The Middle East Writers To See At The Digital Hay Festival

13 May 2020
Festival, Literature, Hay festival, The Digital Hay Festival, Middle East, Arabic, Elif Shafak, Sami Tamimi, Leila Slimani, Jim Al Khalili, Adunis, Youssef Rakha, Mashrou Leila, GQ Middle East, Digital, Arabs
The literary festival has gone digital. Here’s who to watch

Back in February this year, Abu Dhabi hosted its first Hay Festival in partnership with GQ Middle East. The literary and arts festival included a line-up of talks and performances from the region’s talents including Arabic poet Adunis, and GQ’s cover stars Mashrou Leila. However, the original Hay Festival, that occurs in Wales, UK, has been moved online due to the coronavirus outbreak. The official line-up includes prominent British literary and creative figures including Margaret Atwood and Benedict Cumberbatch, but here’s the Middle Eastern talent you should be looking out for.

Elif Shafak

The Turkish author and women’s rights & minorities’ activist will “reflect on issues close to her heart, such as social justice, dignity, human rights, equality, public benefit, diversity” in relation to the current pandemic. Elif Shafak’s recent novel, 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

May 23, Saturday, 8:30 PM (11:30 PM GST)

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Sami Tamimi 

Inspired by the distinct flavours of his homeland’s cities, from Bethlehem to the West Bank, the Palestinian chef shares the journey of writing his first solo cookbook, Falastin. Sami Tamimi will discuss the culinary love letter with long-time business partner chef Yotam Ottolenghi and writer Tara Wrigley as they unravel the untold story of Palestinian cuisine.

May 25, Monday, 7:30 PM (10:30 PM GST)

Leila Slimani

In partnership with Wom@rts, an NPO that pursues women’s equality in arts, the Moroccan writer and journalist will discuss causes and the globe’s current state alongside Irish actress Lisa Dwan and activist Hillary Cottam. Slimani is the first Moroccan woman to win the Prix Goncourt, France’s most prestigious literary prize, for her best-seller novel Lullaby.

May 26, Tuesday, 6:30 PM (9:30 PM GST)

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Jim Al Khalili

The Iraqi-British physicist not only holds the Stephen Hawking Medal but has published twelve books on modern-science and is a regular presenter of scientific documentaries. Jim Al Khalili will discuss his latest book, Sunfall, and answer your questions about modern physics in his stimulating talk about the universe and what we have yet to learn about it.

May 28, Thursday, 4:00 PM (7:00 PM GST)

The festival will commence later this May. The child-friendly sessions will begin from Monday to Friday, May 18 to 22, while the main program will take place from Friday to Sunday, May 22 to May 31.

For the full line up, visit