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Magical Dubai: Expo 2020 beckons the world to converge

Magical Dubai: Expo 2020 beckons the world to converge

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Ever heard of the world’s biggest lift? You can take it at Expo 2020 Dubai. What about the largest 360-degree projection surface? See it for yourself at the world fair this October. Even the fastest mass transit system is no longer the bullet train but something called the Hyperloop that leaves behind airplanes in the dust – again, come and have a look at its demo in Dubai. This staggering, history-making, jaw-dropping tech has caught the eye of ‘Time’ magazine, quoting the role Dubai is playing in ‘Bringing the world together’.

Among 100 unique destinations, the publication crowns Dubai as one of the world’s greatest places to visit this year, steering global attention to the famed World Expo the emirate will be hosting for six months from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022. The list, which includes Athens, Hanoi, Cannes, Helsinki and more, is an ode to the fierce resilience and undefeated creativity showcased by people and businesses from all over the world – a world that has been forever transformed in our battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

When Expo 2020 Dubai entered its last leg of preparations last year, the impending global health crisis drove the host city to step back and propose a delayed opening. With swift agreement from Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the World Expos awarding body, the event’s trajectory had changed; goals were realigned and objectives renewed. Expo 2020 Dubai is now enlisting great minds to brainstorm actionable solutions for humanity learning to adapt in a post-pandemic world.

The city’s remarkable endurance aside, Expo 2020 Dubai deservedly relishes in the limelight for the many wondrous inventions and attractions slated to wow the public for 182 days. ‘Time’ marvels at the Italy Pavilion’s 3D-printed replica of Michelangelo’s David statue and the Singapore Pavilion’s hanging gardens. We’re bringing you an extensive list of further innovations that you can be the first to witness at the world exposition.

Relax under rotating solar e-trees

Situated at the crown of the 4.38-square-kilometre Expo site, Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion dominates its own district called the Sustainability District. Walking into this pavilion feels like toeing the line between the present and the future. You are met with gigantic Energy Trees among actual flora, and another tree-shaped impersonator that can harvest water from the surrounding air.

Grimshaw Architects, the masterminds behind the net-zero energy and water building, designed 18 multi-tasking trees to harvest solar energy and offer ambling visitors shade under their wide disc canopies. Far from static showpieces, the e-trees actually move with the sun’s path across the sky. Using six solar panels fitted to each canopy, the sunflower-like structures collect plenty of sunlight by facing the sun at all times.

Take the largest passenger lift in the world

Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, nestled at the tip of the Mobility District, is the perfect place for techies to geek out. This is where you will find the world’s largest mobile platform that can carry up to 160 passengers at a time (38 based on current social distancing restrictions) to the third floor of the pavilion.

Stop a while to marvel at the futuristic design of the pavilion by Foster + Partners, seemingly resembling a larger-than-life fidget spinner with three wings. Looping around and under the building is a 330-metre mobility track for cool mobility devices to whizz past curious visitors.

Watch shows on the largest 360-degree projection surface

Bringing together the three district wings (Sustainability, Opportunity and Mobility) is a harmonious point of convergence known as the Al Wasl Plaza – Expo’s jewel designed by Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture. The striking 130-metre-wide and 67.5-metre-high dome of the plaza also happens to be the biggest 360-degree projection surface the world has ever seen.

National day celebrations and cultural festivities along with formal ceremonies will be unveiled inside the heart of Expo with the help of 250 projectors. Every day, Al Wasl Plaza will come alive from within and out, marking sunsets and sunrises with unique audio-visual shows.

See 3D-printed statue of Michelangelo’s David

Italy Pavilion has a treat for museum trotters and art lovers. Italian Renaissance sculptor and painter Michelangelo would have never imagined that his marble sculpture of the Biblical hero David would be replicated by a 3D printer some 400 years later.

Italy achieved this 21st-century feat using one of the world’s largest 3D printers after 40 hours of digital scanning and jotting down details through high-tech cameras. David’s acrylic twin stands at the original height of 17 feet, brushed with marble dust for a realistic finishing, at the heart of the pavilion. Learn all about the process in the pavilion and snap pictures with the prominent 16th-century artwork without travelling to Florence.

Spot Expo logo on mashrabiya-inspired Entry Portals

If you come in through one of the three District gates of the fair, namely Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity, you will have to pass a 30-metre-long passageway, shaded by a carbon-fibre latticework overhead. The three identical cubic structures designed by well-known British architect Asif Khan are dubbed 'Entry Portals' that will lead visitors to the event and into a different dimension.

