How Expo 2020 Dubai showcases Arab achievements, heritage and ambitions

Special Expo 2020 Dubai has been such a big deal, not just for world expos but also for the Middle East and North Africa region as a whole, with the Arab world occupying center stage for the first time. (AFP/AN Photo)
Expo 2020 Dubai has been such a big deal, not just for world expos but also for the Middle East and North Africa region as a whole, with the Arab world occupying center stage for the first time. (AFP/AN Photo)
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Updated 19 February 2022

How Expo 2020 Dubai showcases Arab achievements, heritage and ambitions

Expo 2020 Dubai has been such a big deal, not just for world expos but also for the Middle East and North Africa region as a whole, with the Arab world occupying center stage for the first time. (AFP/AN Photo)
  • Arab pavilions are thoughtfully designed, with enormous curb appeal, cultural significance and avant-garde architecture
  • Exhibits pay homage to the feats and wisdom of past generations, while setting out concrete visions for the future 

DUBAI: In 1851, the Great Exhibition set out to bring culture, history and innovations together in one place — London — for the world to see. Since this inaugural world expo, however, more than 85 percent of the global events have been hosted by either European or North American cities.

Some notable exceptions are the expos held in Asia, including Osaka in 1970, Aichi in 2005 and Shanghai in 2010, almost all of which set attendance records. But to date, these major events have been predominantly northern and western hemisphere affairs.

That is why Expo 2020 Dubai has been such a big deal, not just for world expos but also for the Middle East and North Africa region as a whole, with the Arab world occupying center stage for the first time.

As host, the UAE has offered the very essence of Arab hospitality, first by dedicating a pavilion to every participating nation, and, second, by giving every nation its own “national day” throughout the event. Saudi Arabia’s day fell on Jan. 7.

Expo 2020 Dubai has also had a distinctly Arab feel. The site is peppered with traditional Arabic design features, on its sunshades, water fountains and even public seating.

It is a well-known expo fact that pavilion positioning is everything, often indicating a nation’s global significance and its relationship with the host. With masterful design planning, the UAE was able to place participating Arab countries at the heart of the action, giving them greater visibility and prominence.

Naturally, the UAE pavilion is the largest, occupying the prime position. Its immediate neighbor is the impressive, world record-setting Saudi Arabian pavilion, and close by are Morocco, Palestine, Egypt, Kuwait and other Arab countries.

The Saudi pavilion achieved three Guinness World Records for the largest interactive light floor, the longest interactive water curtain and the largest interactive digital screen mirror. But it is not alone in showcasing avant-garde architecture ideas.

Many Arab pavilions are thoughtfully designed, with enormous curb appeal and cultural significance. They are also among the largest in the expo, and several have already been earmarked to remain as permanent structures on the site, tied to their nations as cultural centers after the event concludes.




Front view of the man made EXPO 2020 lake in Dubai Desert, UAE. (Supplied)

While the expo lives up to its theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” it also offers a visible celebration of Arab cultures and nations on a global stage.

World expos have long been used by participating states to present a national narrative, which are often framed to project the country in the most marketable way possible in order to boost trade and tourism.

Nations use the events to communicate aspects of their culture and heritage, create mutual understanding, and shape global public opinion through art, innovation, entrepreneurship, technology and policy.

Arab pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai each tell a different story. However, a series of common themes has emerged: Celebrations of heritage; concrete and incisive approaches to the future; and a focus on cultural, social and environmental sustainability.

Themes celebrating the past are normally divided between the ancient past, such as the Bronze Age settlements of Failaka Island in Kuwait, and the more recent past, before the rapid urbanization of the last half-century.

Indeed, the Arab pavilions go to great lengths to pay homage to the feats and wisdom of past generations. For example, the first exhibit in the UAE pavilion features a stylized desert, with the soft, fine sand of Emirati dunes used as a projection surface for old film reels paying tribute to Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father. 

In the nearby Vision Pavilion, dedicated to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, a guided video tour begins with the story of his stay with a Bedouin leader in the desert as a child, and the lasting impact that connection with the land made on him as a leader.

