From 1001 Nights to now: Ahlam Bolooki’s quest for Arab literature recognition 

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Ahlam Bolooki, the festival director and CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation.

DUBAI, Nov 16, (Agencies): In the heart of a region steeped in storytelling tradition, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has stood as a beacon of intellectual exploration for 15 years. Ahlam Bolooki, the festival director and CEO of the Emirates Literature Foundation since 2023, has been instrumental in steering this cultural extravaganza.

Under Bolooki’s leadership, Emirati audiences have become one of the top nationalities purchasing tickets for the event, marking a significant shift in engaging the community with global writers and speakers. The impact extends to education, where numerous students influenced by the ELF have pursued literature-related careers, becoming journalists or artists, and even publishing their own books.

A core focus for Bolooki and the Emirates Literature Foundation is the promotion of Arab authors within the broader literary landscape. Recognizing the underrepresentation of contemporary Arabic literature, Bolooki launched the Kateb Maktub initiative in 2020. This project aims to address the lack of information on Arab authors by substantially increasing their presence on Wikipedia, both in Arabic and English. Since its inception, Kateb Maktub has achieved a remarkable 500% increase in Wikipedia pages dedicated to Arab authors.

Bolooki’s commitment is further demonstrated through initiatives like the ELF Seddiqi Writer’s Fellowship, a comprehensive program nurturing Arab writers in both Arabic and English. The fellowship provides aspiring fiction writers with opportunities to elevate their craft, understand global audience preferences, and collaborate with renowned figures in the publishing world.

Despite the challenges Arab authors face in gaining global recognition, Bolooki remains optimistic. She emphasizes the need for improved distribution and translation efforts and acknowledges issues like piracy in the Arab world. Nevertheless, she encourages aspiring writers to persevere, seize opportunities, and embrace literature’s transformative power.

Bolooki’s visionary outlook extends to forging partnerships and collaborations that catalyze transformative changes in the literary landscape.

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