Isobel Abulhoul came to Dubai in 1968 and co-founded Magrudy’s, a bookshop chain, in 1975.
In 2008 Isobel founded and is Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the
Middle East’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word. In 2013, HH Sheikh
Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and
Ruler of Dubai, and also the Festival patron, issued a Decree forming the Emirates
Literature Foundation, naming Isobel as one of the trustees on the Board. In addition,
Isobel also holds the position of CEO of the Foundation. She is also a Trustee of the
International Prize for Arabic Fiction Board, Secretary General of the Kalimat Foundation
and Director of the Board for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library.
During her tenure as Director of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the festival has
won the Best Festival title at the Middle East Event Awards in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The
Festival has been awarded as Best Family Day out given by Time Out Kids Dubai In
October 2016 and received another award as Favourite Festival given by What’s On
awards in November 2016 and 2017. Emirates Literature Foundation honoured at the 3rd
UAE Pioneers Award 2016. The Festival also has recently won the Best Arts and Culture
Event at the Middle East Event Awards in 2018.
In December 2018, Isobel has been elected to the Supreme National Committee for
Tolerance following the announcement that 2019 has been declared the Year of
Tolerance. In January 2019, she has been selected as member of the Police Advisory
Council for Community Service.
Isobel has received several awards and accolades over the years such as Cultural
Personality of the Year by Dr. HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of
Sharjah in 2010, prestigious OBE award by HM Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain in 2012,
Cultural Icon of UAE Award at the 3rd Petrochem GR8! Women Awards – Middle East
2013. She was also selected as one of the Most Influential Brits and the Most Inspirational
Woman living in the UAE in May 2013. She also received the Special Cultural Award from
the Al Owais Creativity Awards 2013, ‘Imprint of Thought’ award at the Watani Emarat
Humanitarian Work Award ceremony 2013. She received the Outstanding Contribution
Award at the TimeOut Kids Awards, Femina Unstoppable Woman Award 2015.
Isobel Abulhoul is currently busy with the Foundation and its year round activities.