In the Saudi pavilion, ancient cultural sites, such as the tombs in Al-Hijr, At-Turaif District and the AlUla valley, are featured in a striking visual tour of the rich cultural history and natural beauty of the Kingdom.

The pavilion has hosted more than 1,800 events, activities, programs and themed weeks that reflect the Kingdom’s vibrant society, longstanding heritage and new economic opportunities.




With masterful design planning, the UAE was able to place participating Arab countries at the heart of the action, giving them greater visibility and prominence. (AFP/File Photo)

In the Oman pavilion, meanwhile, a focus on frankincense highlights the sultanate’s eye-catching landscape and long trading history.

Far from focusing exclusively on their glorious past, Arab pavilions look to the future. Many have a concrete vision that highlights targets set in order to achieve desired development outcomes.

Saudi Arabia has put sustainability at the heart of its vision for the future, Vision 2030, which seeks to diversify its economy, alongside a pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2060.

Egypt has its own Vision 2030 plan, announced in 2016, which sets out eight national targets aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on an inclusive economy, education and the environment.

Sustainability is a prominent theme across all Arab pavilions, with a particular focus on passing cultural riches, knowledge and prosperity on to the next generation.

In this vein, Kuwait’s pavilion addresses the resilience of its earliest settlements, while a stylized water tower at the pavilion’s center highlights the ways in which humans have carefully managed its natural resources in order to flourish there.

Exhibits in the pavilion also focus on Kuwait’s system of democracy and investment in its young people.

The theme of overcoming adversity can be found in several pavilions belonging to Arab states that have endured conflict and economic instability.




While the expo lives up to its theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,” it also offers a visible celebration of Arab cultures and nations on a global stage. (Dany Eid/Expo 2020 Dubai)

Although Lebanon’s pavilion is much more austere compared with other Arab offerings, its message is a strong reminder of the resilience of its people.

Given the multitude of challenges the nation is facing, the pavilion’s presence is a powerful statement in its own right. Like Kuwait, the pavilion’s content focuses on the country’s youth, particularly its artists.

Taken together, Arab participants in Expo 2020 Dubai have made good use of this global stage to highlight their achievements, heritage, ambitions and fortitude. In this sense, the expo can be considered an Arab triumph.


Iranian ex-president lauds anti-regime protests

Iranian ex-president lauds anti-regime protests
Updated 07 December 2022

Iranian ex-president lauds anti-regime protests

Iranian ex-president lauds anti-regime protests
  • ‘Freedom trampled under pretext of protecting security,’ says Mohammad Khatami
  • Former leader calls on regime to meet protesters’ demands ‘before it is too late’

LONDON: Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami has praised anti-regime protests and urged authorities to meet protesters’ demands “before it is too late,” the BBC reported.

The two-term reformist president, who served between 1997 and 2005, described “woman, life, freedom” as a “beautiful slogan,” and said that it showed Iranian society was moving toward a better future.

Khatami also criticized the security forces’ crackdown and arrest of students.

“It should not be allowed that freedom and security are placed in opposition to one another, and that as a result freedom is trampled under the pretext of maintaining security, or that security is ignored in the name of freedom,” he said.

“I advise officials to appreciate this presence and instead of dealing with it unjustly, extend a helping hand to them and, with their help, recognize the wrong aspects of governance and move toward good governance before it is too late.”

Khatami’s comments came in a statement to mark Student Day on Wednesday, with students having been at the forefront of the wave of protests that are now into their fourth month.

Protests were sparked by the September murder of 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Iran’s notorious morality police.

Her death ignited pent-up frustrations over falling living standards, and discrimination against women and minorities.

Protests have spread to more than 150 cities and 140 universities in all 31 of Iran’s provinces, and are now considered the most serious challenge to the regime since it took power in the 1979 revolution.

Iran’s leadership has sought to portray the protests as “riots” instigated by “foreign enemies.”

Despite the brutal crackdown by security forces, which have led to the deaths of 473 protesters and the detention of more than 18,000 people, demonstrations show little sign of abating, with Khatami describing student involvement as “perhaps unprecedented.”

