Tuesday 18 February 2020


Twelve leading Emirati authors have been announced for the Sharjah Market Focus Cultural Programme for the London Book Fair 2020, taking place 10-12 March.

Welcoming twelve of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)’s most prominent and exciting writers, the programme, run in partnership by the British Council and the Sharjah Book Authority, offers a valuable opportunity for both international publishers and UK audiences to meet Emirati authors and hear them discuss their work at The London Book Fair and other venues, including the British Library and National Poetry Library.

Events will explore Emirati writing and its place within the rich canon of Arabic literature, with talks addressing the influence of fairy tale and folklore in Emirati writing; the use of Arabic language and dialect; and the region’s long-standing poetry tradition. Other talks explore the challenges and opportunities of Arabic translation and literary initiatives in the UAE.

The delegation includes: 

  • AFRA ATIQ: Market Focus Author of the Day and a rising star of the UAE literary scene. With her modern take on Nabati or “the people’s poetry”, Atiq has featured on numerous international platforms, performing a blend of bilingual and trilingual poems. As a scholar, her research focuses on Instagram and the Arab literary ecosystem.

  • KHULOOD AL MU'ALLA and KHALID ALBUDOOR, two of the region’s most respected poets. Al Mualla is a prize-winning author of six collections translated into Spanish, Turkish and Italian. Albudoor is a popular Arabic poet and author of six collections including his prize-winning debut Night. He is also a documentary film writer, focussing on the cultural heritage of the UAE, including oral heritage, traditional music and storytelling.

  • DUBAI ABULHOUL author of the first Emirati fantasy novel in English and writer of five children’s books that introduce key figures from Emirati folklore. A Rhodes scholar, she was named ‘Young Arab of the Year’ in 2016.

Completing the delegation are Sultan AlAmeemi, nationally renowned critic, poet, researcher and Director of Poet’s Academy at the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage; prolific short-story writer, Mohammad Al- Murr; Dr Abdulaziz AlMusallam, an Emirati novelist who serves as chairman of Sharjah Institute for Heritage; Abdulla AlNuaimi; renowned UAE film and theatre actor and author, Habib Ghuloom Al-Attar; Omar Ghobash, Emirati diplomat and author of Letters to a Young Muslim; Emirati journalist and author Reem Al-Kamali; and award-winning Emirati writer Salha Obaid.

Ahead of the Sharjah Market Focus at The London Book Fair, the British Council, in partnership with New Writing North, Kalimat Group and Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC) 2019, will also hold a literary translation workshop and study visit to Sharjah, running 13-15 February 2020. The three-day event brings together 12 mid-career Arabic to English and English to Arabic translators for developmental seminars, translation sessions and networking opportunities with guests from the UK, UAE and Arab World.

Rachel Stevens, Director Literature, British Council, says: “Sharjah has a wealth of literature to explore and I am delighted to see this exceptional group of authors representing both contemporary stories and the rich traditional heritage of the Gulf.

This year’s British Council Market Focus Cultural Programme highlights the indigenous Nabati poetry of the Gulf region, contemporary Arabic language and the role of dialect in fiction. We continue our support for literary translation networks by bringing our Arabic translation workshop to the London Book Fair, featuring a not-to-be missed translation slam at the Literary Translation Centre. 

The British Council is delighted to be working with The London Book Fair and the Sharjah Book Authority on this programme, and we hope that publishers, translators, writers and anyone with an interest in the Gulf or Arab culture will engage with these exceptional writers, to help us better understand each other and build lasting connections for the future.”

Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair, said: “We are delighted to welcome such an interesting group of writers to this year’s London Book Fair and extend our thanks to partners at the British Council and the Sharjah Book Authority for coordinating such a fascinating programme. Since its introduction in 2004, the Market Focus programme has been a fantastic way to open doors for both commercial and cultural dialogue around the world and we hope publishers and readers alike will enjoy this opportunity to learn more about the literary heritage and best contemporary writing from one of the Arab world’s fastest-growing markets.”

Bodour Al Qasimi - VP of International Publishers Association (IPA), Founder and CEO of Kalimat Group, said: “As we approach the end of a wonderful year as UNESCO World Book Capital, we continue to look ahead to new ways that Sharjah can continue in its role as a home to and champion of literature, creativity and the exchange of ideas. We are delighted to host February’s translation workshop, which offers another opportunity to welcome colleagues here, and to The London Book Fair where we look forward to sharing some of our own home-grown talent with the international community.”

