EXPO 2020 Dubai – New York Social Diary

After eight years and billions in the making, the Dubai Expo 2020 opened this past fall.  The six-month-long exhibit, pushed back a year by the pandemic, is the first world’s fair to be held in the Middle East. A record 191 participating countries, each with its own pavilion, are putting their best foot forward by showcasing their history, accomplishments, tourist attractions and ambitions.
While “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” is the official leitmotif, a trio of sub-themes revolving around sustainability, mobility and opportunity anchors the fair.  Indeed, the entire expo, including its pavilions, aims to be sustainable, relying primarily on solar panels and other renewable sources for energy and recycling much of its water.
But what about recycling the structures that will remain long after the fair ends in March? After all, the infrastructure built for many world extravaganzas like Olympic games and World Cups, often become impractical white elephants. Not so in this case, according to fair organizers, who say that most of the park will be reutilized, becoming a new mixed-use community located strategically between Dubai’s airports and transit hubs and easily accessible by metro.
While most national pavilions will be broken down, the remaining larger ones will be converted to commercial spaces, residences, hospitals, clinics and schools. Whether any of them will attain the iconic status of the Eiffel Tower, which served as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair or Seattle’s Space Needle, unveiled at the 1962 fair, remains to be seen.
Some practical tips: plan ahead.  First, know that to enter the Expo site, located about 20 minutes outside of Dubai, visitors aged 18 and older must show a negative PCR test or proof of COVID-19 vaccination.  Second, book your tickets, making sure to avail yourself of the Smart Queue which will enable you to skip long lines.
The wait times to get into the more popular pavilions like UAE, USA, Italy and India can be quite long.  When I visited in late October, the next availability to check out the Emirates airline pavilion was three days away!
Lastly, note that the fair is a magnet for school groups.  If you want to avoid busloads of young children, you’ll want to visit later in the day, starting at around 4:00 PM.  That will give you less time to see the sights, but it will be relatively calmer.  Keep in mind that it’s impossible to see the whole fair in one day, so if your time is limited, choose your pavilions wisely.  But, don’t just opt for the big, showy ones.  For me, some of the smaller pavilions like Rwanda’s and Afghanistan’s were more rewarding than their flashier neighbors.
Below are some highlights from my visit:
Objects include intricately woven shawls and wedding outfits, bronze daggers, jade relics and ceramics alongside turquoise, lapis lazuli and precious saffron – all indigenous to Afghanistan. I loved the amber and turquoise jewelry available for sale and walked away with a beautiful pair of turquoise chandelier earrings.


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