Iran’s judiciary also sentenced five protesters to death on charges of “corruption of the Earth” on Tuesday, with 11 others, including three children” handed long prison sentences.

Director of Iran Human Rights Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam told AFP News: “These people are sentenced after unfair processes and without due process. The aim is to spread fear and make people stop protesting.”

A total of 11 protesters have now been sentenced to death, with the country’s judiciary chief saying on Monday that executions will be carried out “soon.”


Iran executions up more than 50% this year

Iran executions up more than 50% this year
Updated 07 December 2022

Iran executions up more than 50% this year

Iran executions up more than 50% this year
  • Over 500 people killed, says rights body
  • ‘Crackdown led by President Ebrahim Raisa’

LONDON: Iranian authorities have executed more than 500 people this year, according to data released by Iran Human Rights.

Up more than 50 percent on 2021’s figure of 333, the spike in executions marks a dramatic shift following years of decline, with numbers only likely to climb amidst the government’s brutal response to protests in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini while in police custody.

Five further death sentences were handed out to protesters yesterday, for killing a member of the security forces, bringing to 11 the total number arising from the protests.

Meanwhile nine people have been charged over the killing of Iran’s nuclear weapons chief, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, in November 2020. Israel’s security agency, Mossad, has been blamed for Fakhrizadeh’s death.

Newly elected president and former prosecutor, Ebrahim Raisi, played a central role in the 1980s killing spree that resulted in the execution of thousands of opposition supporters.

His election last year, combined with the surging number of death sentences, are considered reflective of the increasing dominance of hardliners over Iranian politics.


New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission
Updated 07 December 2022

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission

New launch date floated for UAE’s moon mission
  • Initial launch date was delayed several times to allow for additional pre-flight checks

DUBAI: The UAE’s moon rover is set to blast off “no earlier than Dec. 11” after a series of tests were conducted on the SpaceX rocket.

In a statement, ispace inc., the Japanese firm that built HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lander carrying the UAE’s Rashid rover, said the initial launch date was delayed several times to allow for additional pre-flight checks on the rocket.

The Emirati-made Rashid rover will launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US, at 7:38 a.m. GMT on Dec. 11, embarking on a five-month journey to the moon in the Arab world’s first lunar mission.

 

 

“ispace’s Mission 1 lunar lander was integrated into the SpaceX Falcon 9 fairing and battery charging operations for the lander will continue,” said the firm.

“No issues with the lander itself have been identified. As of today, no major operational changes are planned, with lunar landing scheduled for the end of April 2023.”

If the rover lands successfully, the UAE will be the fourth country to reach the moon.


Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country
Updated 07 December 2022

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country

Somalia praises UAE for its relief efforts in the country
  • Abdul Shakour’s comments were made on the sidelines of a conference held on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters

DUBAI: Abdul Rahman Abdul Shakour, Somalia’s special envoy for the President for Humanitarian Affairs and Drought, praised the UAE on Wednesday for its relief efforts in the drought-stricken country. 
“The UAE is a pioneer in providing the necessary support to Somalia in this crisis, as it was the first country to respond to the appeal launched by the Somali government to provide urgent relief to those affected by drought,” said Abdul Shakour.
He noted that the UAE fulfilled the needs of approximately 2.5 million people after it airlifted supplies and sent a ship carrying more than 1,000 tons of food and relief items to Somalia. 
Abdul Shakour’s comments were made on the sidelines of a conference held on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters, which was jointly sponsored by the Arab League and United Nations.
The conference included several of senior officials from Arab philanthropic organizations and UN humanitarian bodies that aim to coordinate actions plans that will help address the worsening food situation in the African nation.


UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense
Updated 07 December 2022

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

UAE leaders meet Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense

DUBAI: UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum met with Afghanistan’s acting minister of defense during his official visit to the country.

The leaders discussed bilateral ties and areas of potential cooperation with Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob in two separate meetings in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, reported state news agency (WAM).

They also reviewed issues of mutual interest.