The Bureau International des Expositions organises the World Expos, which “are a global gathering of nations dedicated to finding solutions to pressing challenges of our time by offering a journey inside a universal theme through engaging and immersive activities.” The very first Expo was held in London’s Hyde Park in 1851 and the popular event has been consistently hosted by different countries every five years since the year 2000. Dubai is the current host of the delayed Expo 2020, which started on 1 October 2021 and will end on 31 March 2022. This is the first time the event has been held in the Middle East and the first time in the history of Expo that every country has their own pavilion. The overall theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the future’ and the three sub-themes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability are intended to “inspire visitors to preserve and protect the planet, explore new frontiers and build a better future for everyone”.
The main attractions at Expo 2020 Dubai are the 192 country pavilions, partner pavilions, pavilions showcasing the sub-themes and special topics like Women, and international organisations such as the Africa Union and Muslim World League. Expo 2020 Dubai is expected to welcome more than 20m visitors, who will be entertained by the wide variety of concerts, stage shows, street performances, art, culture, and food. It was announced today that global superstars, Coldplay, will perform on 15 February. There is something for everyone, every single day, over the six-month period, making Dubai the top destination for tourists from around the world.
Here are the ONGOLO picks for the pavilions with the best content at Expo 2020 Dubai:
Campus Germany is the most innovative pavilion designed to educate and entertain visitors in a highly interactive way. Designed by the Australian architectural firm, LAVA, it was built by Swiss construction specialists from ADUNIC, and fitted with sensors by the German company, Facts and Fiction. The sensors pick up visitors’ data provided at ‘enrolment’: all guests are asked to provide their name, nationality and language as they enter the pavilion. As visitors walk through the pavilion, the sensors acknowledge them by name as they enter rooms and displays relevant information about their country. All information booths greet you by name and use your chosen language. The entire pavilion is filled with information about how Germany is creating a sustainable future and will leave you bursting with ideas and inspiration.
The Saudis came to Expo 2020 Dubai with a clear mission: to change the negative narrative of the Middle Eastern powerhouse and they succeeded. The cantilevered structure of the pavilion, which is set at a 24-degree angle rising from the ground, was designed by the Spanish architectural and design firm, Boris Micka Associates (BMA), who also created the rich content. The pavilion holds the Guinness world record for the largest interactive lighting display at the front of the pavilion and has the most impressive audiovisual system at Expo2020 managed by Kraftwerk Living Technologies. Visitors are greeted by a dancing curtain of water which also doubles as a crowd controller. The five-minute video in the Land and People exhibition on the sights and sounds of Saudi Arabia is displayed on a 180 degree screen coupled with a concave floor LED display which provides an aerial view of the ground. Every room dazzles with a clever use of tech.
The Iraq Mesopatamia pavilion is a labour of love by architect Raya Ani, the Founder and Design Director at RAW-NYC Architects, who started lobbying for Iraq to be represented at Expo 2020 Dubai in January 2019 and presented the design options to Iraqi government officials in August 2019. The roof of the pavilion is inspired by the Saliya or large fishing nets that are source of income for the people living near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and a symbol of wealth, wisdom, and goodness in Mesopotamian culture. The pavilion is a celebration of the Mesopatamian contribution to modern society, which included the introduction of the 60-second minute, 60-minute hour, a 360-degree circular angle, the zodiac, and seven days of the week. Don’t miss the highly informative 10-minute video at the end of the tour.
This beautiful timber structure was designed by Imre Makovecz Foundation and is dedicated to the 1,300 mineral-rich thermal springs of Hungary which have earned the country the nickname, Land of Waters. Thermal baths are well-known for health and relaxation, making Hungary one of the best destinations for wellness retreats. Hungary has one of the most instagrammable rooms at Expo 2020 which shows the minerals found in the thermal springs. End the tour by stepping into the relaxing giant ball pit in a dome with a 360-degree audio-visual screen. There is a well-stocked store as you exit which sells various products from chocolate to skincare and a restaurant serving traditional Hungarian food.
