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8 must-see literary events for UAE families at LitFest this weekend

8 must-see literary events for UAE families at LitFest this weekend

by Tabitha BardaFebruary 2, 2024

Dubai’s much-loved literary event, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature – aka LitFest – is happening this weekend, and there’s no better place to be for parents who want to encourage a love of reading in their child.

Find out why it is so important for your child’s brain development to encourage a love of reading here.

Every year, the festival gathers a cherry-picked curation of the world’s greatest literary, creative and scientific minds to its beautiful waterside venue, forging an exciting space filled with world-class enlightening conversations and inspirational workshops for all ages.

This year promises a line-up of spectacular events, including an all-new LitFest Families segment, especially geared towards younger book fans. Highlights include a superhero-inspired interactive session with Alex Falase-Koya  – author of the popular Marv series, as well as co-author with football legend Marcus Rashford of the awesome Breakfast Club Adventures series.

There’s an exclusive opportunity to gain fascinating insights from a real-life adventurer princess, as UAE royal family member and the Dubai Police’s first female pilot, HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Marwan Al Maktoum, talks about her book When She Took To The Sky, which is all about pioneering women in aviation and space travel – a segment that’s sure to inspire any little girls or boys to reach for the stars, both literally and figuratively.

World-renowned author Lisa Thompson – the fantastic mind behind children’s mystery novels such as global bestseller The Goldfish Boy and The Day I was Erased – will take to the stage to reveal the secrets behind her craft and encourage youngsters to follow in her footsteps, as she discusses her thrilling latest book for children, The Treasure Hunters.


Another YA mystery writer, Anthony Horowitz, might be better known to adults as the writer of two Sherlock Holmes novels, the play Mindgame, the creator of multiple TV series including Foyles War, Midsomer Murders and several Agatha Christie’s Poirot episodes, as well as the author who was chosen by Ian Fleming’s estate to write three new James Bond novels using unpublished material by Fleming.  He is in Dubai this weekend to discuss his suspense-filled YA Alex Rider series, featuring a 14-year-old boy who acts as a spy for the British Secret Intelligence Service MI6.

Plus, there will be slapstick silliness from Andy Stanton, the creator of the grotesquely gigglesome Roald Dahl-inspired Mr Gum series of books; hilarious poetic antics from children’s poets AF Harrold (The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice) and Roger McGough (Over to You!); a delightful delve into Emirati culture and heritage with Julia Johnson talking about her much-loved book Aisha’s Pearl and its sequel Aisha’s Cake; and an inspiring insight into the writing process from Phil Earle, the award-winning author of evacuee-focused historical children’s story When the Sky Falls and many other books.

The Festival is also hosting a series of book launches, including Out of This World by Dr Sultan Al Neyadi: a photo journal of the recently appointed Minister of Youth’s 6-month visit to space. The collection showcases the breathtaking beauty of our universe from the International Space Station, and is sure to wow young space fans. The astronaut’s book will be launched at a session titled Out Of This World: Sultan Al Neyadi at 15:00 on Saturday 3 February 2024, where attendees can hear about Dr Al Neyadi’s space adventures as well as the opportunity to get their copy of the book signed by him.

The Foundation will also soon unveil the ELF Reading Caravan—an extraordinary mobile library and event space. This distinctive electric vehicle will traverse neighbourhoods and schools across Dubai, delivering the joy of reading to doorsteps. Equipped with a curated selection of books and hosting various literary events, the ELF Reading Caravan aims to foster a love for literature among children and adults alike, enhancing community engagement and enriching lives through the magic of storytelling.

There are still tickets left for all of these amazing kid-friendly and family-friendly sessions and, with most priced at a reasonable Dh40 per ticket, it’s the ideal destination for a lovely family day out. Plus, those who buy a ticket to 3 different sessions will save 15% off each ticket.

Read more: Fun ways to support your child with reading.

The best family-friendly book events at LitFest

books piled ready to be sold

All of the following sessions will be held in English at the Intercontinental hotel Dubai Festival City. All children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by a ticket-holding adult. Book tickets here.


10:30 AM – 11:15 AM
Phil Earle: Surrounded By Stories

British Book Award-winning writer Phil Earle is one of the world’s most imaginative storytellers. His body of work spans sagas of war and tales of first love to adventures of crime-fighting super-kids – and each he has written with a single focus in mind: to blast open the doors to the wonderful world of stories, letting in even the most reluctant of young bookworms to share in the fun of reading and writing. In his debut Dubai appearance, Earle will share the stories behind his stories – those events, whether drawn from history or his own life, that have inspired him, and reveal how budding young storytellers can find that same inspiration in the stories that surround them.

Recommended for ages 9+

12:00 PM – 12:45 PM
Rhyme Rumble

Are you ready for a rhyme rumble? Join celebrated children’s poets AF Harrold (The Book of Not Entirely Useful Advice) and Roger McGough (Over to You!) for a whimsical journey through the world of witty words, playful rhymes and charming verses. Harrold and McGough are masters of crafting poems that tickle the funny bone and ignite the imagination, capturing the hearts of children all over the world with their thoroughly entertaining and infectiously funny wordplay. This poetry extravaganza will have kids rhyming and rumbling long after the curtains are called!

