People from all over the world come to the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair
; many who now live in Abu Dhabi itself, Dubai, or other Emirates states (Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain - and yes, I know this because as a child I collected postage stamps and the Emirates had some of the most colourful). And it's not only the publishing world who turn up, it's everyone who loves books, because almost all the books you see on display there are for sale. So it's one big amazing bookshop, with authors, artists, translators, entertainers and more... and people STOCK UP.
This was the first year the fair had a festival running alongside it, and the Dubai Lit Fest
team came in to help out. When the festival invited me to Abu Dhabi as a speaker, I had no idea of what to expect, or even to pack; I thought it might be very similar to my Dubai experience (which I wrote about in 2017
). But Abu Dhabi was very different to Dubai, with its own unique flavour and enjoyable in different ways, so I thought I'd write up tips for people who might be going as authors, artists, translators, potential authors, or even as visitors and book buyers. Thanks to Ras Al Khaimah-based children's book author Maitha al Khayat for the lovely cloak!1. Pack business cards!
You never know who you are going to meet. In England, I've pretty much stopped using business cards and when I meet someone I want to stay in touch with, I tend to follow them on Twitter and take a screenshot of their profile. But people in Abu Dhabi LOVE business cards, and it feels rude not to have something to give in return. Fortunately I'd packed some publisher post cards with one of my book covers on it, which seemed to work just fine. You only need to put as much contact information on it as you want to give away: at a minimum, your name and website. I met very few people there who were on Twitter, but a lot of Instagram users. Another tip: take a photo of the business card with the person standing behind it (if they don't mind), and when you get home with a stack of mystery cards, you'll be able to attach a face to a name. Or if you lose the cards, you'll still have photos of them on your phone.2. Visit the Grand Mosque
As a festival guest, I had some time to do a bit of sightseeing, and the festival booked guides and buses for us on a couple of the days. The architecture of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
, designed by Syrian architect Yousef Abdelky, is amazing and a real pride of the city. But if you're a woman, be sure to bring appropriate clothing. I thought my red kaftan in the top photo would be covering enough - it goes all the way to the floor - but when I moved my arms, it left the lower half of them bare, which was a no-no. So I ended up walking with my arms tucked under the black cloak, and our Dutch guide fretting in case my wrists popped out. Just bring long sleeves, a long skirt or dress and a head covering, and save yourself the worry. (And try not to roll your eyes too much as you see men going by in shorts and short-sleeves shirts.) It is
worth the visit, have a look at these views: ( Collapse )