Millions of people will begin converging on Dubai this week as the Covid-delayed Expo 2020, the world’s biggest event since the pandemic, finally unveils its gleaming pavilions in the desert.
The Expo site in the dusty Dubai suburbs has remained strictly off-limits during its year-long postponement but the wraps will come off on Thursday at an opening ceremony attended by Emirati royalty.
The first world fair was held in London in 1851, when it was housed in the purpose-built Crystal Palace, and it featured the Eiffel Tower — intended as a temporary attraction — in Paris in 1889.
The next biggest event held in the world during the pandemic was the Tokyo Olympics, where strict virus rules saw spectators banned from nearly all venues.
The United Arab Emirates, population 10 million, has reported rapidly dwindling coronavirus cases in recent weeks, dropping below 300 on Sunday — less than half the figure a fortnight earlier.
“Our nation’s talented citizens were able to convert this vision into a comprehensive plan for success, conveying a message to the world that our commitment to excellence makes us an important contributor to shaping the globe’s future,” he said, according to official media.
The fair is another feather in the cap for Dubai, which has long strived for recognition with achievements such as the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at a towering 828 metres (2,717 feet).
“The core of World Expo has always been a sense of global spectacle, and the UAE’s built environment is well placed to give it just that,” said an opinion piece in the newspaper.
Workers were putting the final touches on infrastructure and facilities at the site this week as the clock ticked down to the delayed launch.
A full-scale hyperloop cabin, touted as the future of long-distance travel and transport, is among the exhibits, while Egypt has imported an ancient coffin from pharaonic days.
The Dutch have a pyramid covered with edible plants and irrigated by solar-generated rainwater.
The fair grounds will be opened to the public on Friday.