5 pavilions you mustn’t miss at Dubai World Expo
Think Disney’s Epcot, meets the Eden project and large-scale Grand Designs with a dash of the Science Museum. If you ever visit an Expo, be prepared to be wowed!
5 pavilions you mustn't miss at Dubai World Expo
Expos are amazing!
If I had to sum it up I’d say they are really just a big festival of ideas. Think Disney’s Epcot, meets the Eden project and large-scale Grand Designs with a dash of the Science Museum. If you ever visit one, be prepared to be wowed!
The participating countries build or adapt a pavilion and fill it with everything they want to share about their country, from sustainable design and technology - to their proud history, culture and natural beauty and resources.
I think the aim is to build business connections and improve trade, but I’ll be honest, the atmosphere is more like a fiesta than a stuffy business park! In 2001 I visited Parque das Nações in Lisbon, which was built for their Expo in 1998. It has a huge Oceanarium, representing all the oceans of the world – it was the first place that I saw sea otters asleep, floating along holding hands!
The Eiffel Tower was built for an Expo, or ‘World Trade Fair’ as they were called at the time, and Crystal Palace too and I have always wanted to visit one in full swing.
When it comes to the World Expo in Dubai, like everything they do in Dubai, they’ve aimed to be bigger, better, brighter! This is the first Expo to be held in the Middle East after all. The UAE government have gone all-in with Expo fever, nationals have been given extra time off work to attend with many employers buying tickets for their staff to visit.
The moment you arrive you’re blown away by the sheer size and scale of everything. When you clear the entrance - proof of negative covid test, vaccinations and masks required - you might come across a Moroccan choir, a flock of giant blue birds with a stilt-walking ringmaster, or even a robot security officer checking that you have your mask on, who knows!
Dubai is an amazing place to catch a bit of winter sun, and if by any chance you are visiting Dubai during Expo (before March 2022) then I urge you to go and check it out!
UK and Pakistan
Let's get to the pavilions...
I know I’m biased, but the UK Pavilion was one of my favourites. The building itself is beautiful, it’s huge, light and airy, but that’s not all. The UK Pavilion is inspired by Stephen Hawking’s final project. Visitors are asked to ‘donate’ a word as they enter and the AI in the pavilion creates a poem. The poems are displayed on the panels outside the building and then saved. They will be used as part of the UK’s ‘first contact’ should humans encounter intelligent life elsewhere in the universe! Aliens and AI, I was in geek heaven!!
My poem, the word I chose was ‘Relentless’.
A series of trees, Relentless
It will never be silent,
It will be like the beginning of time
Good to know
The UK Pavilion holds other exhibitions, all tied into the theme of ‘In the future’. The recent exhibition of sustainable fashion entitled ‘In the future – what will we wear?’ had speakers from British Fashion Council, Jimmy Choo and the Royal College of Art and spectacular catwalk shows.
1851 Restaurant serving classic British food. If you’re missing your roast dinner and Yorkshire puds while you’re in Dubai, this is where you need to be!
The Pakistan pavilion is gorgeous. It’s a shimmering, sparkling, fantasy of a building. Coated in 24,000 diamond shaped foils, that shimmer and glisten like scales, and change colour depending on the angle of sunlight and how close you are to the building.
Inside, the pavilion tells the story of Pakistan, it’s heritage and ancient civilisations with a carefully curated collection of artefacts and art from across the country.
This pavilion smells AMAZING! Part of the exhibition is a huge copper bowl filled with gulaab (rose) petals, and I’m not quite sure how they’ve done it, but the scent carries throughout the building. You almost don’t want to head back out into the world after being cocooned in the perfectly scented temperature-controlled environment!
Good to know
The pavilion also pays tribute to Pakistan’s ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project for reforestation. So far 430 million trees have been planted.
There is a gift shop with the most exquisite hand-made gifts and accessories. I bought a new hand-stitched facemask as a little memento.
Austria and Hungary
The Austria pavilion has the motto ‘Austria makes sense’! Visitors are encouraged to explore and experience Austria with all their senses. You’re encouraged to touch everything – the kids will love it, and there’s nose bathing (that is the only way I can describe it!) in the scent of an Austrian pine forest. It’s a huge wooden bowl that can fit about 15 people, made from Austrian pine, with the most amazing smell as the oils disperse in the air.
