One year to go

When the sun goes down in some areas of rural Rwanda, the day is over – an unforgiving reality for millions of people in developing countries that don’t have access to electricity.

A lack of electricity at night means the inability to keep studying, working, and a general lessening of safety. It is a disruption to the daily patterns of life that one startup, championed by Expo 2020 Dubai, is tackling head on.

Nuru Energy empowers entrepreneurial local villagers with a kit that contains portable LED lights and an innovative solar-powered charging station, used to recharge torches and other USB devices like mobile phones.

The entrepreneurs charge a small fee each time they recharge a device – far less than the cost of disposable batteries, which contribute to landfill. In addition to increased productivity and quality of life, the programme keeps a portion of the local economy within the community that would otherwise go to a power company or battery manufacturer, and introduces a valuable new service to the neighbourhood. Rented or purchased lights give villagers up to 40 hours of use per recharge.

The startup is supported by Expo Live, an innovation programme with an allocation of US$100 million to support ingenious innovators who have devised socially impactful projects that help push the world towards a brighter future. It has been just one of the success stories in the run-up to the global mega-event that is Expo 2020 Dubai, the first of its kind in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

As well as boosting their host country’s own reputation and standing, the Expo has always had a message of cross-cultural pollination. In the 19th Century, that meant the bringing of different tribes or small communities considered “exotic” to the event.

Now, nations from every corner of the planet are coming together as equals to deliver Expo 2020 Dubai – a global destination that will host millions of visitors and hundreds of participants for a six-month celebration of human ingenuity and progress.

Nuru Energy is just one of extraordinary feats of creativity and ingenuity being brought to life by the global event. Architecturally, the pavilions promise to outdo themselves. The Italian Pavilion is to be set under the overturned hulls of three ships; Poland will have thousands of ‘migrating’ paper birds hovering throughout its wooden pavilion; Brazil will lead visitors through a recreation of the Amazon basin.

Throughout, three themes will underpin these amazing technological feats of innovation: themes whose wheels have been turning for the last six years.

The beginnings 

Dubai won the bid to host the 2020 World Expo in November 2013. From that day forward, it embarked upon a journey towards the creation of a global collaborative platform that leaves a lasting legacy for both the UAE as a country, as well as all of its international participants.

One of the world’s oldest and largest international events, taking place every five years and lasting six months, Expos are unrivalled among international events in their size, scale, duration and visitor numbers. They are large-scale platforms for education and progress that serve as a bridge between governments, companies, international organisations and citizens.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’: the belief that innovation and progress are the result of people from different fields and backgrounds, who would not normally collaborate, coming together in new and unique ways to share ideas.

The nations and organisations that will take part in Expo, and the millions who visit, will explore the power of these connections across the spheres of Opportunity – unlocking the potential for individuals and communities to shape the future; Mobility – creating smarter and more productive movement of people, goods and ideas, both physically and virtually; and Sustainability – respecting and living in balance with the world we inhabit to ensure a sustainable future for all.

Delivering on a promise

For the first time in the 168-year history of World Expos, every participating country at Expo 2020 will have its own pavilion. With one year to go, 192 countries have confirmed they will take part in Expo 2020, with dozens of nations already revealing the design, theme and visitor experience of their pavilions, and more being announced on a regular basis.

From the UK Pavilion and its continuously-changing, AI-generated poem exterior to the innovative rotating cubes (and K-Pop) on offer at the Korean Pavilion – each nation is seeking to outdo itself in the championing of innovative themes through creative and resourceful ways.

There will be more than 60 live events each day for 173 days, from music, dance and art to poetry slams and live talks. Al Wasl, the UAE’s first opera set to debut in October of next year, will surely be a highlight. Site development at the physical Expo 2020 Dubai site began in March 2016, with the construction of the three Thematic Districts completed already, participating countries also breaking ground on their pavilion plots, and all major site construction set to be complete by the end of the year.

As for economic impact, in April of this year EY published an independent report that stated that Expo 2020 Dubai and its legacy are expected to contribute AED122.6 billion to the UAE’s economy from 2013–31. It is anticipated that Expo 2020 will also support up to 905,200 job-years during the same timeframe, and contribute approximately 1.5 per cent of the UAE’s annual forecast GDP during the six months of the Expo.

A major focal point of this economic contribution has, and will be, championing and support of SMEs. To date, Expo 2020 has awarded AED 3.62 billion to SMEs, and programmes like the Innovation Impact Grant and University Innovation Programmes are already in full swing – the former having given 120 grantees from 65 countries funding, guidance and exposure.

Currently, 55.4 per cent of all Expo 2020 contracts have been awarded to SMEs, some of which are local products already on sale, including artisan chocolate by Mirzam, camel soap by the Camel Soap Factory, and Bateel dates.

