Where tech meets art…
There couldn’t be a city of greater grandeur to host Expo 2020 than Dubai –– this was the singular thought that occupied our minds as we dragged our tired feet to the bus station where a waiting bus took us to our parking spot where our car waited to take us back to the city. That an event of this scale could be so impeccably planned is a lesson waiting to be learnt at Dubai Expo 2020 that began on October 1 2021 and will go on till March 31 2022.
By sticking to its original name despite the world’s unfortunate failure to conduct the event in its desired year, the event almost makes guests believe that 2020 never really unfolded around us. The world has descended upon the city of Dubai to put up a glorious show of their country’s excellence in various fields with 192 pavilions and an Expo passport to boot. For every country pavilion you visit, get a stamp on its pages! Here are six reminders we received at the Expo 2020 Dubai that will stay with us for years to come.
Simplicity is key
The first stamp on our passport was that of India. It has focused on three main aspects of the economy –– space, yoga and Ayurveda. The green ground-floor entrance had men in white leotards displaying yoga poses. The intent and heart was perhaps in the right place, making it an endearing display.
The vibrant floor above had LED screens on all sides showcasing art, heritage and culture. The most mesmerising, this floor definitely made up for what the entrance lacked. India, a $2.5-trillion economy, is flourishing and it is ready to welcome investors with open arms. Focusing on our flourishing startup sector, an entire section throws light on unicorns from the country.
Attention is also placed on states with a rotating cycle of display. On October 17 when we visited the Expo, the state in the limelight was Gujarat. With a single-minded purpose of placing India firmly into the collective global psyche as ‘an ideal business partner’, the four-floor pavilion maybe simple with Prime Minister Modi’s face smiling down from various vantage points, it also happens to be effective in its messaging.
This pavilion will now be a part of District 2020, which is the form the Expo ground would adapt after the event ends in March next year. One of the few structures that will be a made permanent, this community of District 2020, a smart-city initiative, aims to encourage innovation in UAE.
When science meets aesthetics, it creates art
Cute yellow robotic assistants rolled around on their wheels waiting to be tapped on the head and presented with queries that they are programmed to answer. Increasingly feeling like we were witnessing the future in a simulation, the lights slowly started turning on as the sun went down. We stepped into a structure aptly named Garden in the Sky, a 55-metre tall observation tower offering a 360°-view of the Expo. The water display in the form of a waterfall right beside the Garden in the Sky proves to be one of the most gorgeous parts of the of the view from it.
However, it is the Al Wasl plaza that takes your breath away. A dome structure of gorgeous proportions, there are rumoured to be over 250 projectors projecting on the dome to create a visual display so strong that one cannot help but pick up their jaw from the floor. This 130-metre-wide, 68-metre-tall dome structure is a 360° viewing screen that makes your experience stunning irrespective of where you sit. We couldn’t get enough! The sheer plenitude of art in its various forms meeting technology at a vantage point creating illusions of unimaginable scale was one of our takeaways for the day.
Sustainability is the largest concern of the world right now
The pavilion of Germany is famously called Campus Germany, where every visitor ‘graduates’ as a student of their college. Definitely our favourite of the day, visitors are equipped with an e-medallion that is fed your name at the beginning of your journey –– orientation! For every feature you choose to explore of the journey, it is personalised in the screen in front of you with your name flashing on it.
Promoting technological advancements of great scale, Germany focused on her green initiatives and joined hands to work towards a sustainable future. In small batches of 40-50 ‘students’, one sat on mechanical swings that were set in motion, urging you to move together for a safer future as your name flashed on the screens surrounding you. With poignant music in the background, the graduation film proved to be the most immersive experience at Expo 2020. Solar panels as thin as sheets of paper, prototypes of flying cars that were successfully tested as far back as 2017 kept ‘students’ awestruck.
As you gear up to leave, grab a pair of Nintendo sticks and play a game on the large screen in front of you as people watch in the amphitheatre-style lounge modelled on a typical school auditorium, making it a complete educational experience with fun and games too!
Our future is brighter than we anticipate
Most country pavilions had equipped their youngsters with the information and knowledge required to lead the path for visitors and showcase what their country had to offer. Stationed in Dubai for six-month-long internships, these students are experiencing a multi-cultural experience while also proudly speaking about their own country. Making for an interesting learning initiative, they instilled faith in every visitor that our future is in safe, bright and conscious hands.
At the India pavilion, a young girl stationed at one of the knowledge desks armed with an iPad helped us understand and read more about the technological advancements in the agriculture sector in India. Another used her iPad to point at a certain plant in the greenhouse of the Ayurvedic offerings of India and told us the properties of that magic plant. One couldn’t help but feel proud!
There is nothing greater than the beauty of nature
At the Saudi Arabia pavilion, one is compelled to stare at a gorgeous water fountain as one waits for the gates to open and for the next batch of visitors to be allowed in. However, the second-largest pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 with a total area of 13,059sq m welcomes you inside with a gorgeous display of the various terrains of the country before leading you through a journey of its marvellous and historic architecture.
While a creatively designed space with an innovative floor of light work shows you the art emerging from the country, a Business Park invites investments in the country showing potential investors what the country has to offer. What stays with you at the end of the visit is the sight of the flora and fauna in the country, which is otherwise unimaginable for people who travel internationally but are afraid to consider the country as a desirable destination.
At the end of the day, food unites us
We made our way to the Africa Dining Hall for the last meal of the day as we wrapped up our day at Expo 2020. Digging into some delectable meat made with their famous Suya spice, we sat with their Chef Coco who spoke to us about some ‘spicy’ secrets from his kitchen. A plate of Nairobi Sambusa had minced chicken with peas, potato and coriander filling and the chef told us how it was the Kenyan version of a samosa served with a coriander dip! Hello Punjab!
Lagos Night had lamb cooked in Suya spice and cassava crisps that was as tasty as it was beautiful to look at! Representatives from Brazil, New Zealand, UAE, India, Africa and Japan sat together enjoying a hearty meal and talking about the state of politics in their country and in that moment, we were one. Whether it is the power of food or the effects of the global expo combined, is hard to discern. But united in thought when it came to the progress of humanity, there was nothing separating the world except geography.