February 26 · 2018 - Monday
The start of the Middle East Book Tour! We flew through Sunday night from London Heathrow to Muscat, Oman (where my grandfather was born). Saw some really interesting airport snacks, quite unlike anything a western airport might offer! Then on to Doha, Qatar for an acclimatisation day. Travelling with my publisher wife Phoebe.
Arrived in sunny Doha on Monday morning. Our generous hosts at Qatar International School (QIS) put us up in the sumptuous Fraser Suites, a gleaming luxury hotel minutes walk from the school. There was a huge gym and outdoor pool – with very few people around! Went in search of a barbers. Found a French cheese shop and a huge mall instead – called Doha City Centre. Jetlagged and tired, I prepped for the first day of author work on Tuesday. Loving life!
February 27 - Tuesday
Up at 5am. Takeaway breakfast. Then a second breakfast with the very supportive English team at QIS: croissants and pastries. In other news, I hear my kids back home are having a snow day! The English Teachers at QIS were brilliant. Such fun presenting to the Year 10s as a whole then moving between 6 classrooms. Ingenious Carousel concept: teachers stay put, pupils move every 25mins & learn aspects of dystopian lit, punctuation, ‘show not tell’, ‘zooming in’, pace and style. So cool!
February 28 - Wednesday
Has this happened to anyone else? Hotel staff member knocked at 4.58am and asked if we wanted our room cleaned. I said “no, maybe later.” He said “9 or.10am?” I said, “what time is it?” He looked at his watch and said 5am. I said “okay. We have to be up anyways so time for a coffee!” Fortunately, we had a Nespresso Pixie machine in our hotel suite. (We subsequently bought a Nespresso Expert with Milk machine to celebrate our return to England and the end of the tour).
Second day at QIS – working with hundreds of Yr5s and 6s – full year presentations and smaller creative group-work. Journalism workshops with Yr11s. Ran a live press room and talked journalistic styles. Smart, lively bunch of students. Then a fab lunch with school staff at The W Doha – a swanky hotel and restaurant - then onto the airport for a late night flight to Dubai via Muscat. Muscat airport: dusty, spicy aromas, Arabic sounds and sights...
March 1 - Thursday
Flew all night - arrived at the final destination 5.30am! Raced to the Dubai Lit literary Festival Fest opening ceremony having slept for 3 hours then showered & changed. It was a private show downtown for the 180 authors working with the Emirates LitFest. Felt unbelievably honoured to be a part of it, and thrilled to be in a room with some of the world’s leading writers including Anthony Horowitz, Charlie Higson, Eoin Colfer, Jacqueline Wilson, Peter James, Kate Mosse, Alexander McCall Smith and Carol Ann Duffy. Woah.
We also met some amazing couples - Dame Floella Benjamin and her husband Keith, married 48yrs, still travelling & working together on diversity with the Football Association (FA) and other international bodies. We sat in the back row next to Richard & Judy, a humble & serving couple who were quite jetlagged.
It was a stunning opening ceremony with stunning visuals using silhouettes, performance poetry, engaging readings. Very exciting. The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and his entourage arrived by helicopter 15mins before it started. That’s like the Queen arriving. Naturally, everybody stood when he entered the auditorium. Quite the honour.
Read Middle East Book Tour Part 2 here
Joshua Raven, novelist. Read about my writing and my life here. And have you discovered 5fingers yet?