Dubai EXPO 2020: The World’s Greatest Show


Welcome back, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays because I sure did. I went back to Dubai for the break, where I’ve lived nearly all my life. I’ll spare you the waffle about Dubai in general, as I’m sure you’ve already been or heard about all there is to do there. The Expo is an event that occurs every 5 or so years in a major city where all nations gather in an exposition to exhibit what they do best. This can be in the field of culture, technology or something else entirely and can serve as a platform for cooperation and problem-solving on a global level. The last one was Milan 2015, and COVID delayed the Dubai 2020 edition.

So how was it? 

Well, it blew my socks off.

Before I begin, you must know that It is an absolutely massive place that you will not be able to cover in a single day. I visited the event for 3 days and still have much to cover. 

The gist is that the Expo 2020 site is divided into 3 categories: Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability. Each country is placed into one based on where their work is most appropriate. For example, the Brazil pavilion was in ‘Sustainability’, whereas the US was in ‘Opportunity’. Each section had its own central pavilion that encapsulated the spirit of the category to a varying degree of success. The three sections intersected at a central hub which was a social area under a massive dome, where concerts, light shows and other events were conducted. 

As a collective, it was an incredible experience. It was jam-packed with people from all over the world yet, masks and social distance strictly enforced a general aura of safety. There are restaurants galore that serve food from all corners of the planet, sure to satisfy even the most ardent foodie. The giant dome in the centre is, apart from massive, designed beautifully and gives off a sense of calm and peace I haven’t felt in a while. Just before the interior explodes into light, the shows start playing, each being unique. There are modular stages, meaning that no performance will look exactly alike. I also had the good fortune to be there for New Year’s Eve, and there was a full concert by Armin van Buren. When the clock struck midnight, not only did a mesmerising light show begin with the music turned up to max, they got to project fireworks inside the dome, which just blows my mind. It was spectacular in a general sense.

Things are not so uniform when it comes to individual pavilions. Every country had the freedom to showcase its best side through whatever means they had, and this led to a massive gap in results. Unfortunately, not all countries were represented equally, as most high-to-mid income countries had unique pavilion designs, while other underdeveloped countries were relegated to what I call ‘shoebox pavilions’ due to their shape. It’s a shame and one of the Expo’s few downsides, but some countries flourished more than others. For example, both Romania (my home country) and Moldova (our culturally identical neighbour) got shoebox pavilions. While Romania chose to have a low-key presentation, Moldova instead took the path of showcasing its cultural and historical heritage while adding modern touches. It had an identity, it had passion, it was clearly a labour of love despite its size, whereas it felt like the Romanian pavilion lacked the same passion and vision about showing off our country as compared to our neighbours This is just a specific example, but one which is broadly applicable to the rest of the pavilions. While I cannot describe all my encounters in detail, I will give you all my top 3 favourites in order of preference:

  1. Spain
  2. UAE
  3. Switzerland                   

Of course, your experience may vary. Maybe you would enjoy a pavilion I didn’t find as appealing and vice versa. Obviously, not every country put in the same effort as some of its other counterparts. When it comes to the central pavilions, however, it’s easier to rank as there are only 3. ‘Opportunity’ was clearly made with young children and an educational purpose in mind, as it contained little activities and interactive games that primary school students find appealing. Sustainability was more interesting it had a cool design, a solid message and a lot of neat surprises. None of them compares to Mobility, however. That place will legitimately blow your mind, and I will not spoil much as it has to be seen with one’s own eyes. 

I wish I could do this place justice within a single article but I’ve only scratched the surface and still haven’t seen all it has to offer myself. I do hold the event in the highest regard because of what it aims to accomplish. Furthermore, it’s clear everywhere you look that the ones in charge of the organization spared no expense in its creation. It lasts until March 31st 2022, so the window of “opportunity” (pun intended) is closing as we speak. What are you waiting for? You don’t want to miss out on the World’s Greatest Show.

Osaka 2025, the bar is set. Good luck. 

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