September 2020


  • Readers’ Cup, Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition, Emirates NBD Poetry For All and the new Montegrappa Letter Writing Competition announced open at annual event

Dubai, September 22 2020: The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has announced that the popular competitions for schools are now open for 2021. Three annual favourites return, giving children the chance to show off their story writing and poetry performance skills, or compete against other schools to show with their knowledge of selected books. New for this year is the Montegrappa Letter Writing competition, celebrating the craft of handwriting as well as the skill of composing perfectly worded letters. The announcement was made at the Emirate Literature Foundation’s annual schools’ meeting, held digitally this year, attended by hundreds of teachers from across the country.

The Festival’s student writing competition, the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition will be taking submissions on the theme of ‘Change the Story’. Students with a talent for poetry performance can showcase their talent with an interpretation of their chosen poem in the Emirates NBD sponsored ‘Poetry For All’. The Readers’ Cup gives champion readers the chance to compete against other schools with those with the best recall and understanding winning a spot in the grand final.  All competitions are held in Arabic and English.

“Given the restrictions on schoolchildren for much of this year, we are thrilled to be able to bring some normality back into their lives with the return of our competitions,” said Ahlam Bolooki, festival director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. “They offer exceptional creative outlets through creative writing and poetry performance, and the reading challenge is always exciting and hotly contested. This year we are excited to launch a new handwriting competition too. The enjoyment gained in taking part in these competitions will, we hope, give them a life-long love of reading for pleasure.”

Participants can register online via the Festival website. The finals and award ceremonies for the competitions will be held during the Month of Reading, March 2021.

Readers’ Cup

The inter-school Readers’ Cup competition is open to full-time students in the GCC divided into two age categories – Primary Schools (up to age 11) and Secondary Schools (ages 12-16)

Teams will read their books for the quiz-based first round and the top 20 teams from each age category will advance to the finals, answering questions and battling for the first place as winners of the cup.

Teams can register for the competition online at Registrations close on 28 October 2020.

Almost 4000 students entered the Readers’ Cup in 2020.

Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition

A fixture on the academic calendar, the Oxford University Press story writing competition is always popular. Entries are invited from full-time students in schools, colleges and universities in the UAE with the competition divided into age-specific categories: 11 and under, 12-14, 15-17 and 18-25.  The winners will be honoured in a special ceremony held during the Month of Reading, March 2021 and the winning entries published in a commemorative book.

The competition received more than 3,500 entries in 2020. “The 2021 theme ‘Change the Story’, couldn’t be more apt for the current circumstances and is bound to inspire our budding story-tellers”, said Jennifer Duggan from OUP. “We are looking forward to another year of creativity as students unleash their imaginations and surprise us all with their original stories.” The deadline for submission is 4 November 2020. For the guide on requirements and submission details, see

Poetry For All

The Poetry For All competition, sponsored by Emirates NBD, last year saw around 720 performers compete in Arabic and English across the two age group categories of the competition, 8-13 and 14-18.

Performers compete in several preliminary rounds, with the grand finals held during March 2021. Registration for the competition is open online till 14 October 2020 at

This is the fourth year that Emirates NBD has sponsored the competition. “This is the perfect competition to honour the age-old Emirati tradition of poetry recital, but with a modern twist,” said Moadh Bukhash, Chief Marketing Officer, Emirates NBD. “It’s amazing to see the talent that these young poetry performers possess. It is wonderful that as a company we are able to support their love of verse and the Emirates Literature Foundation in keeping poetry performance in youngsters alive.”

Montegrappa Letter Writing Competition

The new Montegrappa Letter Writing competition is open to students and adults in the UAE. It places emphasis on handwriting as well as the contents of the letter. Primary and secondary pupils should write a letter in their best hand writing to one of their favourite characters from a book. The deadline for entries is 8 November 2020.

The competition is divided into three age categories:

  • Primary: Ages 9 – 13
  • Secondary: Ages 14 – 18
  • Adult: Ages 18+

Winners will be announced and awarded at a prize-giving ceremony held in March 2021, during the Month of Reading.

The winners of the Primary and Secondary age category will each receive a Montegrappa fountain pen from the Ambiente collection which is made with a special resin created from plastics recycled from the oceans.

More information about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature can be found online. Fans can keep up to date with #EmiratesLitFest  action on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube and year-round news of #ELFDubai on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

About the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature:

The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature is the Arab World’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, featuring international and regional writers, poets, thinkers and speakers from around the world. Over the last 12 years more than 1,500 authors from over one hundred countries have spoken at the Festival.  In 2020 the Festival attracted an audience of more than 43,000, reaching a further 99,000 via live streaming. Sessions included explorer Ranulph Fiennes and mountaineer Chris Bonington, award-winning novelists Tayari Jones, Jokha Alharthi, Hoda Barakat,  Omaima Alkhamis, Mohammed Hanif and Esi Edugyan.  Other big names included Markus Zusack, Graeme Simsion, Santa Montefiore, Jo Nesbø, Linwood Barclay, Fatima Bhutto, visual artist and children’s book illustrator Oliver Jeffers and from the UAE space programme, Hazzaa AlMansouri.  The BOSH!  Vegan supper and Murder Mystery Dinner featuring Killing Eve creator Luke Jennings both sold out, as did a special pre-festival event with naturalist Jane Goodall, and a closing event celebrating the extraordinary story of refugee Nujeen Mustafa, who took part in the evening, with all proceeds going to Dubai Cares.

The aim of the Festival is to develop a culture of reading as an enjoyable habit in the UAE, and its efforts have been recognised through many awards over the years. By providing an equal platform for international and locally based talents, the Festival continues to build the literary landscape in the UAE and further afield. Alongside the main programme, the Festival organises an Education programme, which positively impacted on more than 30,000 students across the UAE in 2020. The programme includes education days, student sessions and author school visits where young people meet and interact with their favourite authors, plus student competitions, held in Arabic and English, which allow young people to showcase their skills through poetry, short stories and reading.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Festival is a key part of the Emirates Literature Foundation, which was established in 2013 by Royal Decree. In partnership with Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture, the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature will be back from 4-6 February 2021. For information and updates about the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature visit the website:

About the Emirates Literature Foundation:

The Emirates Literature Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation which supports and nurtures a love of literature in the United Arab Emirates and the region, through a programme of varied cultural initiatives.

Established in 2013 by Royal Decree issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Foundation aims to foster a love for literature, with a focus on the Arabic language.

In line with the National Reading Policy of the UAE, the Foundation has implemented several long-term projects including the School Librarian of the Year Award and the annual Arabic Language Week, as well as conducting year-round student education programmes, book clubs and creative writing courses. The Foundation’s previous initiatives included the 2016 Dubai Translation Conference and the 2017 Dubai International Publishing Conference, which hosted a number of international participants.

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