Saturday, March 7, 2009

Dubai Festival of Literature: Censorship, women writers...and camels


According to the author Robert Irwin, there is a verb in Arabic, aqrahu, which has to do with contending with another for superior glory and generosity in the hocking or slaughtering of camels. This is one of many things that his audience learned in the event: The Camel: Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know ... and Plenty You Didn't. It could also have served as a metaphor for the inaugural Emirates Airline International Festival of Literature.

Dubai is a city of firsts, biggests and most expensive. It has the largest population in the United Arab Emirates. The Burj Al Arab is the world's tallest building. It appears to contain more women in burkas carrying Chanel handbags than anywhere else in the known universe. It makes sense, then, that it should host the "first true literary festival in the Middle East, celebrating the world of books in all its infinite variety". If this was an attempt to buy a little class in the midst of a cultural desert, it worked. And so, for an all-too-fleeting four days last week, the InterContinental hotel in Dubai, Festival City, became an oasis of cultivation in the otherwise featureless landscape of designer labels and oil billionaires. >>MORE

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