A visit to Dubai offers plenty of exciting experiences at any time, but right now it’s more marvelous than ever. Expo 2020 Dubai brings the world together in one space with 192 country pavilions, over 100 restaurants, and an entertainment calendar to keep you entirely occupied. Learn more about Expo 2020 Dubai ›
Once you’ve made your way around the world, relax at a luxury hotel, take a private city tour, or set off on a desert adventure. View packages
All eyes turn to the United Arab Emirates as it hosts the Middle East’s first world’s fair.
For 170 years, world’s fairs have introduced innovations that continue to shape the way we live today. Who could imagine life without live television (New York, 1939), ice cream cones (Saint Louis, 1904), or mobile phones (Osaka, 1970)? But as the first such event in the Middle East, Expo 2020 Dubai sets historic precedents. Held every five years in cities around the world, the massive global gathering – postponed by the pandemic from its original date last year – kicks off today and runs through March 31, 2022. Attendees will connect with innovators and catch entertainers and cultural experiences from more than 190 countries. Your Virtuoso advisor can arrange flights, hotels, tickets, private guides, and all the other details. Here’s a preview of what to expect in Dubai.
Get a Lay of the Land
Asif Khan’s 69-foot-tall gates welcome attendees with geometric mashrabiya screens woven in carbon fiber and anchored by the soon-to-be-iconic Al Wasl Plaza, which is topped by a domed trellis with a 360-degree projection surface. As expected, the Emirates went big: Expo 2020’s site sprawls across an area twice the size of Monaco. Inside the grounds, more than 200 country, organization, and thematic pavilions, venues, and parks are divided into three districts. Each venue reflects one of the fair’s themes – opportunity, mobility, and sustainability – and hosts multiple events, from UAE schoolchildren greeting each morning with song to the World Chess Championship (November 24 through December 16), in which Norway’s Magnus Carlsen will defend his title.
Follow Your Passion
If navigating hundreds of exhibitions and events sounds a tad overwhelming, don’t worry – the Expo has crafted one-day itineraries based on interests, from architecture to tech. (A network of automated electric People Movers helps save your feet when moving across the campus.) Stops on a health-and-wellness-centric route, for instance, include the Belarus pavilion, to see 4D bioprinters that can reproduce living cells, and the Comoros pavilion, to learn about the ylang-ylang flower’s healing properties. Highlights of a culinary-focused day include learning about the cultivation of Peruvian quinoa and a three-course menu straight out of the year 2320 (looks like we’ll be feasting on bioluminescent jellyfish and a tart of levitated peas).
Make Sure Not to Miss
We predict the following standout experiences will define Expo 2020 Dubai for years to come.
The UK presents a duo of exciting venues. The Stephen Hawking-inspired Poem Pavilion projects an illuminated message into space and encourages attendees to contribute their own words for our intergalactic brothers and sisters. Afterward, wander through its maze of augmented-reality exhibits showcasing British advancements in artificial intelligence and space technology. Over at the Foster + Partners-designed Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, exhibitions from the producers of Avatar and The Hobbit show how mobility is the driving force behind human development – a notion reinforced by a ride on a 160-passenger elevator, the world’s largest. Another exhibit explores the role that AI, big data, robotics, machine learning, and autonomous transport will play in smart cities of the future.
Meanwhile, the USA Pavilion in the Opportunity District tells the story of American ideals in four exhibits accessible via a moving sidewalk, from a recreation of the Statue of Liberty’s torch to a multimedia program on the technology that enabled advances such as sustainable energy, quantum computing, and the democratization of space. The theme of space culminates with an hourly nighttime show that projects the minute-long liftoff of SpaceX’s Falcon 9. A courtyard beneath a replica of the rocket serves classic American cuisine and hosts live entertainment daily.
Canada drew inspiration from the country’s landscape and diversity for its wooden lattice pavilion; its circular design is a nod to Middle Eastern architecture that symbolizes the theme of collaboration toward a better future. Inside, a 360-degree theater immerses visitors in the Canadian landscape across seasons and highlights its natural resources, First Nations traditions and knowledge, and urban diversity.
In a sea of eye-popping architecture, the UAE Pavilion will likely garner the most buzz. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the 15,000-square-foot structure to resemble a falcon in flight, with a roof made of 28 cantilevered wings that shelter solar panels and shade the building’s perimeter when open. The four floors within it showcase Emirati culture and achievements. Like the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Seattle’s Space Needle, the pavilion will stand as an iconic reminder of the world’s fair for decades to come.
In addition to the opening and closing ceremonies, Expo 2020 Dubai will celebrate a national day for each participating country with a flag ceremony, music, and dance at the Stage of Nations in Al Wasl Plaza (the U.S. celebrates on November 28; Canada holds court on January 28, 2022), as well as a full roster of international and religious holidays. Highlights of the packed entertainment schedule include performances by the Expo’s all-female Firdaus Orchestra, consisting of singers mentored by renowned composer A.R. Rahman. The fair will also host TED-style talks, forums, and workshops pegged to thematic weeks, such as Climate & Biodiversity (October 3 through 9) and Travel & Connectivity (January 5 through 15, 2022). No matter the day, the stakes are high for Dubai – travelers heading to Expo 2020 expect the world.
Images courtesy of the Dubai Tourism unless otherwise noted.