HE Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority, said: “We are delighted to be LBF Market Focus in 2020, to reinforce the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to strengthen bridges of cultural communication around the world.

We believe in the power of books to foster knowledge, broaden horizons and open dialogue. London is the publishing capital of the world and at LBF 2020 we will present Sharjah’s unique cultural journey, that has flourished and expanded beyond the Gulf to establish itself as a global hub.

Poetry has a celebrated place in Arabic culture and we are delighted to bring several poets to the UK to take part in events at the Fair and beyond. We have authors of Science Fiction, non-fiction, Middle Grade and academic works coming to London. It will be wonderful celebration of Sharjah’s love of books and reading.

We will also showcase the growth in our local and regional publishing sector, and SBA’s specific efforts to boost the number of new translations into and out of Arabic, which are the bedrock of cross-cultural exchange between cultures.

Notes to Editor

For more information about the British Council’s Market Focus Cultural Programme, please contact:

Vicci Nelmes, Media Relations Officer, Arts | E: vicci.nelmes@britishcouncil.org | T: +44 (0) 207 389 3083

For full programme details, biographical and publishing information about the writers and events, please visit the British Council Literature website.

For all media enquires please contact Ashton Bainbridge at FMcM Associates

on +44 207 405 7422 or email ashtonb@fmcm.co.uk

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We work with over 100 countries in the fields of arts and culture, English language, education and civil society. Last year we reached over 75 million people directly and 758 million people overall including online, broadcasts and publications. We make a positive contribution to the countries we work with – changing lives by creating opportunities, building connections and engendering trust. Founded in 1934 we are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter and a UK public body. We receive 15 per cent core funding grant from the UK government. www.britishcouncil.org

@britishcouncil.org       @BritishCouncil


The London Book Fair (LBF) is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. Taking place every spring in the world’s premier publishing and cultural capital, it is a unique opportunity to explore, understand and capitalise on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future. LBF brings you direct access to customers, content and emerging markets. LBF 2020 will take place 10-12 March at Olympia London.

www.londonbookfair.co.uk       @LondonBookFair


The London Book Fair Market Focus was first introduced in 2004 and the initiative has done much to open doors, creating both commercial and cultural partnerships around the world. The objective of the Market Focus is to put the spotlight on publishing trade links with the country or region that is showcased, highlighting its publishing industry, and the opportunities for conducting business with the rest of the world.

The British Council has been The London Book Fair’s strategic partner on the Market Focus Cultural Programme since 2008. The British Council works with the Market Focus territory and UK sector to develop a bilateral programme of events intended to showcase and raise awareness of the territory’s contemporary literature and culture.


Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) was launched in 2014, by Emiri decree by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, UAE Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. SBA's mandate includes enhancing investment in creative industries, building a platform for culture and knowledge exchange between people of the world, highlighting the importance of books in today's multimedia world, and supporting the children's book industry.

The SBA has jurisdiction over a number of important cultural projects in the UAE including Sharjah Book City, the very first publishing free zone in the Arab World. The authority's jurisdiction also covers public libraries in Sharjah; Sharjah International Book Fair, the fourth largest book fair in the world; Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, Sharjah Exhibition for Children Books’ Illustrations and Sharjah International Book Fair Translation Grant, part of the Sharjah Publishers Conference. Sharjah Book Authority also organises, with New York University, the first free training program for publishers in the Arab World, as well as an annual joint conference with the American Library Association.

The Authority is also tasked with collecting historic documents and artefacts from the UAE, the Arab World, and beyond, in order to preserve them using the latest, state-of-art techniques and methods. Furthermore, the SBA also collects, organizes and archives databases on publishing, printing, translations, libraries, and other publishing-related activities, as well as assisting in research aimed at developing publishing tools and technology.



The Publishers Association (the PA) represents book, journal, audio and electronic publishers in the UK, spanning fiction and non-fiction, academic and educational publishing. Our members include global companies such as Elsevier, Wiley, Pearson, Penguin Random House, Hachette and the University presses, as well as many independent publishing houses.

publishers.org.uk         @publishersAssoc