The site

Historically, Dubai was referred to as Al Wasl, which translates from Arabic as “the Connection”, because of how it connected people from all over the region. The Expo seeks to recreate this idea of a cultural meeting point with its location. The site is located within the Dubai South district, close to Al Maktoum International Airport and easily reached from Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport, and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminals. On its 4.38 square kilometres are the three Thematic Districts that reflect the subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, as well as the 192 individual Country Pavilions that will showcase the unique architecture, culture and exhibits of each nation.

Al Wasl Plaza will be the iconic centrepiece of Expo 2020. It will host major ceremonies and celebrations during and after Expo, and the venue’s steel trellis dome will act as an immersive 360-degree projection surface.

The main pavilions will reflect their values in both an aesthetic and content-driven manner. The Opportunity Pavilion will take visitors on a journey of self-discovery to understand the global challenges we face as humanity and demonstrate everyone’s ability to make a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Mobility Pavilion will explore the movement of people, goods, ideas and data, and how mobility has driven humanity’s development from our first steps out of Africa to today’s cutting-edge innovations; and Terra – the Sustainability Pavilion will tell the story of humankind’s relationship with nature. Arguably one of the most important facets of the Expo, it is designed to empower visitors to understand their impact on the environment and become agents of change.

The sustainability issue

The emotive journey through the Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion depicts humankind’s relationship with nature and shows the butterfly effect our actions have on the environment. It begins in a wadi – a dry riverbed – at the beginning of Arabia. Visitors continue their journey through a series of interactive installations: a giant balance maze requires the collaboration of multiple people to put Earth on to an even footing; the Gnasher, an insatiable machine that demonstrates the folly of single-use consumer products; a huge deep-sea fish, its body clogged with discarded plastic.

But the focus on environmental solutions will not wait for the event to begin. Expo 2020 Dubai is already making a sustainable commitment to its creation: for example, the on-site nursery is nurturing 500,000 shrubs and ground cover, and 13,000 mature trees that are either native or adaptable to the Middle East.

Through these and other efforts, Expo 2020 hopes to show that it is possible – and critical – to leave a meaningful and lasting impact on our planet.

The end goals

Expo 2020 Dubai expects to welcome 25 million visits between October 2020 and April 2021, equivalent to welcoming the population of Australia through its gates in only six months. Each of these visits is important in its own right, as they will individually provide the catalyst for mammoth change.

That change may be simply the chance to experience a local cuisine never tried before, or see an opera for the first time. It might be a chance for a volunteer to discover their passion for architecture, or a new job opportunity for a university student. It might be a startup’s access to a new source of funding, or a charity’s chance meeting with a new donor.

Whatever the change, the simple act of attending will allow opportunities to open up, and access to new knowledge, new markets – new innovations. After all, Expo 2020 Dubai is all about the future.


A vision of a world together

In 2013, when Dubai won its bid to host Expo 2020, it marked an exciting point in the future of Dubai and the vision of the United Arab Emirates. Now, six years on, it is an exciting point in our present. With 12 months until Expo 2020 Dubai brings the world together, we are now just a stepping stone away from the World’s Greatest Show.

It is an enthralling journey, working alongside a team of more than 60 nationalities, each one bringing their vision, experience and voice into a bigger whole, and I have been privileged to witness the transformation of the Expo site from barren desert to a global hub of innovation, inspiration and optimism. Now, with just one year to go until the first World Expo in our region, excitement is building to new heights.

For six inspirational months, Expo 2020 will bring together more than 200 participants and millions of visitors from all corners of the planet in an unprecedented opportunity to find creative solutions to the world’s biggest challenges. It will be the ‘be there’ moment of our time, where visitors will enjoy a journey of discovery that not only entertains, but inspires each and every one of us to take action and make a conscious difference.

These are ambitious goals. We are not only creating an exceptional venue that befits a spectacular global celebration, but a bedrock that inspires all of us to build a better tomorrow.

It is a task we at Expo will continue to embrace with pride, because Expo 2020 is something truly historic, not just for Dubai and the UAE as we approach our nation’s Golden Jubilee, but for the world.

We invite you to join us, and look forward to greeting you with an unforgettable ‘hayyakum’ Emirati welcome.

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director-General, Expo 2020 Dubai


Expo 2020 Dubai: the World’s Greatest Show

The need-to-know on the region’s largest event ever

When: 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021

Where: The Expo 2020 Dubai 4.38sqkm ‘smart site’ will be one of the most connected locations in the world. Adjacent to the new Al Maktoum International Airport, it is equidistant between Dubai and Abu Dhabi international airports – and only eight hours’ flight from two-thirds of the global population – 20 minutes from Jebel Ali Port and connected to four major national highways. It is also connected to next-generation 5G. 

