#DecolonizeReading2023 Academic Nook Emirates Airline Literature Festival Features Reading Life Reading Themes

[Saturday Reads | Academic Nook Guest Post] #EmiratesLitFest Impressions

A warm welcome to today's guest contributor: Khadija Alblooshi, a PhD student from UAE University.


Every Saturday we hope to share with you our thoughts on reading and books. We thought that it would be good practice to reflect on our reading lives and our thoughts about reading in general. While on occasion, we would feature a few books in keeping with this, there would be a few posts where we will just write about our thoughts on read-alouds, libraries, reading journals, upcoming literary conferences, books that we are excited about, and just book love miscellany in general.

Guest Contributor: Khadija Alblooshi, UAE University

Session 1: The Biology of Friendship with Dr. Rana Dajani

The session started in a stunningly viewed room, where I sat next to the window and enjoyed the view of the creek. Dr. Rana Dajani started the session with an introduction of herself, and she was so proud to introduce herself as a mother than as a teacher and scholar.

Then she moved to talk about the brain and how its size changed with time. Dr. Dajani believes that childhood is a long period of time because it is the time we learn everything. That’s why it is important to take care of kids because they are at a critical age. She highlighted how important social interaction is for the brain and how important it is to raise children within a society that is able to communicate effectively with each other.

As for the session, I thought it would be about friendship, and this is one of the things that attracted me to it. However, it was primarily about Dr. Dajani’s projects, especially the one she started which grew to be regional called We Love Reading. She always believed that reading was a vital activity in our lives. There are many ways to encourage kids to read, but the most important one is to act as a role model. Children should be raised by parents who read.

She described how she began the project when she decided to read to neighborhood children. When she announced that she would read in the local mosque, all the parents in the neighborhood were invited to send their children. From there, the project became one of the largest of its kind.

As she continued, she mentioned that she had conducted research to study the effect of reading on kids and adults.

In the end, she finally mentioned the term friendship in one statement, when she said that friendship is a kind of communication that can be improved by reading to be deep and valuable.

I liked what she said, but I was waiting for the biology of friendship as the title indicated.

Cities of the Future with Her Excellency (HE) Hala Badri & HE Reem Al Hashimy

We moved immediately after the first session to the big theater, where all the media people and H.H. Sheikha Latifa Bint Mohammed Bin Rashid attended the session.

I have admired and respected Minister Reem Al Hashmi for a long time, so I was delighted to attend this session. A Culture Authority is being developed in Dubai by H.E. Hala Badri, whose dedication I have read a lot about.

I liked how she described “cities of the future” by stating that people think of these cities as smart because of their technology attachment, which makes them different from regular cities, but she considered that human beings are what makes those cities whole. Since the time of the late Sheikh Zayed until today, the UAE has emphasized this value. The government’s investment in its people and citizenry is the most important aspect of building the best cities in the future.

She also talked about “Expo City” which is the ideal city for the future. She explained how this city was intended to be a flexible city not just for the Dubai Expo event but also to be a sustainable city for the future and to be able to adapt to meet the needs of future inhabitants. Expo is a city that supports innovative people and ideas. She believes there is a strong bond between cities and people, rooted in the sense of responsibility people have towards their cities and places. COVID-19 was a good example to show how all people from different levels in the country felt a responsibility to protect the environment by adhering to the rules and protecting themselves and others.

The best part for me was when she talked about the importance of balancing between technology which is essential nowadays and the people who are inventing and using this technology. Failure to do so will destroy social life in society, a disaster that will in turn destroy the idea of a future city.

The Library’s Story – Between the Shelves of Knowledge: HE Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr

It was a nice short session about the establishment of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library (MBRL) which was an initiative from the ruler of Dubai in the Year of Reading in 2016.

HE Mohammed Ahmed Al Murr talked about public libraries in the UAE and how the government realized its significance from the beginning. The late Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum was appointed ruler of Dubai in September 1959 and the first public library was opened in 1963. He went on to share how those public libraries are very important in encouraging the youth to read, not only the big main libraries but also the subsidiary libraries in different neighborhoods.

Then he started to talk about the MBRL, this stunning building, which is the new destination for readers, students, scholars, and the public in Dubai. He mentioned also that for a long time, he was advocating to encourage reading in a different way like:

  • Each school should have a library that includes suitable books for the age of the students
  • Those schools should have specialized librarians who should be able to serve the target students.
  • A reading class should be added weekly to the student’s schedule
  • The media has a critical role in encouraging the public by having attractive programs with good presenters to talk about the importance of reading and ways to encourage people.

In the end, he asserted that it’s a community collaborative responsibility to advance the habit of reading and make it a daily routine for all members of society.

Final Reflections

This was a great opportunity to attend those sessions and meet people of different backgrounds who came to listen to specialized speakers each of whom had valuable lessons to share and dozens of ideas to generate.

About the contributor: 

Khadija Alblooshi is a third year PhD student in the College of Education at UAE University.

She works as senior executive in the Dean’s office in College of Medicine and Health Sciences at UAE University. She has worked as an administrator in the Education field for 15 years and is interested in leadership studies and research.


1 comment on “[Saturday Reads | Academic Nook Guest Post] #EmiratesLitFest Impressions

  1. Thank you, Dr. Myra, for sharing this with my colleagues. Thank you for encouraging us to attend this event which was absolutely worth attending.


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