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Dubai Expo 2020: looking to the future of the Arabian Peninsula

From October 1 to March 22, 2022, Dubai is hosting the World Expo 2020, the first to take place in the Middle East. An opportunity to look back at the technical and scientific innovations of the region. Zoom in on these Arab pavilions and their proposals for the future. 

“Connecting minds, creating the future” is the mantra chosen by Mohammed Rachid al Maktoum, the sheikh of Dubai, when he applied to host this new edition of the 2020 World Expo.
For 182 days, 196 national pavilions will be proposing solutions to the new challenges of tomorrow, grouped around three areas: mobility, sustainable development, and opportunity. A trilogy of ambitions that embodies the Emirates’ desire to develop cities that are ever smarter, more connected and more technological, without denying the ecological challenges that await us in the coming decades.

United Arab Emirates 

As the host country of Expo 2020, the UAE pavilion was naturally highly anticipated. The country took up this challenge with the help of the Swiss-Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who was inspired by the tradition of falconry, an emblematic ancestral sport practiced by the Bedouins of the United Arab Emirates for 4,000 years, in the construction of the building.
A gigantic structure whose design is based on the wings of a falcon in flight. Made of carbon fiber, the wings can open or close slightly to form photovoltaic panels. Seen from the side, the building can also remind the Bedouin tents typical of the Arabian Peninsula, crossed in its center by a zenithal light that also includes the logo of the exhibition.


Emirates pavilion

Sustainable and respectful of the environment, it is also connected to its entrance by a kind of “canal” inspired by “El falaj”, an ancient irrigation system that allowed to bring water from the wadis (valleys) to the desert, and which still exists today in an improved version. Inside, the scenography leaves a great place to the history and heritage of the UAE, to slowly progress towards the present and especially the future, highlighting the success stories of its inhabitants.

A first space, covered with real sand, offers projections that trace the history of the Emirates: from the first pearl-fishing Bedouins to the discovery of oil and the reunification of the country. A digital screen also offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in the future of the country. Finally, a video and a series of portraits entitled “dreamers who do (showcase the Emirati dream and those who came to the Expo with a vision that they were able to implement, such as Ethiopian entrepreneur Orit Mohammed, founder of the famous coffee chain Boon coffee.


The pavilion of Oman pays tribute to incense trees, in particular the Boswellia carteri, whose aromatic resin is extracted in the south of the country and is reputed to produce very high quality incense. A national pride, since this tree and its incense are grown in the Dhofar governorate in the south of the country, it is the central element of this pavilion whose architecture resembles that of a tree, with branches made of natural material.


Inside, visitors can watch a projection that tells the story of the origins of incense, its production techniques and how it has circulated through civilizations. In another room, “crystals” that look like incense resin are suspended from the ceiling and broadcast informative videos about the Omani culture and its recent scientific advances in water management or how incense could help colonize Mars in the future.
A pavilion designed as a bridge between Oman’s national heritage and its future, embodied by promising young Omanis whose work is on display. Among them, Younis Al-Siyabi, the founder of Wakan Tech, a startup that helps farmers pollinate their date palms with drones, or Fatma Al Ma’amari, a doctor in physics who received an award for her research on how to limit the damage caused by the extraction of rare minerals in the creation of electronic gadgets, by replacing them with sustainable materials.


Saudi Arabia

A massive building rising from the earth to the sky, the Saudi pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai represents a kind of large window to the country’s future. And for this, the kingdom has spared no expense. Designed by the firm Boris Micka associés, the structure has merged architecture and new technologies.
A true interactive exploration, the exhibition it houses is an invitation to travel through the history, present and future of the nation. Upon arrival, visitors are greeted with messages such as “welcome to Saudi Arabia“, “we live in exciting times” “create the future”, which scroll across its facade consisting of a large LED mirror screen of more than 1300 m2.


An escalator then leads him to different historical sites of the kingdom as the traditional houses of the old city of Jeddah (the rashawins, these wooden balconies classified as World Heritage by UNESCO), then the visitor is immersed in an audiovisual immersion through various tourist places of the country, such as the Red Sea or the Arabian desert, thanks to large curved screens. An interactive light show also projects works of contemporary Saudi artists on the largest interactive light floor in the world, created for the occasion and composed of 7,798 LED lamps.

Finally, in keeping with traditional Saudi hospitality, the pavilion is also a coffee and tasting laboratory. After the recent announcement of the selection of Saudi Arabia as the host country of Expo 2030, it is a kind of appetizer of what visitors will see in nine years, presenting the flagship initiatives of the next few years, such as the Red Sea tourism program, Neom or the entertainment city Qiddiya.

The event was a great success, as only one month after its opening, the World Expo has already received 500,000 visits.