Inspired by mashrabiya architecture, a hallmark feature of the Islamic civilisation, the skeletal portals will keep visitors cool and reflect the official Expo 2020 logo in its geometric makeup. So keep your eyes peeled for the illusion as you pass by the 21-metre-tall gates, whose doors are so light that a single person could swing them open.

USA’s SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, tallest structure at Expo

Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX was the first to reuse an orbital rocket called the Falcon 9 in 2017, leaving behind an era of expendable rockets that were discarded after single use. In honour of the historic milestone, a replica of the rocket will deliver the USA’s achievements in the space sector but also turn heads by becoming the tallest structure on Expo grounds. At 42 metres or 14-storeys tall, the one-to-one scale rocket will sit in the heart of the US Pavilion, where other out-of-orbit attractions include Moon rocks from the Apollo 12 mission.

Tread in cool water as you explore Brazilian sights

Brazil Pavilion’s grounds are unique in the sense that the floor is covered in refrigerated water, so remove your shoes and get ready for a refreshing aquatic experience. The depth of the shallow water mirror will range anywhere from 6cm to 18cm, and with onsite solutions, the organisers assure that visitors will not be getting wet.

There’s more to than just dipping your toes in water here. Mimicking an outdoor cinema, the white membrane walls and ceiling of the pavilion will transform into a theatre packed with 125 projectors. At night, watch what it would be like to take part in the world-famous Brazilian Carnival and get lost in the lush sights of the Amazonia.

Converse with a table at Poland Pavilion

The Poland Pavilion is fitted with numerous sensors to allow visitors to enjoy their offerings at a safe distance. One of its voice-activated sensors is embedded into an art centrepiece called The Polish Table, which will teach you how to speak in Polish among other interactions. Some basic phrases you can expect to learn are ‘dzień dobry’ for ‘good morning’ and ‘dziękuję’ for ‘thank you’ at the table.

Europe's first Hyperloop demo in Spain Pavilion

A model of the Spanish-developed Z01 Hyperloop will be showcased at the pavilion. The hyperloop is a proposed futuristic mode of transport that can travel up to 1000km in an hour on ground, making it swifter than airplanes.

Paper-thin solar panels power food cone in Netherlands Pavilion

Apparently, water, energy and food can be sourced at once with the help of some sunshine. In a 19-metre-tall cone, all of this and more is happening at the Netherlands Pavilion. Its vertical farm will be irrigated using water harvested from the air, and powering this Dutch technology with clean energy are 60 colourful, paper-thin (0.4mm) solar panels designed by Marjan van Aubel.

While these ink-printed (and organic) solar cells convert energy, they also play a part in the aesthetics, dousing the pavilion in hues of red, blue and orange as stained glass would.

Magical Dubai: Expo 2020 beckons the world to converge

Visitors carrying umbrellas will get to explore the inside of the food cone, where they will see oyster mushrooms growing in the damp micro-climate. On the exterior, the cone is home to cress, basil and other sprouting greens. As tempting as they might look, do keep in mind that these edibles are not up for tasting.

Hanging gardens of Singapore Pavilion

Those longing for green sights and earthy scents can venture into Singapore’s rainforest-themed pavilion. The vegetation will spring not only around you but also above you in this verdant space, bringing the lush urban landscape of the city-state to Dubai. So, grab a book, hit play on your zen playlist and take a leisurely stroll under the hanging gardens of the pavilion that look a lot like those in Singapore’s Gardens by the Bay nature park.

Leave a message for the aliens at UK Pavilion

Late Stephen Hawking believed humans on Earth should be prepared with a collective message in case we manage to communicate with alien intelligent life forms. He called this initiative the ‘Breakthrough Message’, co-signed by the legendary theoretical physicist and his colleagues in 2015. The UK Pavilion allows you to do just that with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) and the country’s long lineage of literary giants.

All you have to do is donate a word that you think sums up our existence then go about the rest of your pavilion journey. Once you exit the building, the façade’s LED lights will beam back an ever-changing collective message you helped create with other visitors.

And if you’re concerned about whether it’s going to make sense, the AI has been trained on more than 100 British poets for a metered cadence. By coming into the UK Pavilion, you will have inadvertently composed poetry.

