How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges

Workers are pictured next to the Expo 2020 logo ahead of the opening ceremony in Dubai on Sept. 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Rula Rouhana)
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Workers are pictured next to the Expo 2020 logo ahead of the opening ceremony in Dubai on Sept. 30, 2021. (REUTERS/Rula Rouhana)
The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is pictured on Sept. 30, 2021 on the day of the Expo 2020 opening. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP)
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The Burj Khalifa in Dubai is pictured on Sept. 30, 2021 on the day of the Expo 2020 opening. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP)
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Updated 01 October 2021

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges

How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to address pressing global challenges
  • For 170 years, World Expos have provided a platform to showcase the greatest innovations
  • Expo 2020 seeks to ‘connect minds, create the future’ through sustainability, mobility and opportunity

DUBAI: A multiple reuse rocket. A desert farm where food grows using salt water. Pop-up theaters. A hyperloop carriage where passengers feel what it is like to travel in a superfast vacuum. These are just some of the experiences visitors can enjoy over the next six months at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since 2013, when Dubai won over a panel in Paris with its presentation, the expo has easily been the most talked about event in the UAE.

Indeed, Expo 2020 has become a byword for an event to be celebrated not just for the scale and ambition of the projects and pavilions on display, but also because the organizers hope that it will be a game-changer for host Dubai.

The event, which got underway on Thursday with a grand opening ceremony, reportedly showcases over 200 participating entities, including about 192 countries, and features 60 events. Anticipation has grown because the opening has been delayed by a year due to the pandemic.

The fact that the expo is going ahead on such a scale with an expected “25 million visits,” even as travel remains difficult after 18 months of closures and postponements, is probably a feat in itself.

A 4.38-square-km site in Dubai South near the new Al-Maktoum International Airport, the city’s second, has been transformed over the past eight years. The center point is Al-Wasl Plaza, dominated by a massive molded steel dome designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture of the US.

The permanent structure is 130 meters wide and 67 meters tall. It can screen images both internally and externally and will host the expo’s main opening ceremonies.

Expo 2020 Dubai has an ambitious goal: to create lasting change in the world.

“What is extraordinary is the diverse range of programs Expo 2020 has put together — it is a global celebration evident in the events and festivities centered around 192 participating countries all showcasing their own culture, heritage and innovation,” Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president for marketing strategy and sales, told Arab News.

“More importantly, Expo 2020 reflects the inclusive spirit of the UAE, where we have over 200 nationalities living.”

The World Expo dates back to 1851 when the first event, then called the “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” took place in London.

It served as the first of what are now called World Expos, which have been staged every five years at an international city for a period ranging from three to six months. Dubai is the 34th World Expo to take place and follows the one previously held in Milan in 2015. The next is scheduled to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 expo.

Today, the aim is to find solutions to global issues and challenges. Countries around the world have built pavilions that showcase their latest architectural and technological innovations, in accordance with a particular theme.

For Expo 2020, this is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” with the aim of exploring possibilities in the spheres of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. Technology on show should be unique, pioneering and sustainable.

The event, said Ramanathan, is taking place at “an inflection point in our society,” when the act of uniting and celebrating together has become a rare event.

“People have not been able to come together for nearly two years now,” Ramanathan said. “We are hosting an event at a time when the world is trying to manage the challenges of a global pandemic.




A general view shows the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP) 

“People have not been able to meet, interact, experience, engage, or exchange in a physical environment, and that’s what makes this expo incredibly special — the ability to be able to bring together a platform for collaboration and cooperation at a time when the world perhaps needs it the most.”

Despite the challenges, Expo 2020’s ambitious goal of delivering 25 million visits over the course of its six months — it runs until March 31, 2022 — remains.

Every single country from the original 192 participants, said Ramanathan, is coming to Expo 2020. And it is not just the country pavilions that hope to capture the spotlight.


Visitors can view a host of other attractions, such as a collaboration with Cartier to design and host a pavilion dedicated to highlighting the advancement of women in the Middle East.

Commencing as it does just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26, kicks off in Glasgow, UK, Expo 2020 predictably puts a strong emphasis on environmental protection and sustainability.

Terra — The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, aims to meet the highest available accreditation for sustainable architecture, the LEED Platinum certification.




A view of Terra, The Sustainability Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo site in Dubai. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

There is also Alif — The Mobility Pavilion, designed by the award-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners. It features what it says is the world’s largest passenger lift, which can transport over 160 people at a time.

The pavilion is dedicated to discoveries in cutting-edge mobility devices and has a partially open-air 330-meter track for visitors to view new gadgets and technology in motion.

In typical Dubai style, the opening ceremony featured high-tech performances and an impressive line-up of international stars. They included opera singer Andrea Bocelli; classical pianist Lang Lang; international pop stars Ellie Goulding, Andra Day and Angelique Kidjo; and regional stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Ahlam Al-Shamsi and Hussain Al-Jassmi.

Ramanathan said more than 1,000 performers and technical crew worked on the 90-minute extravaganza, which the organizers hope will change the way people around the world view Dubai and the UAE.




Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on Sept. 30, 2021. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)

She said ticket sales were strong, with an uptick in demand from countries across the world, including the UK, France, Germany, the US, Africa and the Middle East and North Africa region.

All an overseas visitor needs to be eligible to visit the event is a single successful PCR test and a flight ticket.

