Being the first World Expo held in the Middle East, the cultural exhibition that is the Dubai Expo 2020 was a stand by Dubai against the harsh challenges of the recent years. The Expo hopes to bring about a resurgence in Middle-Eastern economies following the extreme setbacks of the pandemic, and bring together a world that is slowly regaining footing after the metaphoric rug was pulled out from under their feet.
Having been delayed by over a year due to the pandemic, the Dubai Expo 2020 is a herald for the rapid revival of the tourism industry as well. Visitors have been promised, and are being delivered, diverse cultural experiences, entertainment, and also educational exhibits and talks, becoming the annual hub of cultural exchange envisioned by the World Expo.
While the Expo was officially opened on 30 September, it is expected to run from 1 to 31 October. To be aligned with the global health concerns, the Expo is planned to be extended online until March 2022, although the safety standards of the 4.3 km squared, 100 pavilion physical venue is nothing to be scoffed at. As is right, the themes followed by some of the pavilions are along the lines of opportunity, mobility, and sustainability, with a separate pavilion under the moniker of “Mission Possible”, which is operated by the United Nations. Of course, an emergency care room, isolation facilities, ambulances, and helicopter services are all included in the designated venue.
The “Special Pavilions” mentioned above have their own quirks that set them apart from the cultural exhibits present elsewhere. The Sustainability pavilion is accompanied by a sustainability district, and the attractions are numerous and thematic. Some of the most notable exhibits include the Hammour House, which explores coral reefs; Brazil’s Walk Through a Rainforest, Czech Republic’s Water the Desert, Singapore’s Enter a Rainforest, Netherland’s Enter a Miniature World, Germany’s Cutting-edge Wear devices, and UAE’s Terra, which is technically the sustainability pavilion. The district is coupled with a stage that seats 300 people as well.
The Mobility pavilion boasts the largest passenger lift capable of carrying a 160 people at once. The intention of the pavilion is to showcase the evolution and consistency of mobility, how it defines the connections between people, understanding different cultures, and also the ease of knowledge and idea exchange. On top of that, it follows the chronological clock of the human journey from leaving Africa to reaching the stars, and the digital world we live in now. The pavilion also stars a partly underground, partly open air, 330 metre track for visitors to see cutting edge mobility devices in action.
The next special pavilion is the Opportunity Pavilion. This was designed by AGi Architects, and the concept revolves around how humanity is interconnected by their actions. Gaining inspiration from social innovators and making an impact on the global scale are the key takeaways, alongside the examples presented, such as wind towers, live weaving stations, and an enigmatic “Forest of Technology."
The Dubai Expo 2020 is set to break world records in visitor numbers, estimated to reach 25 million people, yet these estimates, hopes, and dreams were in a pre-pandemic world. With the pandemic pushing the operational dates nearly a whole year, and then forcing visitor numbers and interactions to be cut down and also including online exhibitions as part of the Expo, the organisers of the Expo were hard pressed to bring viable results.
Notably, while the entire country was in lockdown, the work being done on the Expo venue did not halt as expected. Matters were further exacerbated when 3 workers succumbed to COVID-19 in addition to three who had lost their lives in fatal construction accidents. The Geneva Council condemned the “discriminatory treatment of migrant workers,” urging the WHO to encourage and pressure the UAE to ensure their health and safety were being given due attention.
Regardless, the event powered through, and is now in the last phase of their in-person Expo. The Maldives had the chance to conduct a comprehensive cultural activity which was live broadcasted on national television, to showcase, as was done in previous years, the cultural heritage of the Maldives through dance and music.
The Expo is a chance for the world to see up close the diversity around the globe. This opportunity is two-fold for the participants, as this inevitably promotes tourism, awareness, and also sustainable development options and technology. As each Expo strives to outdo the last, it is exciting to see what comes of the next one.