Expo 2020 Dubai: Connecting Minds & Creating The Future

Written by Bethan Hurst-Haynes

A global event that will redefine the future of Dubai and the UAE, Expo 2020 is now rapidly approaching. Starting on 1st October 2021, the exhibition will run until 31st March 2022 and its organizers have high hopes of it being the most successful, inclusive and innovative Expo in history. It is the first ever to be held in the Middle East and Africa region, something the organisers are capitalizing on - being the first and the best is de rigueur for the UAE.

The history of expositions spans 170 years and is founded in the desire to provide a space to showcase innovations that shape the world, and the future of how we live - the incredible magnitude of world-changing inventions that debuted at various fairs is astounding! Some examples include: Computers (1862, London and 1962, Seattle), Television (the first live broadcast was transmitted at The World’s Fair in 1939) and Food (popcorn in 1862 and ice cream cones in 1904) - the list is extensive.

Expo 2020 Dubai

Expo structures are an integral part of their legacy - Crystal Palace was built in London for the first ever Expo in 1851, showcasing the Industrial Revolution and the Eiffel Tower was the centrepoint of the 1889 fair - although it is now synonymous with Paris it was not well-received at its unveiling and there was a campaign to have it dismantled at the end of the Expo. The UAE hopes to add to this rich history with Al Wasl Plaza - slated to be the largest unsupported dome in the world.

The impact of Expo’s do not stop there, as they have inspired huge cultural shifts and revolutions as seen at the Japan pavilion at the 1873 Vienna Expo - it is credited with the huge spread of “Japonism” which permeated art and culture, even influencing some of the works of Van Gogh. Infrastructure boomed - tarred roads, trams, metros and vast buildings all flourished - never has the phrase “necessity is mother of invention” been so apt.

Looking to the present day, Expo 2020 will bring together 191 countries - the most of any Expo and each with their own pavilion (another first!) Districts will be focused on sustainability, mobility and opportunity under the slogan “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future” and in the words of the organizing committee, “If travel is the best teacher in life, then Expo 2020 is the perfect place to be educated”.

Expo Structure

Opportunity District - Mission Possible

The majority of the country pavilions will be located in the Opportunity District, and each will be uniquely individual. With 191 to choose from, every expat is likely to find a nod to their homeland - highlights include: India; reflecting “New India” - showing the strength of their ‘human resources’ and the aspirations of the nation's youths. Kenya; demonstrating its agricultural and economic potential through the hospitality and creativity of its people. South Africa; a testament to a one-of-a-kind country where excellence breeds opportunity and, of course, the UAE; a falcon in flight telling the intricate story and history of the Emirates, as well as the vision of its leaders to create a peaceful society with ambitious plans.

Opportunity District - Mission Possible

Sustainability District - Terra

The district will showcase champions of sustainable living, and how humans can blend a high-technology lifestyle with nature, to prosper in harmony. Various installations and shows will run, including Hammour House - a unique look at the reef dwelling fish from the perspective of artists, scientists and children. All of this is housed in Terra, whose architecture is firmly rooted in the earth, gazing upward like a blooming flower seeking the sunlight. You will be able to wander through forest roots, dive the depths of the ocean and ask yourself “with no plan B, will you be an agent of change to protect Earth?”

Sustainability District - Terra

Mobility District - ALIF

The Mobility District will explore the drivers of human progress, where “mobility” means so much more than just movement - it is connection, understanding and exchange with limitless possibilities. Visitors can explore future vehicles, spaces, and see innovative mobility devices on a 330m indoor / outdoor track. ALIF is where the physical and virtual meet - it gets to the core of human progress to build a global society where exchanges can happen faster than ever.

But what is all this for? The Expo’s ‘People and Planet’ theme aims to bring everyone together, uniting them in personal and collective responsibility, sharing and reducing impacts for generations to come. Equality, universal respect and human dignity are at the centre of this theme, which is built on five tracks: Build Bridges, Leave No-One Behind, Live in Balance, Thrive Together and UAE Vision 2071. The present challenges of humanity will be explored through cultural, social, environmental and economic lenses.

Initiatives are a core part of Expo’s and the UAE has launched a series of global partnerships offering funding, support and access to innovators - highlighting projects around the world and providing impactful interventions with a view to expanding them. The ‘World Majlis’ is a forum dedicated to opening discussions on pertinent global issues, led by experts.

masterplan of Expo

What about after the Expo ends? A masterplan is already in place to transition the Expo site to ‘District 2020’ - a human-centric smart city that will reuse at least 80% of the Expo infrastructure. It is hoped the resulting mixed-use community will fulfil the founding vision to be a creative, connected and innovative ecosystem continuously inspiring people to commit to protecting Earth, in line with the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Expo is playing its part in kick-starting this with the generation of clean energies, reduction in water consumption and minimising of its carbon footprint all being key factors in the construction and running of the various sites and pavilions. Sustainable Tourism also continues to be a long-term focus.

It is impossible not to be excited about the upcoming Expo and its potential to start the next enviable chapter for the UAE. Foreign investment, visa reforms, modernisation of laws, and its reputation as a safe haven all contribute to making Dubai one of the top-ranked cities in the world which its leaders continuously seek to capitalize on, driving it forward and drawing on the synergies that exist to be the best of the best. With so much to explore, experience and achieve, where will Dubai take you?