What is it? The UAE will welcome 192 participating countries and millions of global visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai – a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that seeks to build a brighter tomorrow for us all. Celebrating human brilliance and achievement under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, Expo 2020 will be the first World Expo hosted in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. Across its 173 days, it expects to attract 25 million visits – equivalent to the population of Australia.

Why is it the World’s Greatest Show? In a nutshell: 60 live performances a day showcasing the best of music, technology, creativity and culture – with concerts from A-list artists, daily parades, cutting-edge architecture, world-famous chefs, special celebrations (including Christmas and Diwali), and more than 200 F&B outlets serving cuisines from across the globe. You will experience robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality in unexpected ways, while innovative journeys will highlight real-life solutions to current challenges, inspiring each and every one of us to help build a better future. These are just a handful of reasons why Expo 2020 will be an unmissable experience.

Why is it unique? Expo 2020 Dubai is introducing a number of firsts in the 168-year history of World Expos. For instance, it will be the first time every participating country has its own pavilion – each featuring a wealth of vivid experiences to showcase that nation, its people, culture, innovations, achievements and aspirations. The 192 Country Pavilions are located not according to geography, as in previous World Expos, but instead by one of the Expo 2020 subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility or Sustainability. Each of these three Thematic Districts is anchored by a headline act: one architecturally incredible pavilion per district that dives deeply into its chosen subtheme with memorable journeys through the past, present and future.

It is the perfect opportunity for the UAE to say ‘hayyakum’ (Arabic for ‘welcome’) to the world and showcase the warm Emirati hospitality for which the country is known.

Opening times: Seven days a week, 1000-0100 on weekdays and 1000-0200 on weekends and special days.



Meet the mascots

Representing the true values of the UAE, the Expo 2020 Dubai mascots were officially launched in Dubai last month.

The mascots include Emirati siblings Latifa and Rashid. Latifa is an inquisitive eight-year-old who dreams of becoming one of the world’s greatest inventors. The chatty youngster loves playing with her chemistry set and disassembling electronics. She is keen to share her knowledge with others and always looking for an opportunity to learn something new.

Her nine-year-old brother Rashid cares deeply for the environment and enjoys poetry, drawing, riddles and family tales passed down through the generations. The two siblings draw inspiration from the wisdom of Salama, a desert-dwelling Ghaf tree who overlooks the Expo 2020 site. Hundreds of years old, the magical character is known for her captivating storytelling, as well as her extensive knowledge of UAE history and culture. She represents the deep-rooted values upon which the UAE was built – such as stability, tolerance and resilience in often harsh conditions – and which continue to flourish.

Under Salama’s watchful eye, Latifa and Rashid are guided by the robots Opti, Alif and Terra – who respectively represent Expo 2020’s three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. Along the way, they must unlock Salama’s secrets, explore the world-changing inventions revealed at past World Expos and discover all about Expo 2020 and the amazing legacy it will leave behind. To learn more,


Building for the future

Dubai Exhibition Centre will provide a solid post-Expo legacy – as well as a significant business opportunity for Dubai

What does it mean to truly build legacy? Bringing the term from concept to actuality is surely the marker of success for any mega-event, with Olympics and World Expos vying for longevity that stretches far past the event itself.

In Dubai, Expo 2020’s physical legacy will take the form of District 2020 – a mixed-use community and innovation ecosystem that supports the growth of Dubai’s knowledge economy.

District 2020 will repurpose 80 per cent of Expo’s built environment, retaining iconic structures including Al Wasl Plaza and the Sustainability Pavilion.

It aligns with the vision of the UAE to build a diversified, competitive, innovation-driven economy, and is focused on driving growth in key industries and technologies, including travel and tourism, logistics and transport, education, construction, big data and AI.

A key element of the legacy ecosystem will be the Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC), expected to play a significant role in District 2020’s legacy plans in attracting domestic and international business events. Its location – next to what will eventually become the largest airport in the world – will enable global exchange and foster new partnerships and networks across key growth markets. Opening to coincide with the start of the next World Expo on 20 October 2020, DEC will place delegates at the centre of the world’s greatest meeting of minds, providing 46,080sqm of flexible space capable of staging immersive event formats.

One of the standout events will be the World Government Summit (WGS), representing the “intellectual hub” of Expo 2020. With former speakers including Elon Musk and Barack Obama, next year’s event is expected to be the largest WGS yet, welcoming 100,000 participants. Other events include the World Blockchain Summit in November 2020 and the Global Education Summit in March 2021, and will collectively help the UAE build on its thriving MICE sector.

“There will be no other place on the planet during Expo 2020 that will provide a better opportunity to network with governments, businesses, educational institutions, thought leaders and industry associations than DEC,” says Shaun Vorster, Vice President of Programming. He adds that the venue’s versatility will also see its hosting of events including comedy shows, music performances and weddings.

