For the Love of the Written World

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She advocates reading and enjoys bringing the best of authors to Dubai. Isobel Abulhoul, CEO of Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of Emirates Airline Festival of Literature speaks to Yasmeen Maqbool on her journey while gearing up for the EAFOL 2015

Being an avid reader, Isobel Abulhoul packed 300 books of her own that came by sea, when she landed on
the UAE soil about 40 years ago. Every time she went on a holiday, she would return laden with books. It is then that she and her husband decided to open Magrudy’s in 1975.

“I wanted a name that had an Arabic connection, and ‘magrood’ means feted, and so Magrudy’s,” says Isobel. But for Isobel “everyday is a constant journey”. She lives every moment and rarely reflects on the past. She believes she hasn’t changed, just grown older and wiser with time. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is a natural progression that has arisen out of her long involvement with books.

Despite being the most challenging of her endeavours, the festival now running in its seventh year, Isobel finds it most exciting till date.“Literary festivals are a recent phenomena; they are springing up everywhere in the world and we are proud that ours is the first pure literary festival in the Arab World,” she says.

Nonetheless, Isobel is of the opinion that being a mother of five has been the greatest of her achievements. Reading for Isobel is the most important asset a child can have. “Anything you can do to
encourage that should be at the top of everyone’s priorities,” she insists.

She read to her children long after they could read, and later they read to each other,“It was like brushing your teeth,something you don’t miss.” She observes, “For many nationalities, including Emiratis, reading wasn’t something that was shared. They have a much stronger tradition of telling stories and reciting poetry here”.

And when asked if she prefers e-books to the printed ones, she replies, “I do not think it matters what format you read from.” She has a Kindle and it proves useful when travelling. However, she asserts that for children’s picture books and cookbooks, there is no replacement for the physical book.

“Classic literature has stood the test of time,” according to her it is relevant even today. Isobel believes that reading classic literature and great works that are available in translation gives a balance to current literature and tempers ones taste.