2020 was the year everyone was excited about. It was a new decade, a new beginning. Instead, the world came to a complete standstill. Organisers delayed competitions and exhibitions that planned to celebrate the new decade.
Now, at the end of 2021, the world has been on a slow path to revival. We enjoyed the delayed Summer Olympics and the UEFA Euro Cup. Some of us were even lucky enough to enjoy music festivals again.
As for me? I decided to spend a day at Expo 2020, held in Dubai.
Expos and World Fairs
Expo 2020 is a World Expo, where people and businesses worldwide gather to share their ideas and innovations. The first-ever World Expo launched in 1851 in London, and they have only gotten bigger since. Paris’ Eiffel Tower in 1889 and Seattle’s Space Needle in 1962 are among the remnants of Expo’s past.
Delayed due to the global pandemic, Expo 2020 was officially launched in October 2021 and will last through to the end of March 2022 and is the first-ever World Expo to be held in the Middle East.
Each Expo revolves around a theme and hopes to showcase solutions to contemporary issues. The central theme of Expo 2020 is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and carries sub-themes of “Opportunity, Mobility, and Sustainability”. The whole thing incorporates these themes to a tee, with each of the three main “districts” named after a sub-theme.
Tiny helper robots roam around the Expo site, and “security bots” mostly remind you to keep your mask on. Participants designed their Pavilions with the future in mind, each highlighting their contributions to and plans for the problems we face today.
Expo during a pandemic
While things are starting to calm down (in the grand scheme of things), we’re unfortunately still in a global pandemic. So, how does one run a World Expo of this scale during these times?
Only fully-vaccinated visitors, or those with a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of visiting, are allowed entry into Expo 2020. Volunteers will thoroughly check this before you enter. Unvaccinated 1-Day and Multi-Day Pass holders are entitled to free PCR tests at the DHA Expo 2020 Testing Facility. And as one may expect, all visitors must be masked up, and sanitising stations are everywhere you look.
While social distancing is mandatory, Expo staff didn’t heavily enforce it. Despite this, the knowledge that visitors have had their vaccinations or are entering with a negative PCR test was enough not to make this that big of a bother for me personally. It also helped that common areas were cleaned and sanitised often. That is something you’ll notice if you pay attention.
What to expect at Expo 2020
Although there is impressive Wi-Fi available on-site, I highly recommend downloading the official Expo 2020 app before you make your way over. The app is very well-built and shows you what’s happening on the day of your visit. It’ll also help you get around the Expo site with a built-in map, avoiding the need to grab a paper map.
There is so much to do and see at Expo 2020 that I was tempted to go again. There wasn’t a dull moment to spare from food to culture, not to mention the exhibitions held by over 200 participants. Every day is slightly different from the rest, with each day highlighting a specific country or region — I visited on “Japan Day”. Japanese music played throughout the Expo site and featured cultural performances at the Al Wasl Square during the evening.
Aside from Country Pavilions, each district is also home to a sub-theme Pavilion that seeks to tackle the issues of Mobility, Sustainability, and Opportunity. Front and centre is the UAE Pavilion in the Al Forsan District, arguably one of the coolest designs that Expo 2020 offers. The Sustainability District also houses the Women’s Pavilion, highlighting the incredible impact that we women have made throughout history. Right at the entrance to the Jubilee District is the Expo 2020 Water Feature — a 360º immersive waterfall feature with musical shows every so often.
If you’re fortunate enough to visit Expo 2020, make sure you visit one of my top five Country Pavilions — Thailand, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Singapore, and, that’s right, Australia!
Located in the “Mobility District” of Expo 2020, the Aussies have come in full force. The Forecourt serves guests great Aussie BBQ fares, alongside Aussie wines, beers and coffee. Various tunes from Australian artists like The Jungle Giants and Sahara Beck emanate from the speakers courtesy of Nightlife, and their corresponding music video shows up on the big screen. There are regular cultural showcases featuring Aussie acts—either through music or dance—with the Aussies hosting a film night on Tuesdays and a “jam night” every Friday.
The Australians split their exhibition into three sections. Firstly, Annika and her friends greet you and take you through a tunnel (pictured below), highlighting 60,000 years of Aussie culture and showcasing the beautiful Australian landscapes. Then, the journey takes you into an auditorium, where you learn the importance of dreaming and astrology to indigenous culture.
Finally, it brings you into a room celebrating Aussie innovations in healthcare, technology and environmental conservation. Did you know that Australia will soon be home to the largest radio telescope on Earth? I didn’t!
Of all the Pavilions I visited, the Australian was indeed one of my favourites. From the design to the exhibition, there wasn’t an aspect that I didn’t like. To learn more about what the Aussies brought to Expo 2020 or take a virtual tour of their Pavilion, visit their official website!
As someone incredibly starved of culture and events, Expo 2020 was an experience that was more than welcome. I struggled to drag myself away because I was having so much fun “travelling” the world, so to speak. If you have the chance, I highly recommend taking the time to visit. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
For more information on Expo 2020 and taking a virtual tour, visit the official Expo 2020 website.
Expo 2020 launched on October 1st 2021 in Dubai and will run through to March 31st, 2022. Emirati Airlines’ passengers like Emirates or Etihad will receive a complimentary 1-Day Pass with their flight tickets.