Compose a symphony of Jordan

The Jordan Pavilion offers yet another opportunity for collaborative composition at Expo 2020 Dubai. Visitors will live out their music writing dreams in an interactive zone called 'The Portal', where various points are tied to traditional musical instruments such as the rabab, oud and ney. By tapping these hotspots, you can compose a unique symphony of Jordan surrounded by the vistas of Petra.

25 million visits, 191 countries and a lasting legacy

Since 1851, the World Expos have led the discovery of numerous breakthrough innovations that we cannot do without today – our QWERTY keyboards, touchscreen devices, wireless phones, electric cars and even ketchup. At this exhibition, too, the legacy of expos will continue to change lives for the better.

More than 200 participants, including 191 countries, will gather to host 25 million visits, but once the affair is over, Expo 2020 Dubai will live on not only in name but through a tangible legacy. Come October 2022, the site is going to become a city in its own right, one that is smart and sustainable yet human-centric and accessible.

- The writer is an intern with Gulf News.

Emiratis proud to call the emirate their home

As far as the local population is concerned, Dubai is the best place to live in the world

Sharmila Dhal, UAE Editor

Dubai: For residents of Dubai, it hardly comes as any surprise that the city figures in Time magazine’s list of top 100 places to visit in 2021. As far as they are concerned, the emirate is the best place to be in. Having seen the city spring up from a barren desert to what it is today, the native Emiratis take great pride in calling Dubai their home.

Asked what it is about Dubai that appeals to him the most, Mohammed Sultan Thani, a senior official with the Dubai Land Department and popular Instagrammer, says, “Everything.”

Dubai is the place to be

“Back in time, when I would travel and people would ask me where I was from, they were clueless when I would say Dubai. Today, I get a different reaction. A cab driver in Tokyo for example got so excited when he learnt I was from Dubai. He told me it was his dream to come here and work as a jockey.”

According to Thani, Dubai’s emphatic global presence today is a reflection of the vision of its leadership. “People from different parts of the world want to come to this port city where they enjoy a rare freedom to work, live and raise children. In short, it is the place to be.”

Thani firmly believes the beauty of Dubai lies in its people. Capturing the stories of everyday people on his Insta page, Thani tells the story of Dubai through them. The 20,000-plus posts on his Insta page provide fascinating insights into the daily lives of people in different areas, be it the creek, the Deira Fish Market or the Gold and Textile Souks. “No one can symbolise the success of Dubai better than them,” he says.

A rich mix of offerings

Rashad Bukash, Chairman of the Architectural Heritage Society – UAE, shares the feeling. “Dubai is the place to live. Where else will you find such a rich mix of history, culture and traditions along with modernity, technology and innovation? It offers an unparalleled social and economic life.”

Bukash says Emiratis have been welcoming and respecting people from different cultures for centuries. “People of different nationalities live here peacefully. The security that Dubai offers is excellent. The climate too is a huge attraction. Barring the hot summer months, the rest of the year is very pleasant and is a huge draw for people from Europe and other parts of the world.”

Shining star in the sky

For Mohammed Al Zaroni, Adviser, Emirates Red Crescent, “Dubai is a shining star in the sky.

The manner in which Dubai reached out to other countries during the pandemic speaks volumes about its humanitarian efforts, he said, adding: “Our heart in in every place of the world.”

According to him, “There are three things that set Dubai apart: Security, freedom and happiness of the people.”

At the end of the day, he says, “Dubai, which is the best place in the world, is the place of my birth. That is a big thing for me.”

Not just glitz and glamour

Nayla Al Khaja, film producer, says, “Dubai has come a very long way from the 60s when it was almost a desert. What I love about Dubai is the tolerance between people so many nationalities. Dubai is also ambitious and it keeps pushing the envelope. The desire to be the best in everything is very genuine. People here are very entrepreneurial in nature with lots of initiatives.”

She says Dubai is not just about glitz and glamour. “Few cities are are sustainable as Dubai which leads the way. Also, anyone can come from anywhere, have a dream and make it big. Dubai gives room for everyone to dream big, and accumulate good wealth and health, amid safety and security.”

Land of opportunities

Saeed Al Janahi, Director of Operations, Dubai Film & TV Corporation, says the biggest attraction of Dubai is that it is a land of opportunities.

“You have clear goal and you can achieve it here. Dubai is a land of opportunities for every youngster, regardless of his religion, nationality or colour. We have people over 200 nationalities living peacefully together while enjoying their freedom. I am proud to belong to this city and country because of the leaders we have. They have achieved in 50 years what other countries have taken a hundred or more years to accomplish.”

