tribute to ardent readers, festival attenders, and lovers of literature by the by His Highness Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan. This was followed by a heartwarming welcome by Festival Director Isobel Abulhoul, who piqued our imagination when she asked the audience ‘what Wonderland means to each one of you’, and invited us across a journey over the next few days where, ‘fact turns to fiction, fictions turns to fact, and characters become your best friends or your biggest foes’.
Our favorite speech of the night was definitely Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of The 99, the first group of Islamic comic superheroes. From getting a shout-out from President Obama, to being covered by Forbes and CNN, Naif has arguably created the most creative response to Islamaphobia. His comics are followed by thousands across the globe and promote universal values of peace and tolerance.
It wasn’t just all words and moving speeches. Pianist Jason Kouchak took the stage to perform a stirring performance of a piece called ‘Shahrazad’, based on the legendary Arab queen and a piece he composed especially for the night. Celebrated poet Lemn Smelly (yes that’s his name) shocked and delighted us with his spoken poetry, reading ‘Let there be Peace’.
And just when you though you’d seen (or heard) it all, the audience was pleasantly jolted by life-size horse puppets from ‘War Horse’, Joey and Topthorn, for the first time in the UAE.
What we loved most about this evening, besides for the tribute to language and its careful articulation, was the spirit of peace, love and tolerance that each performer and speaker represented. With over 130 local, regional and international authors attending, we can’t wait to see what the next four days have in store for us!