Everything You Must Know About Abu Dhabi’s First Hay Festival


Celebrated first in the year 1988, Hay Festival of Literature and Arts since then has a huge significance in the modern world. The city Hay On Wye was already well-known for many bookshops even before the festival was introduced. When the bookseller Richard Booth opened the first book store in 1962, the city had gained the nickname “Town of Books” in the 1970s.

Hay On Wye, A Book Worm’s Wonderland

Hay on Wye was once a destination for bibliophiles where many selling specialists and second-hand books were sold. Later it became a place of celebration and enjoyment for all literature lovers and expanded internationally throughout the years. Apart from literally and literature concerned activities, the festival started to include film previews and musical performances. The festival evolved in a way that it is now celebrated on a much wider platform including an art gallery, short film screenings, awards, conversing with authors from world-wide and much more. It is indeed a paradise for all bibliophiles and aesthetes.

Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi UAE

Prominently celebrated in the British culture, the festival managed to pave its way on an international level to be relished worldwide in South American countries like Spain, Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. With world-wide popularity in that part of the world, the festival is all set to step in Asia by being introduced in Abu-Dhabi, UAE. Supported by the Ministry of Tolerance, the Hay Festival in Abu-Dhabi will take place between 25th – 28th February 2020. The festival will feature a range of award-winning writers, journalists, artists, historians, and film-makers.

The festival is also said to hold 100 events in the span over four days so there are many exciting things to look out for! Spotlighting the latest ideas in the arts, sciences, and current affairs, there will be over 20 nationalities and 7 languages represented. The diverse culture of the country will reflect the mixture of communities in Abu Dhabi, including writers from all around India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Middle-East, Europe, etc. Another vibrant program for schools is said to be held that will welcome over 70 local schools.

If you are curious to know about who all will attend the festival, there are remarkable personalities who will attend the festival from all around the world including Jokha Al Harthi, who got awarded internationally for her book, “Celestial Bodies”, Nobel prize winners, Shirin Ebadi, Ahmed Galai, historians including William Dalrymple, former international diplomat Shashi Tharoor and poets Qassim Haddad, Yang Lian, and Tishani Doshi. Syrian poet Adonis will also appear to celebrate his 90th birthday, bringing together all other poets together.

Highlighted Events of the Festival

With total of 63 events to look forward to that will include musical concerts, dialogues, speeches, short film screenings and much more, we have highlighted some of the most awaited events from Abu Dhabi’s Hay Festival.

1. Opening of the Festival by Peter Florence

The Hay Festival Director will welcome all the writers from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, India, China, Lebanon, Philippines, UAE, KSA, Nigeria to celebrate the tolerance by the spirit of dialogues and shows that will inspire the show’s motive.

Date: 25th February 2020; Time: 1:30pm; Venue: Tolerance Majlis; Ticket Price: Free

2. Make Art not War by Bettany Hughes

Classicist and Historian, Bettany Hughes will tell the story of extraordinary, transformative projects helping refugees to rebuild the shattered and war-zoned riches of Syria. The lecture is planned to be illustrated with film footage from Hughes’s documentary about the project.

Date: 25th February 2020; Time: 4:30pm; Venue: The Theatre; Ticket Price: GBP 20

3. Concert by Souad Massi

The Algerian contemporary-folk icon, Souad Massi will light up the festival with her soulful voice by creating a light, moving, melodic folk. Her sixth album anchored in current events covering Algerian politics, freedom, and liberation. With the fusion of Arab and Latin music, the musical evening will touch the hearts of the listeners.

Date: 25th February 2020; Time: 7:30pm-9:00pm; Venue: Etihad Garden Stage; Ticket Price: AED 100

4. Children After War by BBC Arabic Film Screening

The film screenings based on the subject, “Children After War”. There will be 5 short movies screened that will depict the devastating effects of war on the children.

  • Children of God by Ahmed Al Daraji – Duration: 10 minutes
  • War Canister by Yahya AlAlak – Duration: 10 minutes 
  • Transit Game by Anna Fahr – Duration: 18 minutes
  • Baghdad Messi by Sahim Omar Khalifa – Duration: 12 minutes
  • Ayny by Ahmed Saleh – Duration: 11 minutes

Date: 27th February; Time: 1:00 pm; Venue: The Theatre; Ticket Price: Free but ticketed

5. Rediscovery of Islamic Classics by Ahmed El Shamsy

Dating back to late olden days, Ahmed Al Shamsy explains how Islamic scholars began to write the rules, laws, and regulation of papyrus, and papers. The texts and written documents were not movable until the early19th century. He will explain how the technology of printing transformed Islamic scholarship and Arabic Literature.

Date: 27th February 2020; Time: 4:00pm; Venue: Tolerance Majlis; Ticket Price: AED 20

6. The Silent Party

A silent party for the closing of the Hay Festival will be hosted in collaboration with Rooftop Rhythms. Choose your own tempo with a personal set of headsets and dance to the mix of Arabian fusion, Reggae, Caribbean, and Afrobeat featuring DJ Aly, DJ Hiddy, DJ A.L.L.A.D. Dj S Spin, and DJ Ranger.

Date: 28th February 2020; Time: 11:00pm-2:00am; Venue: Atrium; Ticket Price: AED 50

Experience the magical world of arts and literature by being a part of the very first edition of the Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi. Get to know about the Arabic, international literature, and history of writings, poems, and more by Historians and Classicists.

Explore new ideas with international award-winning writers, artists, and analysts from all around the world. Be a part of intellectual discussions related to Arab society, British India, rebuilding of Syrian heritage, and much more. With filmmakers reflecting social, political and current affairs of the Arab world, the festival is sure to set a long-lasting impact on the participants and viewers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *