More than 100 authors from 24 countries recently took part in the Emirates Festival of Literature, held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group - an avid writer - launched the first-ever ‘Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the festival. Joanna Andrews witnessed its birth.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor wrote his best-selling autobiography - Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor: The Autobiography - in little over two years. It is a candid report of his life; from humble beginnings to a successful businessman at the helm of one of the regions best-known conglomerates with interests around the world. The autobiography is an honest account of Al Habtoor’s failures and successes and details his strong political views - covering everything from Palestine to the Iraq War, and his opinion of Osama Bin Laden - who he calls, “the black sheep of a prominent and well-respected family based in Jeddah.’’ In the autobiography Al Habtoor says he would like to meet US President Barrack Obama “face to face to talk about the stalemate in Middle East peace, because I have the feeling that he’s not receiving an accurate picture from his national security team.’’
The much-loved Al Habtoor Group Chairman held an open conversation with Tony Mulliken at the Emirates Lit. Fest in March where he talked about the book and politics impacting the region. He also launched a Lifetime Achievement Award in his name to help promote literature in the UAE. The award was established to recognise outstanding and long- lasting contributions to the world of literary endeavour and is awarded to an individual who has made significant contributions to literature in the UAE.
The first award was given to Dr. Rafia Ghubash, an academic and Founder of the Women’s Museum in the UAE, for her work in raising the profile of Emirati women poets - especially Ousha bint Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Suwaidi. Al Habtoor said, “I am very pleased to present this honour to Dr. Rafia Obaid Ghubash, she works tirelessly to raise the profile of women in our country. She has single-handedly opened the Women’s Museum - a spectacular museum that showcases women throughout our history - including renowned Emirati poet Ousha bint Khalifa Al Suweidi. Dr. Ghubash is a role model for all women, not just Emirati women.”
Isobel Abulhoul, founder-director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature added, “Dr. Rafia Ghubash should be congratulated for her hard work in bringing the work of poet and legend Ousha bint Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Suwaidi to the attention of the young of today... We would like to thank Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor for his support in instituting this award, which further celebrates literary achievement in the UAE.”