The first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia will take place in Dubai. It starts in October 2020 and ends in April 2021, and for six months the mammoth event will celebrate culture and collaboration through innovative projects and exhibitions. A total of 192 countries will attend, with millions of visitors expected to descend on the UAE from around the world.
There are three main sub-themes to the event: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. These will take pride of place within three stunning UAE pavilions, but will also be found in other nations’ pavilions.
The thematic pavilions
The Opportunity Pavilion explores our ability to shape the future. It’s made from organic materials such as timber, stone and woven rope, and has been designed to inspire empathy, encouraging a desire to better our world through interactive elements that are incorporated throughout. For example, visitors will be challenged to think about issues based on mankind’s most basic needs: water, food and energy, for example.
Next, there’s the Mobility Pavilion, which investigates how people, goods, ideas and data move – and what all that means. It has been designed by architects Foster + Partners, and takes visitors on a journey through time, from the House of Wisdom in ninth-century Iraq, to a futuristic world of artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Finally, there’s the Terra Sustainability Pavilion. The eye-opening experience takes you through forests, oceans and Earth’s corrupted wonders in a series of interactive exhibitions and elements.
Every participating nation will have a pavilion, each with its own agenda. For instance, New Zealand’s will be based in the Sustainability District, and will focus on the theme of Care for People and Place. It reflects the Maori value of “kaitiakitanga”, which emphasises the connection between humans and their environment. Its architecture illustrates “waka taonga”, the Maori tradition of using handcrafted containers to keep valuable items safe. Overall, visitors will experience an introduction to the nation’s culture, values, cuisine and design, and will also be able to check out a dedicated restaurant and store.
Over in the Opportunity District, the 13,000 square metre Saudi Arabian pavilion stands as the second largest in the entire expo (after the UAE’s). Its theme is “the sky is the limit”, and the architecture resembles a large window that shoots up from the ground and soars into the sky. This is intended to symbolise the nation’s welcoming character. Visitors are shown the country’s transformation and how it has balanced its heritage with natural wonders, and will showcase the creativity of its population.
The France Pavilion will be based in the Mobility District. The theme is Lights, Lights and the structure will feature a layer of colourful solar panels inspired by Claude Monet’s Water Lilies oil paintings. It has been built to showcase France’s rich culture and the nation’s move towards sustainability, exploring light as an enabler of progress, as well as a source for heat and creativity, all in connection with the Age of Enlightenment. There will also be a store and bistro, with a French-style terrace, and four gardens containing plant species that can be found in France, such as olive trees, yuccas and oleanders.
Outside of the pavilions, there will be plenty of other experiences for visitors to explore. The world’s biggest 360-degree projection surface will be found on Al Wasl Plaza’s steel dome, while more than 200 food and beverage outlets will be offering everything from street food to haute cuisine and sustainable dining options. A rotating observation tower will allow guests a bird’s-eye view of the expo, while an abundance of Ghaf trees will provide shade across the site, alongside art installations by local and international artists.
There will always be something going on, as a jam-packed programme has been drawn up. This includes live performances by comedians, dancers, acrobats, poets and roaming entertainers, as well as fashion shows, educational workshops and plenty of panel discussions and talks. Wellness and fitness activities include everything from mindfulness sessions to extreme sports and virtual reality experiences. There will be a whole schedule of cultural activities, too, as every day the spotlight turns to one of the 192 participating nations, allowing each country to showcase their own quirks; one day visitors might sample a Finnish feast, while the next could see them experiencing traditional dances from Africa. In the evenings, fireworks and concerts have been scheduled to keep people busy until the early hours. Celebratory occasions that take place during Expo 2020, such as Christmas and Diwali, will also be marked with special events.
One-day tickets cost Dh120 (€29), while for three days it’s Dh260 (€63). There will be half-price discounts for students and children aged six to 17. Free access will be given to children up to the age of five and adults aged 65 and over, as well as people with disabilities, whose caregivers can go for half price.
Prices for seasonal and monthly passes are yet to be announced.
For more information and new announcements, visit www.expo2020dubai.com