Recommended for ages 7+

1:30 PM – 2:15 PM
Zanib Mian: Meet The Maliks

Put on your detective hats, get out your magnifying glasses, and help twins Maysa and Musa Malik try to solve a mystery! The local mosque is holding a cookie competition, but all the cookies have been destroyed. Who did it? And why? What do they have against cookies? Don’t they know they’re delicious? Author of the celebrated Planet Omar series, Zanib Mian is an award-winning children’s author and former teacher. In this interactive and infectiously funny session, she’ll share the inspiration behind her newest series, Meet the Maliks, and encourage young readers and writers to find their inner sleuth — and create engaging stories of their own!

Recommended for ages 5+

3:00PM – 3:45 PM
Lisa Thompson: The Treasure Of Friendship

Bestselling author Lisa Thompson (The Goldfish Boy) and the unlikely cast of characters in her new book, The Treasure Hunters, need your help finding some treasure buried deep inside a mountain! But tread carefully – this thrilling adventure isn’t for the faint of heart, and you might not be the only ones who are seeking their fortune… In this not-to-be-missed event with one of Britain’s most celebrated children’s writers, Thompson will reveal the inspirations behind her gripping new story and stir the imaginations of aspiring young writers, daring them to create their own worlds which celebrate the power of friendship and inclusivity.

Recommended for ages 9+

 4.30 PM – 5:15 PM
Making Aisha’s Cake

Aisha wants to bake a date cake – just like the ones her grandmother used to make. There is just one problem: the recipe has been long lost! With the help of her grandfather, Aisha tries to figure out the ingredients she needs to recreate the dish that reminds her so much of her Yaddo. Join author Julia Johnson and illustrator Maitha Al Khayat for the fun and uplifting launch of Aisha’s Cake, the follow-up to the celebrated children’s book Aisha’s Pearl and a heartwarming love letter to Emirati culture and heritage.

Recommended for ages 5+

4:30 PM – 5:15 PM
Sheikha Mozah Bint Marwan Al Maktoum: When She Took To The Sky

Since she was little, HH Sheikha Mozah Bint Marwan Al Maktoum’s dream was to become a pilot – to experience freedom and joy, to be among the birds and the clouds, of truly flying. She practiced and trained for years to achieve this dream, becoming the first female pilot to join the Dubai Police Airwing. In When She Took To The Sky, Sheikha Mozah looks to the skies for stories about women in the fields of aviation and space travel, with a special focus on the pioneering Arab women who made history in these fields. This is a not-to-be-missed event to celebrate the launch of this essential book about the role models who have inspired Sheikha Mozah and who will inspire you, too.

Recommended for ages 7+


10:30 AM – 11:15 AM 
Superheroes Assemble!

Marv is just an ordinary boy. Or at least he thinks he is… until he discovers that he is next in a long line of superheroes! With powers like super speed, flying and the ability to freeze baddies in their tracks, Marv is a force to be reckoned with. But before he can reach the height of his powers, he must learn to wield the even more powerful forces of kindness, imagination and courage. Award-winning writer Alex Falase-Koya and celebrated illustrator Paula Bowles join forces for a super fun and marvelously interactive session about the Marv series and how you, too, can unleash your creative potential for the greater good. Football fans might know of Aloex Falase-Koya for his work with football legend Marcus Rashford to write The Breakfast Cub Adventures: The Beast Beyond the Fence 

Recommended for ages 5+

1:30 PM – 2:15 PM
Anthony Horowitz: The Thrilling Adventures Of Alex Rider

There has never been a foe that Alex Rider couldn’t vanquish with his courage and wit, his mad physical skills and high-tech gadgets. But in his latest exploit, Nightshade Revenge, Rider meets a threat unlike anything he’s faced before: a friend held hostage by a sinister cult of vengeful assassins and a revolutionary but dangerous new gaming system which might spell the end of the world as we know it. How will he prevail this time? In this exclusive event, the brains behind the teen spy’s thrilling adventures, Anthony Horowitz, reveals to Annabel Kantaria all the things that make Alex Rider a timeless favourite for young people across the globe.

Recommended for ages 9+

3:00 PM – 3:45 PM
The Absolute Abandon Of Andy Stanton

Andy Stanton can sometimes (all the time) be very silly. He likes to sing horribly, joke about and laugh a lot. But what he likes more than anything is to write stories about Mr Gum, the iconic ‘bad’ man who hates children, animals, fun, corn on the cob and just about everything else under the sun. Come and find out what dastardly mischief Mr Gum is up to this time and how you can help thwart his horrible plans. But be warned: it will take the absolute abandon of all things serious and sensible to prevail. And lots of horrible singing, too.

Recommended for ages 7+

For more information on the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, visit their website, and for the latest updates on the upcoming Festival, follow @EmiratesLitFest on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and LinkedIn.

Read more: What do top UAE Principals read for pleasure? A sneak peek onto the personal bookshelves of the country’s education leaders.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and Parents United's WHICHPlaydates - a regular meeting place for UAE parents to discuss the issues that matter to them, make friends and network with others. You can often find Tabitha too on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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