UAE residents share why Dubai is the best destination

From malls to parks, people share their favourite spots in the city

Anjana Kumar, Senior Reporter

Dubai: While Expo 2020 Dubai is set to be a great propeller for tourists to visit the city, expat residents living in Dubai tell us why they love the city. They also reveal their favourite spots, so new visitors don’t miss out on them.

An empire built from the desert

Lizan Gray

Lizan Gray, a South African account manager for a public relations firm, said: “Dubai is a city where you go through a day, meeting people of five to 10 different nationalities. This city has built an empire from the desert. There’s a lot that other countries can learn from Dubai.”

Gray particularly loves to visit Al Qudra. “It is the most touristic spot. It’s one of those gems that many tourists miss but residents love.”

She says the city offrs a healthy mix of cuisines too. “I love Downtown and Garhoud because of the amazing places to eat. I also think Fujiya is an amazing Japanese restaurant as is Akio,” Gray added.

Second home to expats

Arjun Raman

Indian expat Arjun Raman, a banker, said many expats like him call Dubai their second home. “Dubai ensures that it is always a few steps ahead of its worldly peers,” he said.

Raman loves to head to Koko Bay and its beach-facing cafes and restaurants in West Palm Jumeirah and Bluewater Islands. He also loves to visit the Dubai Creek Yacht Club.

“Dubai offers the best nightlife whether at Armani Prive, Cavalli Club or any other venue.”

Great leadership

Pamela Tumolva

Indian expat Arjun Raman, a banker, said many expats like him call Dubai their second home. “Dubai ensures that it is always a few steps ahead of its worldly peers,” he said.

She loves the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa. “For me, the Burj Al Arab Is the most iconic and classic spot in Dubai. Burj Khalifa is Dubai’s pride that symbolises strength and might.”

Options galore for a visit

Mohammad Diab

Syrian expat Mohammad Diab, a media relations executive, said the diversity in cultures and Dubai’s beaches have hooked him to the city. “I like to spend time at the Kite Beach and La Mer. The older areas of Dubai like the Gold Souq, Al Shindagha, Bastakiya, Karama are treasures. There is so much history there. Hatta too is getting famous among tourists and residents. And how can we forget the malls that add so much value to Dubai?” Diab said.

He added that Dubai is a melting pot of cultures and a place like Global Village exemplifies this best.

Water park attractions

For Pakistani expat Mariam Mumtaz, a marketing professional, the Aquaventure Waterpark in Atlantis is a major attraction. “I can go there in the summers and in the winters just to hop form one slide to another. The most popular water sport here is the Leap of Faith that is 60 feet high. The free fall is super-exhilarating. I would say all waterparks in Dubai are thrilling and full of excitement. The Dubai Ice Rink, Aquarium and Underwater Zoo and the latest Infinity des Lumieres, a digital art museum, are all must places to visit, not just for visitors but residents too,” she added.

A safe haven with so much to see

Egyptian national Reem Ibrahim, who works as a communications executive for a Dubai firm, said Dubai provides a safe haven for its visitors and residents. “No matter what your culture or tradition is, Dubai is a welcoming place. It also offers a huge variety of locations, activities and lifestyles that suit each and everyone’s lifestyle. You have unlimited options for everything, depending on what you want,” she added.

Ibrahim said the deserts in Dubai are a major attraction for her. “They are my go-to spot in winter. You will find people staying up till the sunrise just enjoying each other’s company.”

She added that Dubai Mall is another major tourist spot for visitors. “It attracts people from all over the world. Whether it is to watch the world’s biggest dancing fountain or the world’s tallest building or experience the beauty of the underwater wonders at the aquariam,” said Ibrahim.

A city full of life

Zeina Mathbout

Syrian expat Zeina Mathbout, a 27-year-old social media manager, loves Downtown Dubai as it reflects the fast-paced lifestyle of Dubai. She said: “Dubai is a vibrant city full of life. The air is positive and give people a chance to realise their hopes and dreams. It’s a hub that offers a variety of activities and houses famous attractions like Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, the dancing fountain. I love to walk on the beautifully-lit boulevard of this area.”

Mathbout also frequents the Bluewaters Island. “It is such a beautiful spot to visit with many entertainment, leisure and dining options. It is also home to Ain Dubai, the world’s largest observation wheel [set to open soon]. Dubai is a truly unique city that is immensely diverse with residents from different cultures. It is dynamic and vibrant and there is never a dull moment in Dubai with many attractions to visit and things to do.”