Expo 2020 Dubai’s closing ceremony on March 31, 2022, was never meant to be the end. Expo City Dubai carries the legacy of the mega event forward with a unique experience for the emirate’s residents and visitors
When Alexander Bain displayed his invention of the image telegraph – known today as the fax machine – at the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, it set a precedent for future World Expos. In the years to follow, the international fair would go on to become a platform for humankind’s ingenuity, ambition and entrepreneurship.
A hub for inspiration, inventions from the television to tomato ketchup made their debuts at these events while landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Space Needle in Seattle, were especially built in the host cities and unveiled during the fair. And on October 1, 2021, the mega event marked its first edition on Middle Eastern soil with Expo 2020 Dubai.
Preparations for the mega event began in 2013 when Dubai won the right to host the international fair. In the lead-up to its opening, the landscape of the emirate and the nation transformed drastically as a host of new attractions, from Ain Dubai to the Museum of the Future, launched during its run.
The event itself cemented the UAE’s presence on the global stage as one of the most diverse World Expos, bringing almost 200 country pavilions to Dubai to champion innovation, culture and a theme of togetherness. Across 180 days, the Expo site in Dubai South hosted more than 30,000 events, from cultural performances to live entertainment showcased on the world’s largest projection surface – Al Wasl Dome.
Such was its success that in the six months that passed from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai recorded 24,102,967 visits from residents and international travellers combined, with many high-profile names in attendance, from heads of state, beloved celebrities as well as international, regional and local royalty.
Expo 2020 Dubai’s well-timed opening during the UAE’s landmark golden jubilee year in 2021 was a cause for celebration befitting of such a global event. But moving forward, it is the legacy of the event that will now take the country into its next 50 years. Although plans for Expo 2020 Dubai’s legacy were first unveiled even before the fair began, it was just a few weeks ago that Dubai saw the official opening of this master Expo legacy project.
A city of the future
Expo 2020 Dubai now lives on as Expo City Dubai. This new zone was inaugurated on October 1, 2022, on the occasion of Expo 2020 Dubai’s one-year anniversary. When the project was first announced earlier this year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: “This new city will be home to an extraordinary new museum, a world-class exhibition centre and the headquarters of cutting edge and fast-growing companies.”
A green, tech-enabled city of the future, Expo City Dubai is driven by sustainability, innovation, education and entertainment. The site retains 80 per cent of its original infrastructure, with most of its iconic architectural features continuing to entice visitors. This means that visitors will be able to walk through the stunning Al Wasl Plaza and be mesmerised by the images projected on its iconic dome, enjoy aerial views of the entire site from the Garden in the Sky observation tower and run up the walls of the stunning water feature.
As for the three thematic pavilions, the Opportunity Pavilion will become the Expo 2020 Dubai Museum, highlighting the history and impact of World Expos. Meanwhile, the Mobility Pavilion and the Sustainability Pavilion will host interactive educational experiences.
The Women’s Pavilion, dedicated to female changemakers, and the Vision Pavilion, which honours the vision of the emirate’s ruler, will also remain major highlights at Expo City Dubai.
Country pavilions that will continue to draw visitors to the site include the Saudi Arabia Pavilion, which won the best pavilion award at Expo 2020 Dubai for its interactive digital mirrored screen, and the falcon-inspired UAE Pavilion. Referencing the local tradition of falconry, the pavilion’s dome comprises more than 25 feather-like panels, which resemble a falcon at rest when the panels are closed. When they open up to reveal the solar panels inside, it mimics the falcon taking flight.
A new entertainment venue
Expo 2020 Dubai saw some of the biggest stars in the entertainment world enthral audiences with captivating performances. The line-up is set to continue with the site hosting similar events in the months ahead. Cultural and educational experiences will also be on offer for visitors of all ages.
Other leisure facilities will include a mall for those seeking retail therapy and numerous sports venues, which will not only host international tournaments but also enhance fitness facilities for the active community in Dubai. And finally, in keeping with Expo 2020 Dubai’s culinary focus, dining establishments at the site will continue to offer flavours from around the world.
Expo City Dubai has unveiled a new blueprint for a better life with its sustainability-first ethos. In keeping with its eco-friendly environment, cars are not allowed inside. Most of its zones are completely pedestrianised while soft mobility options, including buggies, scooters and bicycles, are available for people to move around with ease. The use of single-use plastic is also prohibited inside the city, encouraging people to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The site will eventually comprise 123 LEED-certified buildings, epitomising the highest levels of sustainable design, construction and operations. These buildings will be fitted with smart metering systems and sensors to monitor energy consumption as well as the efficiency of power, light, water and climate conditioning systems.
One of the biggest takeaways of Expo 2020 Dubai was that even in the face of extreme adversity – the pandemic – the world was able to come together to create something of this magnitude. And Expo City Dubai will reiterate this message as it continues to build the foundation of a new hub based on innovation, creativity and opportunity, that will inspire every resident, tenant and visitor to contribute to the world in positive ways.