But even business events should make memories, says Vorster. “The contemporary ‘bleisure’ traveller expects more than typical business conferences; they are seeking meaningful and authentic cultural experiences.”

The centre is influenced by the UAE’s unique landscape of design, in particular the salt plains and sand dunes. Inside, the halls are made unique by the ingenious use of space. “Once the hall dividers are folded away, they wrap completely into the wall structures so that we can have an uninterrupted continuous space without any pillars – for 28,800 sqm in the South and 17,280 sqm in the North,” says Vorster.

In a recent independent study, EY placed the economic contribution of Expo 2020 up to 2031 at AED 122.6 billion gross value added to the UAE’s economy, proving that: “mega events are a way for destinations to diversify their economies and drive innovation in industry,” asserts Vorster.

DEC has the potential to not only host events; it is also a venue for delegates to connect with Expo 2020’s 192 nations, as well as multilateral organisations, exclusively during the 173 days of the World Expo. And as for the future?

“Destinations, industries and communities grow and flourish on the back of the ongoing development of knowledge, expertise and collaboration,” concludes Vorster. “That is the real legacy of business events.”


A personalised journey through the World’s Greatest Show

Each one of the millions of visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai will enjoy a unique, individually tailored experience

Expo 2020 Dubai will be an endless journey of discovery for visitors – and no two visits will be the same. The millions expected to flock to Expo 2020 over its 173-day duration will not just be enjoying the World’s Greatest Show – they will be immersed in the experience of their lives.

The 4.38 sqkm ‘smart site’ will create a unique and memorable experience for each and every visitor, with the digitally-enhanced journey beginning before visitors even reach the gates of Expo 2020. A clever AI-powered chatbot, developed by Expo 2020 and Smart Dubai and accessed through any smart device, will answer visitors’ questions, providing guidance on various services, including Expo ticket reservations, as well as flight and hotel bookings. It will help support the 30,000 Expo 2020 Volunteers and enhance the visitor experience.

The Expo mobile app is a core part of the personalised journey, elevating the experience by digitally connecting visitors with their surrounding environment and enriching their interactions. From curated journeys based on personal preferences and recommendations for pavilions and other attractions to seek out, to accessing information on events and finding your way to points of interest around the site, the app will ensure you won’t be lost, or lost for things to do.

Groundbreaking Internet of Things technology provided across the site by our partners also has the potential to create a unique environment for each visitor – such as lights that illuminate or speakers that play music to celebrate the visitor completing a challenge. All of this technology, of course, requires some serious network support – and the Expo site is the first commercial location in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region to experience 5G, which is about 20 times faster than 4G. That means visitors can stream live 4K resolution video at any time, with virtually no lag, and opens up a world of opportunities for real-time virtual reality and augmented reality, further widening the choices and possibilities for each visitor’s journey.

That’s not all: we have special plans up our sleeves to showcase the Expo site in ways that must be seen to be believed, for on-site visitors as well as those with internet access around the world. Prepare to be engaged and connected like never before on a personalised journey of a lifetime.


The journey so far: how we have arrived at one year to go until Expo 2020

The final countdown has started. Expo 2020 Dubai is no longer a point in the future that is hard to tangibly grasp. This month – on 20 October 2019 – marks one year to go. That is 12 months; 366 days (because 2020 is a leap year); 8,784 hours; 527,040 minutes; about 31.6 million seconds. The clock is ticking and we are continuing to work hard to present 173 days of unprecedented fun.

Our progress on the delivery of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region has already been remarkable. A total of 192 countries will participate, surpassing the 180-nation commitment we made in our bid, and a significant number of those countries have already broken ground on their pavilions.

Construction of all permanent Expo-built structures will be completed by the end of 2019, the three Thematic Districts are already complete and the engineering marvel that is Al Wasl Dome – the iconic steel trellis structure that forms the beating heart of Expo 2020 and will become the world’s largest projection surface – had its crown lifted into place last month.

To date, we have clocked more than 130 million work hours and, as I write, about 32,000 workers continue to transform our 4.38 sqkm site into a stage fit to welcome an estimated 25 million visits.

Those visitors won’t be disappointed. Thousands of members of the public have already caught a tantalising glimpse of the site thanks to our hugely successful public bus tours, fully booked within hours of being announced. The feedback from those lucky enough to secure a seat has been overwhelmingly positive. Our visible, incredible progress is now directly fuelling the public excitement – as it is our own at Expo 2020, as we see the site develop apace, day by day, when we come in to work.

We can’t wait to complete the road to Expo 2020 Dubai. We hope you will join us on the final leg of what has been a truly exhilarating journey so far.

Najeeb Mohammed Al-Ali, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau