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Monday, May 27, 2024

Emirates Airline Festival of Literature

by Joanna Andrews

L-R: Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Abdul Ghaffar Hussain, Isobel Abulhoul
Khalaf Al Habtoor in conversation with Tom Urquhart

Abdul Ghaffar Hussain, a prominent Emirati businessman, was recently awarded the Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Lifetime Achievement Award at the seventh Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Joanna Andrews was there to witness the event

Abdul Ghaffar Hussein wears many hats. He is a businessman, a philanthropist and was one of the first - ever published writers of Dubai. He published the Dubai Municipality Guide with Kamal Hamza in 1963 and has written numerous poetry collections. He also established the first public library in the United Arab Emirates and founded the Al Fahidi Museum. Among his many achievements, he co-founded the Dubai News magazine and the Society Journal to which he later contributed to as a writer, and he has written and published a number of articles in newspapers and magazines on a range of topics from history to current events.

On March 7, Hussein was awarded the ‘Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Lifetime Achievement Award’, now in its second year, by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group and Founder of KAHF, and Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation and Festival Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

Al Habtoor said, “Abdul Ghaffar Hussain’s contribution to the growth of Dubai in his many areas of expertise is unparalleled. It is a great honour to present this pillar of our society with the Lifetime Achievement Award. His work in the Dubai Municipality, where he worked for more than 20 years, has left an indelible mark on the city, as has his work in the establishment of the Emirates Human Rights Association. The residents of Dubai have many reasons to be indebted to him.”

The award was established in 2014 to recognise outstanding and long-lasting contributions to the world of literary endeavour and is awarded to individuals who have made significant contributions to literature in the UAE. Last year the recipient was Dr Rafia Ghubash, Founder of the Dubai Women’s Museum.

In his speech, Al Habtoor took the opportunity to counter what he calls “gross misconceptions about Human Rights in the UAE”. His comments came after the annual report from the Human Rights Watch was published.

“The report states that in 2014 the UAE detained individuals it perceived as posing a threat to national security, and criticised our new counter-terrorism law,” Al Habtoor said. “The UAE does not and will not apologise for taking firm measures against anyone who threatens its national security or the safety of its nationals and foreign residents.” He added, “Human Rights organisations and the Western media must stop trying to fit us into Western moulds. We do not want to be influenced by foreign concepts of democracy and human rights.”

For the full transcript of Al Habtoor's speech please visit:

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