x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Creating a hub of intellectual debate in the UAE

One of the most interesting sights at the Emirates Airline Literature Festival, which ended last weekend in Dubai, was seeing authors from around the world debating, discussing and arguing about ideas.

The author Alia Mamdouh debated exile with the Palestinian writer Raja Shehadeh. The Indian author Pankaj Mishra debated with the British journalist Jeremy Paxman about the legacy of the British empire. Away from the stage, over lunch and in corridors, there were other debates, some passionate, some collegial.

Dubai, and indeed the UAE itself, is very much a regional and global hub. Airlines, ships and business people pour through the country on a daily basis. The cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi teem with different nationalities doing business. Historically, this region was one of the centres of global debate, with writers, poets and politicians thronging the salons of the Arab world to discuss the big issues of the day. That is a proud history and one that, slowly, is being reclaimed.