Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle
The 90-minute opening ceremony was watched by VIP guests, including the UAE royal family and other dignitaries. (Photos: AFP/AP/Reuters)
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Updated 01 October 2021

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle

Expo 2020 Dubai kicks off with star-studded spectacle
  • Opening ceremony offers inspiring performances relaying world fair’s theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’

DUBAI: The Middle East’s first World Expo kicked off in Dubai on Thursday night, with organizers dubbing the showpiece “the event of the century.”

The opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai streamed live to more than 430 locations across the UAE in locations ranging from airports and shopping malls to hotels and other landmarks.

The event took place in the visually stunning, 67-meter-high Al Wasl Dome, and featured an international program of music and cultural performances.

“We intended to deliver the event of the century for the country simply because failure was not an option, and we needed to live up to the expectations of Dubai and the UAE,” Tareq Ghosheh, chief events and entertainment officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, told a media briefing before the event.

Exhibitors from almost 200 countries will feature in the six-month world fair.

Dubai won the bid to host the event in 2013, making it the first World Expo in the Middle East.

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The 90-minute opening ceremony was watched by VIP guests, including the UAE royal family and other dignitaries, and featured high-tech performances from UAE-based performers and international artists.

These included tenor Andrea Bocelli; actress, singer and songwriter Andra Day; British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding; pianist Lang Lang; and four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo.

“We wanted to make sure that the story we were narrating to the world was quintessentially Emirati, but with a global DNA, and represented the themes of Expo 2020 Dubai through art and technology,” added Ghosheh.

More than 900 cast members, representing 64 nations, including the UAE, took part in the ceremony.

Auditions for roles in the opening ceremony took place in March 2021 in the UAE, Kate Randall, vice president of ceremonies and programming at Expo 2020 Dubai, told Arab News.

“We did around 42 auditions and those who were successful took part in the ceremony. These include both professionals and volunteers who have never performed before.”

FASTFACTS

• Streamed live to more than 430 locations across the UAE

• ‘Event of the century’ brings 192 nations together for first time in World Expo’s 170-year history

The evening began with an address from Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, minister of tolerance and coexistence, and commissioner-general of Expo 2020 Dubai. Reading in Arabic, he told the story of the UAE’s founding, highlighted its belief in unity, innovation and tolerance, and said that Expo 2020 Dubai also celebrates the emirates’ 50th anniversary.

“We have always strived to create a better life, with our leaders’ vision in mind,” he said. “We have focused on investing in human development, expanding our infrastructure, diversifying our economy, and creating opportunities for everyone to prosper and grow.”

The opening ceremony marks the start of one of the largest international events since the outbreak of the global pandemic.

“Our mere presence here, amid all the challenges the world is facing, is proof of our keen commitment and desire to make the world a better place for all,” Sheikh Al-Nahyan added. “By hosting Expo 2020, we aim to convey a message of tolerance and that we are willing to collaborate with all of the world.”

Expo 2020 Dubai will bring 192 nations together for the first time in the 170-year history of World Expos. Each will be represented by its own pavilion under the policy of “one nation, one pavilion.”

The opening ceremony highlighted the UAE’s message of tolerance and hope for the future with a dazzling three-act show directed by Belgian theater director Franco Dragone.

Performers dressed in elaborate costumes and high-tech attractions added to the spectacle.

The performance featured Mira, a young Emirati girl representing hope for all people. Throughout the ceremony she appeared wearing a long traditional Emirati pink robe embellished with golden jewelry.

Conceived to focus on Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” the ceremony delivered a story of humanity and the planet. Spectators were guided by Mira, who spoke of the beauty and power of the human spirit, and its ability to connect all people and elements from the natural world.

The final act, “Creating the Future,” reflected themes of living in harmony and humanity’s opportunity to create a “perfect garden.”

A moving performance by Bocelli brought the evening to a close. As the tenor’s voice echoed around Al Wasl Dome, an illuminated tree could be seen rising from the stage, while performers dressed in elaborate costumes danced triumphantly.

Guests remarked on the emotional power of the performances. “It was so breathtaking, I don’t know what to say,” one could be heard saying as she left the ceremony.

“It was such a feat to pull off; they worked so hard,” said another.

Dubai media personality Rosemin Madhavji told Arab News: “It was a beautifully curated selection of artists, and I loved the storytelling element. Everything was so smooth, from the greetings by staff through to the security.”


Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
Updated 6 sec ago

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation

Beirut blast probe judge cleared to continue investigation
  • A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Tarek Bitar from questioning top officials
BEIRUT: The probe into last year’s deadly Beirut port blast has been cleared to resume after being suspended for more than a month on legal claims against its lead investigator, judge Tarek Bitar, a judicial source said.
A Beirut court rejected the last of the suits preventing Bitar from questioning top officials on Tuesday.
“They have reversed the decision that had led to the suspension of the probe and he can now resume his work for sure,” Nizar Saghieh, head of the Legal Agenda, a research and advocacy organization, told Reuters.
The resumption could be temporary should further legal complaints be filed, he said.
The investigation into the Aug. 4, 2020, blast that killed more than 215 people, injured thousands and destroyed large swathes of the city has made little headway amid pushback from powerful factions, some of whom lead smear campaigns and filed multiple suits against Bitar.
The leader of the Iranian-backed, armed Shiite Muslim political movement Hezbollah has repeatedly said he wanted Bitar removed from the case and the row over him has spilled over into government, with Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s cabinet unable to meet since Oct. 12.
Many Lebanese are angry that more than one year on from the blast no senior official has been held accountable for the country’s worst peace-time disaster as it slips into political and economic meltdown.
Bitar has sought to question senior politicians, including former ministers and members of parliament, since July but nearly all have spurned him.
He is the second judge to take charge of the investigation after a legal complaint against the partiality of his predecessor Fady Sawan saw him removed in February.

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4
Updated 07 December 2021

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

BASRA: At least four people were killed and 20 wounded in an explosion in Iraq's southern city of Basra, police and hospital sources told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police are still investigating the cause of the blast, which took place in the city centre, near a main hospital. The explosion set fire to at least one vehicle and damaged a minibus.
One police source said that an initial investigation showed that a motorcycle rigged with explosives could have been the cause of the blast. 


UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022

UAE government switches weekend to Saturday-Sunday starting 2022
  • The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported

DUBAI: The UAE government will transition to a four-and-a-half-day working week, with Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday forming the new weekend starting Jan. 1, 2022 for all federal departments, state news agency WAM reported. 
The new system will be applied in all federal government entities with working hours from 7:30 a.m. till 3:30 p.m., it added.
Working hours on Fridays will start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12 noon, with the possibility of flexible working hours or work from home options during those days. Friday sermons and prayers will be after 1:15 p.m. all year long in the UAE. 
The decision is aimed at boosting productivity and improving work-life balance, WAM reported.


UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
Updated 07 December 2021

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed

UAE’s new 50-dirham banknote features Sheikh Zayed
  • It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country
  • The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used

DUBAI: UAE rulers witnessed the launch of a new 50-dirham banknote on Tuesday, in celebration of the country’s 50th National Day. 
The initiative comes in honor of the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan, and the country’s first generation of rulers to commemorate their dedication and historical role in uniting the country.
It is the first polymer banknote to be circulated in the country.
“We see in this issuance the new phase that UAE will enter, and a renewed pledge to continue its growth path. The occasion also allowed us to express our appreciation and gratitude to our founding fathers by issuing a new AED50 banknote to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the UAE,” said Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of the UAE. 
The front of the new banknote features a portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed on the right, and the memorial picture of the founding fathers after signing the union document. 
Meanwhile, the back side includes a picture of the late Sheikh Zayed signing the union agreement as well as illustration of the Etihad Museum, which witnessed the establishment of the union and the raising of the UAE flag for the first time.
According to state news agency WAM, the new banknote will be available in Central Bank branches and ATMs ‘in the near future’.
The current 50- dirham note will continue to be used.
Polymer banknotes are said to be more durable and sustainable than traditional cotton paper banknotes, lasting two or more times longer in circulation. They can also be completely recycled, thus reducing their environmental footprint.


Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 07 December 2021

Syria says fires extinguished at Latakia’s port following Israeli ‘aggression’

 Israeli Air Force F-35 fighter jets fly over the Mediterranean Sea. (REUTERS file photo)
  • Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria

CAIRO: Fires caused by an Israeli “aggression” at Syria’s Latakia port on Tuesday had been extinguished, leaving material damage, but the status of any casualties was unclear, Syria’s state media reported.

Five explosions rocked the port city after an Israeli “aggression” hit the port’s container yard, sending fire trucks racing to the site, Syrian state TV said.

Israel has mounted frequent attacks against what it has described as Iranian targets in Syria, where Tehran-backed forces including Lebanon’s Hezbollah have deployed over the last decade to support President Bashar Assad.

The Mediterranean port of Latakia is the country’s main port, through which food and other crucial supplies flow into war-torn Syria, and is close to Russia’s main air base of Hmeimim.