“The focus is really on what this expo will mean to you depending on what you are interested in,” Ramanathan said, adding that the programming is designed both for the individual and a broader collective, be it business networking, social and environmental change, knowledge and learning, space travel and exploration, or arts and culture.

What is proposed is an exercise in broadening and expanding knowledge about other people and places as well as introducing the power of new philosophies and ideologies, she said.

“What is most interesting is the fusion of the programming that we are offering,” Ramanathan told Arab News. “You can view the traditional, such as the heritage of each country, as well as the most avant-garde technology and innovation.”

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor


Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says
Updated 06 December 2021

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

Egypt to avoid future water crises through investment, minister says

CAIRO: Egypt will avoid water crises through investment and construction, Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Aty has said.

In a presentation of the ministry’s strategy through 2050, Abdel-Aty also denied the “black propaganda” which asserts that “Egypt takes the lion’s share of Nile water.”

He said: “97 percent of our water resources come from the Nile and the rest is low percentages of rain and other outlets. Everyone must be aware of the importance of preserving water.”

As part of state efforts to avoid future water crises, the 2017-2037 strategy requires $50 billion in investment and financing, he added, saying that due to population growth, that figure could exceed $100 billion over the coming decades.

Abdel-Aty said: “The new legislation for the Water Resources Law was very necessary, and the executive regulations for this law are being prepared, and they may be completed for issuance within two or three months.”

Egypt’s water needs exceed 114 billion cubic meters annually, according to ministry statistics. Total water resources accounting for reused water numbers 80 billion cubic meters per year, while the total amount of water from renewable resources measures 60 billion cubic meters.

The ministry’s strategy will involve four main areas: Rationalizing water use, improving water quality, providing additional water sources and creating a climate for optimal water management.

“There is no doubt that the water crisis will worsen with time, but the state will not allow a water crisis to occur in Egypt. We will contribute to raising awareness of the importance of rationalizing consumption. There is an optimal utilization of water resources,” Abdel-Aty said.

“We are facing black propaganda that Egypt takes the lion's share of the waters of the Nile, and this is not true.”

He added that Egypt’s climate means that it does not have sufficient access to green water, unlike Ethiopia. “They also have more blue water, and there are lakes in Ethiopia that contain 50 billion cubic meters of water.”

Abdel-Aty said: “Efforts made by the state on the issues of good water management and rationalization have not happened since the days of Muhammad Ali. The political leadership is keen to take all measures aimed at the good management of water resources.”


Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours
Updated 06 December 2021

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours

Arab coalition carries out biggest operation in Marib in 24 hours
  • Action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks,

RIYADH: More than 280 Houthi militia members were killed in one of the largest operations targeting the Iran-backed group in Marib in just 24 hours, the Arab coalition said Monday. 
The Arab coalition said it conducted 47 operations against the Houthi militants in Marib, during which34 Houthi vehicles were destroyed as well as ammunition storage sites, Al Arabiya TV reported.  
The action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks, including weapons and personnel.


UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader
Updated 06 December 2021

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

UAE’s Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed meets with Iranian leader

TEHRAN: Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s National Security Adviser, met with Iranian president Ibrahim Raisi on Monday, state news agency WAM said in a report.
During the meeting, both sides discussed bilateral relations between the two nations and potential ways to enhance these ties. 
Al-Nahyan and Raisi also exchanged views on several issues of common interest.


Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
Updated 06 December 2021

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
  • Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD: Four Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed in an attack blamed on the Daesh group, a security official said Monday, the third such assault in less than two weeks.
Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq that targeted an outpost north of Kirkuk, the source said.
Kurdish army forces confirmed the deadly attack but did not say how Peshmerga fighters were killed in wounded, in a statement accusing Daesh of responsibility.
It was the third attack blamed on Daesh militants in less than two weeks against the Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
On Thursday, Daesh claimed responsibility for an assault south of the Kurdish capital of Irbil that killed at least nine Peshmerga fighters and three civilians.
At the end of November, five Peshmergas were killed in a roadside bombing also claimed by the militant group.
Daesh seized swathes of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014, before being beaten back by a counter-insurgency campaign supported by a US-led military coalition.
The Iraqi government declared the extremists defeated in late 2017, although the Daesh retains sleeper cells which still strike security forces with hit-and-run attacks.


Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
Updated 06 December 2021

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
  • Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years
  • Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups

JERUSALEM: A 16-year-old Palestinian rammed a vehicle into an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank overnight, wounding a security guard before being shot and “neutralized” at the scene, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Monday.
Israeli media reported that the alleged attacker was killed, while a ministry official declined to comment further.
The attack came two days after a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli man just outside Jerusalem’s Old City and tried to stab a Border Police officer before being shot and killed. Video taken by bystanders showed the police continuing to shoot the attacker after he had dropped to the ground and preventing medics from approaching him.
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. The soldier was imprisoned for several months in a case that divided the country.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said the two officers involved in Saturday’s shooting were brought in for questioning before being released without conditions. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials have praised the officers’ response to the attack.
Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years. Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups, which have praised the attacks without claiming responsibility for them.
Rights groups say Israel sometimes uses excessive force, killing suspected attackers who could have been arrested and did not pose an immediate threat. Israeli officials say forces must make split-second decisions in dangerous situations and that all such incidents are investigated.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. The territory’s 2.5 million Palestinian residents live under Israeli military rule, with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority administering cities and towns.