World Expo 2020 (in 2021), Dubai. Visit #1

Like a lot of things, the World Expo 2020 got put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, in October, 2021, it was able to launch! The Expo is held in Dubai, UAE and runs for 6 months. We live relatively close by, in Saudi Arabia, so we bought the “season pass” for the 6 months. Accordingly, we didn’t feel compelled to see everything on our first visit. In fact, the Expo was much larger than we expected and we were only able to scratch the surface. I will update you later on subsequent visits.

Figuring out how to get in to the venue was a little tricky. As mentioned, the grounds are enormous and the signage is less than clear. We had a driver drop us off, but we had to go to several gates and checkpoints and talk to security folk to find where the main entrance was. Once we found the entrance, getting in was pretty easy, even though we were there on a weekend day. We showed our digital tickets and also had to show either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative PCR test.

The venue itself is a city of shimmering gold (see the photo above). The hub and center of the venue is a giant ball or dome. It is gold colored and even more sparkly where the sun shines on it. Similarly, most of the pavilions have gold-colored screen facades that also reflect the sun. The color scheme is quite apropos for glitzy Dubai. The dome covers an amphitheater where shows and concerts are nearly constantly running. Most shows seem to be included in the price of your admission ticket. We didn’t see any gates or checkpoints where additional tickets could be collected. The dome provides amazing shade and ventilation; despite it being a very warm day, it was comfortable underneath.

An impressive display of flags of the countries participating flanks the entrance. As we walked around the venue, we spotted a number of little robots roaming around. They greeted people (in English) and told us information about themselves and the Expo. (I suspect the guy with the laptop in the photo has something to do with the robot) But he was still very cool and the kids loved him.

We didn’t have much time this visit, due to dinner plans, so we just visited a few pavilions. Of course, we had to go see what the USA put up. The exterior of the U.S. pavilion was pretty impressive. We met a nice volunteer at the door who said he was from Utah, but grew up in Saudi Arabia because his father worked for ARAMCO. We really do live in a global world. The “theme” of the USA exhibit seemed to be “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of the Future.” Not sure what happened to “Happiness…” It was, basically, a commercial for U.S. science and technology. However, the hand and torch of the Statue of Liberty (I felt like the rest of her was underground), in front of photos of Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King apparently intended to convey a message about freedom and human rights somehow. To be fair, I was a little distracted by the people-mover thing we had to stand on; when it turned a corner it put me off balance. My friend’s 13-year-old daughter described the U.S. pavilion as a “stepped-up” version of Disney World’s Hall of Presidents.

The other highlight of what we saw was the Saudi Arabia pavilion. It was slick, glossy, high-tech and huge! The Kingdom’s wealth was on full display. At the bottom of the entrance ramp there was an artificial circle of rain. It would stop for a few seconds and people could run inside the center of the circle. But then they were stuck there until it stopped again. I didn’t understand the meaning of this artificial rain, but it was impressive. Then, in the next line, there were was a giant screen displaying 3-D images of places in Saudi Arabia — the Red Sea underwater, the Empty Quarter Desert, the mountains near Tabuk, and Al Ullah. The actual main exhibit itself was a room with a huge mirrored ball hanging from the ceiling. A very, very impressive light show bounced lasers off the ball along with coordinated music. Again, I was not really sure what the message was, but it was cool. After the exhibit we went to the snack bar and my friend’s 7-year-old son was offered a camel meat sandwich. He declined.

We also walked through the exhibits for Bangladesh (a very enthusiastic young man gave us a personalized tour), Papua New Guinea (beautiful photos), and Greece (just some tourism photos).

Overall, we just scratched the surface and can’t wait to return next month!

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