Making art using my heartbeat! There's quite a lot for children to do in here too.
Good to know
The sandcastle-like cones of the pavilion are modelled on wind towers from local UAE building traditions. It was 36 degrees outside, and the building was still pleasantly cool - the cones are different heights and that causes air to constantly move, providing temperature balance. Sustainability goals!
Here you will find the Viennese coffee house in the centre, where East meets West in their love for coffee!
I have to admit, I didn’t know much about Hungary before I visited this pavilion. Shocking really, as I’ve got a couple of Hungarian viszlas. Mind you, they don’t talk much!
It turns out that, with 1,300 thermal springs, Hungary is also known as the Land of Waters. The high mineral quality of the water means they are an up-and-coming destination for wellness. Lake Hévís is the largest thermal lake in Europe and has curative mud containing radium, said to ease arthritis. After learning more about what Hungary has to offer in terms of wellness retreats, it has moved up my holiday wishlist!
The immersive water experience in the Dome. Dive in and get wet without water! The entrance to the Dome experience is towards the end of the pavilion and easy to miss, but it’s such great fun. It’s essentially a giant ball pool for adults underneath a domed 360-degree cinematic screen, transporting you through storms and heavy rainfall while you splash about in the balls!
Good to know
Something else that I learned in this pavilion –the oldest demarcated official wine region in the world is not in France, it's in Tokaj in Hungary.
You can sample traditional and modern Hungarian food and the famous water at Gastro Roots restaurant
Japan & the best of the rest
Al Forsan District
You should know in advance that I’m very interested in Japan and Japanese culture, so I was DESPERATE to see this pavilion. I wasn’t on my own! The queue to enter was the longest that I had encountered, it was outside and though shaded it was still incredibly hot, so if you’re visiting make sure you have water in preparation.
In true Japanese style they had approached things differently to the other nations I visited, and each entry time was fixed, allowed a certain number of people, and you were guided throughout. It was the most amazing fun though. You make choices as you move through the pavilion, and these choices determine your route and create your own personal avatar who joins you. The whole experience is quite surreal, at one point I found myself in the middle of a group of strangers, marching around a suspended globe with my avatar, clapping my hands and singing in Japanese!
The mitate! These tiny models made from everyday objects are so cute, and as you wander around with your handset you get sound effects too.
Good to know
If you can’t make it to Expo, you can join the excitement in the Japan pavilion as they offer a digital, virtual experience that enables guests from anywhere in the world to learn about and join the activities! See the handy links at the bottom of this article!
The first Sushiro, (kaiten sushi chain restaurant) in the Middle East is on site here and it is A-mazing! Pre-booking is a must.
Best of the rest
You can’t miss the USA pavilion, just look out for the huge SPACEX rocket towering above the Al Forsan district.
Once you’re inside make sure you touch a piece of the moon after you have admired all the space memorabilia.
The Dubai residents that I spoke to were agog about the Australia pavilion, as it has not one, but two outdoor alcohol bars, something that would have been unheard of in Dubai’s recent past. Once you have made your way through the pavilion, full of amazing indigenous art, you exit into ‘Melbourne Lane’, a street style venue with live music and refreshments!
It’s not just countries that are exhibiting here, big-business have taken up residence for the duration. At the Emirates pavilion you can experience the future of flight in virtual reality, as well as design your own aircraft and perform experiments with robotic arms. I recommend this if you’ve brought the children!
I don’t know why I have left this one until the last. The Women’s pavilion really moved me.
It’s easy to forget how different life can be for women and girls around the world, not just different from their male counterparts, but also from each other. Education and opportunity for women are very different, the lucky ones among us can see that society has come a long way, the less fortunate are still fighting for the right to learn. This pavilion looks at the effects of poverty on women around the globe, and particularly the impacts of the recent pandemic, which disproportionately affect women the world over.
It is not all doom and gloom though, a second wave of information shows the positive effect of women, highlighting worldwide initiatives and solutions by women and their ripple effect to create a better world. We should take our daughters. Better yet, take our sons!
I would recommend the World Expo 2020 to anyone with an interest in the world, the future, science or invention, you won’t regret visiting!
Thank you for reading!
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