The multi-coloured dome was designed by the Russian architectural firm, SPEECH Tchoban & Kuznetsov. The exterior of the dome is covered by 1,000 thin aluminium tubes in six bright colours and creates a fun and playful ambience, which is sharp contrast to the seriousness of the content inside the pavilion. A wall in the lobby called ‘From Russia with love’ highlights Russia’s contribution to innovation and thinking, including powdered milk (1802), central heating radiators (1855), electric lighting (1873), oil tankers (1878), television (1911), nuclear power plants (1954), lunar rover (1970) and graphene (2004). The main attraction of the dome is called The Mechanics of Wonder about the human brain which was designed by Konstantin Petrov and Simpateka Entertainment Group.
The elegant pavilion was designed by OP3 Global, a Dubai-based design agency, as a celebration of the former Soviet republic’s rich culture, history, and the important role it played in the Silk Road, the ancient trade route that linked China to Europe. The three elliptical structures that make up the pavilion symbolise the Silk Road cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Visitors enter via the restaurant serving authentic Uzbekistan food. The different exhibition rooms take visitors on a journey from understanding the historical influences such as Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta to learning about how Uzbekistan is tackling mobility through innovation and research. The Islamic influences are evident in the tiles and the lantern room, which is one of the most instagrammable rooms at Expo 2020.
The pavilion, which is aptly called The Hidden Treasure, was designed by Rashid Rana, and built by UAE contractor, Al Jabal Engineering. The journey starts with a history of Pakistan dating back to 7000-2600 BCE when early farming communities settled in Mehrgarh to 712 when the Arabs conquered Sindh, British colonial rule from 1857-1947 and finally the creation of Pakistan in 1947. The décor is a beautiful mix of traditional and modern tech, with large screens to bring the sights and sounds of Pakistan to Expo. Pakistan also showcases its vision for manufacturing a future of limitless possibilities. End the tour with a walk through a laser rainforest and enjoy authentic Pakistani food at the Dawat, which means celebration feast.
The pavilion was designed by Norwegian firm, Rintala Eggertsson Architects, as a ship to symbolise Norway’s desire to become the world’s leading ocean nation. For a country that made its sizeable fortune from oil exploration in the North Sea since 1969 to drive the sustainable use of oceans going forward is inspiring. The main floor of the pavilion is designed as the seabed of the ocean and features a seven-minute video highlighting the important role of oceans and some of the solutions Norway is pioneering from fish farming to wind energy.
Dubbed the most welcoming place on earth, Colombia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 was designed by Pacheco Arquitectura, to showcase a country that is blessed with nature, diverse people, and a rich culture. The Colombia pavilion first grabs visitors’ attention when you hear the Latin music playing (La Oficial by Andy Rivera & Zion & Lennox) in the big, white, open building. A sculpture called The reclining woman by Colombian artist Fernando Botero has become an Instagram favourite and is located right outside the pavilion. Inside, visitors are given a guided tour and treated to videos about Colombia which include dance lessons. It’s a fun and charming pavilion.
The Japan pavilion is one of the hardest country pavilions to visit and onlyaccepts managed queue bookings (i.e. no walk-ins) so make sure to book just after 9am every day. The pavilion was designed by Yuko Nagayama and inspired by traditional Japanese Asanoha (hemp leaf patterns) and Arabic shapes to create a connection between Japanese and Middle Eastern culture. All guests are given a device to populate their country and age and are assigned an individual flower. Visitors walk through six scenes from Japanese culture and history to an innovation room and the ‘where ideas meet’ room that brings the individual flower to life as an avatar. The final scene invites visitors to contribute to the design of the next Expo which will be held in Osaka, Kansai, in 2025.
Dubai has set the new gold standard for the modern-day World Expo. See you in Osaka in 2025!