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.”


Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
Updated 6 sec ago

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days

Another 50 migrants rescued off Libyan coast in past two days
  • Migrants picked up by humanitarian group Sea-Watch, which now has more than 400 rescued people on its vessel
  • More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior

ROME: Fifty migrants were rescued on Sunday and Monday by the Sea-Watch 3 vessel in the waters off the coast of Libya.

More than 400 people are now on the boat, according to German humanitarian organization Sea-Watch. It is patrolling the central Mediterranean rescuing people trying to reach the small Italian island of Lampedusa in small, crowded boats.

Meanwhile landings continue non-stop on the island. Three vessels with 52 Tunisians on board reportedly landed on Monday morning, and four boats containing 140 foreigners arrived the previous night. One boat, with 13 Tunisians aboard, managed to reach the shore without being intercepted by coast guard vessels.

“On Sunday we had 152 Tunisians arriving here in six different landings,” Lampedusa Mayor Salvatore Martello told Arab News, giving his latest official figures. “There are now 329 migrants in our facility, which can accommodate a maximum of 250 people.

“The prefecture of Agrigento ordered for them to be transferred to the quarantine ship GNV Atlas, which is moored one mile from the coast. We cannot carry on like this. The entire population here is under stress. We are left alone but we have no intention not to help how we can those who arrive here. But this has been going on for too long.”

Meanwhile, more than 100 migrants from Tunisia arrived over the weekend on the southern shores of the Italian island of Sardinia. They were detained by the Italian coast guard and by police.

“They were very dehydrated and tired as they have covered quite a long distance on a small vessel,” a spokesman for the coast guard in Cagliari told Arab News.

The journey to Sardinia from Tunisia is longer than to Lampedusa, and navigation in recent days has been difficult as a result of bad weather.

Sea-Watch said that its Seabird aircraft, which flies over the Mediterranean looking for vessels carrying migrants so that they can be rescued, also reported what it described as “illegal pushbacks operated by the so-called Libyan coast guard.”

Since 2014, nearly 23,000 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, according to the UN’s migration agency.

More than 49,000 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year according to the country’s Ministry of Interior. This is almost double the number of people who arrived in the same period last year.


More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
Updated 12 min 17 sec ago

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition

More than 150 Houthis killed, injured in Yemen’s Abedia: Arab coalition
  • Yemeni FM meets with chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen

RIYADH: The Arab coalition said on Monday that it carried out 38 operations targeting the Houthi militia in Abedia and the surrounding villages in the Yemeni governorate of Marib.
The coalition said more than 150 militia members were killed and 13 Houthi vehicles destroyed in the operations in the previous 24 hours.
The coalition said that “international organizations must assume their responsibilities toward the civilians (who have been) trapped in Abedia” for weeks.
The Iran-backed Houthi militia mounted a brutal offensive in February to take control of one of the last remaining government strongholds. The energy-rich region has served as a safe haven for internally displaced people fleeing the fighting since the conflict began in 2014.
The Arab coalition began hitting Houthi targets in Abedia last week following an escalation in the militia’s incursions.
This comes as Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak warned of the “dangerous repercussions” of the Houthis’ escalating offensive on civilians and displaced people in Marib governorate.
His comments came during a meeting with the chief of the International Organization for Migration’s mission for Yemen, Christa Rottensteiner.
Bin Mubarak said that the. Houthis’ military escalation “exacerbates the difficult humanitarian conditions of the displaced, especially in the Marib governorate, which is home to more than two million displaced people.”
He also warned that “the international community’s disregard for such practices unleashes the Houthis to commit more violence and violations against civilians, which compounds the displacement crisis, forces displacement of civilians, and increases their human suffering.”


Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
Updated 18 October 2021

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing

Officials: Iraq arrests mastermind of deadly 2016 bombing
  • The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion
  • Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation

BAGHDAD: Iraq said Monday it has detained the mastermind behind a deadly 2016 bombing in a Baghdad shopping center, which killed around 300 people and wounded 250.
The suicide car bombing in the central Karradah district was the deadliest attack by a single bomber in the Iraqi capital after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Two Iraqi intelligence officials said the man identified as Ghazwan Al-Zobai, an Iraqi, was detained during a complex operation that was carried out with the cooperation of a neighboring country they did not name. He had been tracked by authorities for months.
They told The Associated Press that Al-Zobai was detained in an unidentified foreign country and transported to Iraq two days ago. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak of the operation on the record.
The 29-year-old Al-Zobai was an Al-Qaeda militant when he was imprisoned by the Americans in Iraq at Cropper prison until 2008, and then escaped from Abu Ghraib prison in 2013. He joined the Daesh group after that.
The officials said Al-Zobai plotted many attacks in Iraq, the most infamous of which was the 2016 bombing in Karrada in 2016. He operated under the Alias Abu Obaida.
At least 292 people died from the bombing, most of them from an ensuing fire that turned the Hadi shopping center into an inferno. The blaze was fed by a tinderbox of shops filled with clothing and oil-based perfumes for sale and lined with flammable panels.
Al-Zobai’s arrest came in the second such operation conducted by the Iraqi National Intelligence Service since Iraq’s federal elections Oct. 10.
Iraqi officials said they captured Sami Jasim, an IS leader last Monday in a similar operation abroad. Jasim had a $5 million bounty on his head from the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, which describes him as having been “instrumental in managing finances for IS terrorist operations.”


Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
Updated 18 October 2021

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border

Syria buries former lawmaker shot near Israeli border
  • Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday at the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a government office
  • Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire

DAMASCUS, Syria: A former Syrian lawmaker allegedly felled by Israeli sniper fire was laid to rest Monday in an official funeral attended by hundreds of people near Damascus.
Midhat Saleh, a well-known figure in Syria, was fatally shot Saturday in Ein el-Tineh, a village along the Israeli border in the Golan Heights where he ran a Syrian government office. Syria said he was killed by Israeli sniper fire. Israeli military and other officials declined to comment on the charge.
Israeli media, however, said Saleh had been assisting the Iranian military presence against Israel. If the Syrian claims are confirmed, it would mark the first time that Israeli snipers are known to have killed someone identified as an Iranian-linked target across the border.
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war and later annexed the area. Most of the world does not recognize the annexation, though the Trump administration declared the territory to be part of Israel.
On Monday, Saleh’s coffin, wrapped in a Syrian flag, was brought in an ambulance from the Mamdouh Abaza hospital in Qunetira to Jaramana, on the outskirts of Damascus, for burial at a Druze cemetery. Hundreds of people attended, in addition to senior officials and Druze clerics.
Saleh was born in Majdal Shams, in the Israeli-controlled side of the Golan, and was jailed several times by Israel, most recently for 12 years until 1997. He later moved to Syria, was elected to parliament in 1998 and served as an adviser to the government on the Golan issue.
Saleh’s son, Golan, a 17-year-old student, said that his father has always told him that the territory would return to Syria.
“I am proud that my father was martyred,” he said.


Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
Updated 18 October 2021

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic

Egypt poverty rate falls 3% despite pandemic
  • Extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide

CAIRO: Egypt’s poverty rate has fallen to the lowest level in 20 years, according to data from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics.

The agency said that poverty rates in Egypt fell to 29.7 percent during the 2019-2020 fiscal year — a decline of 2.8 percent from the 32.5 percent recorded in 2017-2018. It added that this reflects the success of the country in striving for social justice in conjunction with economic reforms implemented by the state.

The agency said that extreme poverty in Egypt (the percentage of people who cannot secure their food needs) decreased nationwide to 4.5 percent in 2019-2020, down from 6.2 percent in 2017-2018.

The agency noted a correlation between growing family sizes and financial insecurity, saying: “The increase in the size of the family is a cause and a consequence of poverty. At the same time, it is a result of poor families not having sufficient social protection and therefore resorting to having more children for social protection when old or ill as a source of income.”

CAPMAS said that 80.6 percent of individuals who live in families with 10 or more members are poor, and that 48.1 percent of individuals who live in families with 6-7 members are also poor, compared to 7.5 percent of families with fewer than four members.

The agency indicated that education levels are the most relevant indicator of poverty, as poverty rates decrease as the level of education rises among parts of the population.

The percentage of poor among Egyptians with no formal education reached 35.6 percent in 2019-2020, compared to 9.4 percent for university graduates.

CAPMAS said that the Egyptian state is “making a lot of efforts” to protect the poor with the aim of improving the quality of life of citizens.

Social programs launched by the Egyptian government form the cornerstone Egypt’s Vision for Sustainable Development 2030.

The agency said that one of the most important programs is the national project for the development of Egyptian rural villages, which aims to improve living standards, build infrastructure, support people with disabilities and boost urban services.

The CAPMAS results came as the International Monetary Fund raised its forecast for the growth of the Egyptian economy during 2021, despite lowering estimates for the global economy.