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Expo 2020 Dubai: What Not to Miss at the Much Anticipated Event

As the much anticipated Expo 2020 Dubai opens on October 1, here are the highlights not to miss.

Terra, the Sustainability pavilion designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects

After a year-long wait and challenges posed by the coronavirus, the greatly anticipated Expo 2020 Dubai, dubbed by many as the Arab world’s biggest-ever event, will finally open its doors to the public on October 1. This Dubai edition follows a legacy that includes Disney’s It’s a Small World ride, which launched at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and the Eiffel Tower, which served as the entrance to the Exposition Universelle of 1889. It also follows the last two expos – Milan in 2015 and Shanghai in 2010. In true grandiose Dubai fashion, this year’s iteration is expected to present numerous world firsts in terms of architecture, design, and technology.

The Mobility pavilion

Dedicated to the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” Expo 2020 Dubai is emphasizing the importance of creative and sustainable solutions to combat social, economic, and environmental problems. The expo, which is bursting with impactful and stunningly conceived projects, is expected to draw around 25 million visitors to the UAE, as well as foster countless business transactions.

Hugs by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim at Terra

One particular exhibition to visit is the Women’s Pavilion. For the first time in more than 50 years, a World Expo will have a standalone pavilion dedicated to women. Expo 2020 Dubai’s Women’s Pavilion in collaboration with Cartier will shine a light on women’s contributions to the world and will demonstrate that the only path to peace, prosperity, and sustainability is through the full and equal participation of women.

Hind Alowais, vice president of participants management at Expo 2020 Dubai

It’s set to celebrate the important roles that women, both known and unknown, have played throughout history, under the guiding belief that when they thrive, humanity thrives. “It is important for Expo 2020 to lead by example on women’s empowerment and gender equality, and I am proud to say that half of our workforce are women – 61% of whom are Emirati women, with more than half holding leadership positions, under the guidance of Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai,” says Hind Alowais, vice president of participants management at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“We believe that women and girls are essential to the resolution of humanity’s most pressing challenges, which is why we have placed them at the heart of everything we do. By placing women in key positions at Expo 2020, we will deliver an experience that not only surpasses expectations, but that is also truly inclusive and speaks to policymakers as well as the public’s hearts and minds.”

Epochal Banquet

Other features to look out for include The Future of Food: Epochal Banquet. It’s an immersive three course dining experience where through the very act of eating you go on a multisensory journey. The brain child of UK design studio Bompas & Parr, the experience takes diners on a two-hour culinary voyage as imagined in the year 2320, inspired by microbiology, space, and AI, prompting all those who visit to explore how AI will impact the future of dining.

An image by photographer Anurag Kumar, also part of the Kaleidoscope festival

Another highlight is set to be the outdoor night-time light festival Kaleidoscope, which will bring the site to life and to light for 182 nights; the entirety of its six-month span. Thanks to the beauty of photography and special lighting effects, visitors can admire the breathtaking architecture and design of stars such as Asif Khan, Foster + Partners, Grimshaw, and Hopkins Architects, throughout the expo’s landscaped public areas. In addition, Kaleidoscope will connect guests with a multitude of multicultural holidays, including Diwali and Christmas, revealing their stories through displays of architecture, light, and design.

Work by Manfred Johann Holzl which forms part of the Kaleidoscope festival

One pivotal way in which Expo 2020 Dubai has connected with the local Emirati populace is through art. The Public Art Program, curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, was inspired by the 11th century Arab mathematician, astronomer, and physicist Ibn al-Haytham’s seminal work, Book of Optics. The program invites guests to re-examine pertinent concepts and ideas, says Abou El Fetouh. “Ibn al-Haytham argued that perception is never complete without prior knowledge, comparative measures, memory, and imagination.”

The world’s most accurate replica of Michelangelo’s David

To this end, the program opens with Chimera, a gigantic, oil drill-shaped permanent sculpture by Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri, followed by 10 commissioned artworks by local, regional, and international artists, including Hamra Abbas, Afra Al Dhaheri, Shaikha Al Mazrou, Abdullah Al Saadi, Asma Belhamar, Olafur Eliasson, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Khalil Rabah, Yinka Shonibare, and Haegue Yang. Their presence gives testament to the power of the imagination – for even Expo 2020 Dubai would not have come to fruition without a dream. Just as Abou El Fetou adds, “Our immediate perceptual experience of vision must be accompanied by the imagined, so we may recognize the form of things.”

One of Expo 2020’s entry portals

Expo 2020 Dubai opens to the public on October 1 and runs until March 31, 2022. 

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