After two Covid-affected Emirates LitFests, it’s apt that the celebratory 15th edition should return ‘home’ of sorts — to the vibrant atmosphere of the InterContinental in Dubai’s Festival City. And with the spectacular Mohammed Bin Rashid Library now open just across the Creek, it’s great to see that some sessions and workshops are taking place there, too, given that it’s a building that reminds us of the power of literature.
There’s plenty for Livehealthy readers to bookmark on the programme, too. As the UAE is hosting the 2023 UN Climate Change Conference (COP28) later this year, it’s perhaps no surprise that the sustainability and environment theme feels particularly strong. Indeed, the potential impact of COP28 will be explicitly explored in a fascinating session entitled Navigating Your Net Zero Journey (Fri, 1pm). Paul Polman, author of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive By Giving More Than They Take, gives a keynote on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) — the measure for looking at how companies can profit by taking ownership of their ethical and environmental impact.
If you want to understand where the UAE is at in terms of sustainability and the environment, it’s probably best to listen to Mariam Almheiri, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment. She’s joined by celebrity chef Bobby Chinn to discuss food security and sustainability at Sustainable Eats (sadly clashing with Net Positive at 1pm on Saturday). The New Zealand-born American foodie has in recent years become more vocal on the climate crisis and waste, offering local and plant-based solutions. A great chance for policy and action to cohere into change on an individual scale — and Chinn is also hosting a dinner on Friday (7pm) focusing on “Fabulous Fungi & Piquant Plants”.
Talking of individual change powering greater good, Anna Turns’ look at how we can reduce chemical pollution from our homes, Go Toxic Free, made quite the impact when it was published last year. On Saturday at 6.30pm the author, journalist and biologist will explain exactly what toxic chemicals are and offer practical ways to clean up our own lives.
As climate anxiety becomes a significant issue with our young people, it’s good to see that sustainability and the environment are a key part of their programme at the festival too, the highlight being Collette Barr and Leona Collins’ hugely popular, massively entertaining (and sold out) Eco Heroes event on Sunday afternoon (3.30pm).
From climate health to our own, Emirates LitFest has always had an impressive wellness and mental health strand and it begins this year with two sessions from best-selling English mind coach Vex King.
King’s rise from an intolerant satellite town upbringing to positive role model, self-help author and Instagram superstar is remarkable. His first session (Thursday, 6pm) sees King with wife Kaushal — herself an immensely popular Asian beauty guru on YouTube — as they train people to explore the best version of themselves, regulate emotions and track growth and self awareness through journaling. The following day (4pm), King talks about new book Closer To Love, where he posits that the key to happy, mature and meaningful relationships is finding the ability for self-love.
Which is, kind of, the point of Fatima Sharafeddine and Liliane Zaher’s event Why Can’t I Look Like That – The Myth of Beauty (Fri, 5.30). Sharafeddine’s Arabic book Mila’s Pear looks at eating disorders, and with dietitian Zaher they will interrogate perceived wisdom about diet culture and beauty ‘standards’ which lead to toxic relationships with self-image — but also offer healthier ways to live happily with our bodies.
It would be fascinating to see what they make of Professor Rose Anne Kenny’s Age Proof, her bestselling investigation into the science of ageing. Rather than glib generalities about how to live a longer and healthier life, Kenny used her own research to prove that we can impact 80 per cent of our ageing biology through what we eat, the relationships we have, the exercise we do and the amount of fun we have.
Her session on Saturday (MBRL, 6pm) should be excellent — and she’s also part of a panel on Sunday with television physician, author and podcaster Dr Rangan Chatterjee and forensic psychologist and psychotherapist Kerry Daynes (Sun, MBRL, 10am). Titled A Life Well Lived, it’s a look at, well, how we take steps to ensure we do just that.
Separately, Dr Chatterjee talks through the thinking behind his own bestseller from last year, Happy Mind, Happy Life: 10 Simple Ways to Feel Great Every Day (Sun, 7.30). The night before (Sat, 7pm), Mind Over Body – with science writers Anil Seth and Jo Marchant – will add to that line of thought, as it were; Marchant’s bestselling Cure: A Journey Into the Science Of Mind over Body is a brilliant discussion of the potential of the mind to influence our health.
And how might some of this mindfulness come about? Through reading. Like the new Mohammed Bin Rashid Library, Emirates LitFest is a celebration of the importance of the written word to the health of our world, and to our sense of self.
All events at Intercontinental, Dubai Festival City unless stated. The Emirates Airline Festival Of Literature runs from Wednesday until Monday. Click for tickets.