Expo 2020 Dubai is One Year Away: What to Expect

We are now less than a year away from the start of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will be held from 20th October 2020 to 10th April 2021. As we get closer to the start date, what should you expect from what the organisers claim to be the most significant event to ever be put on in the Middle East, Africa and South-East Asia? We've prepared a brief guide to what some of their plans are.


Dubai Expo 2020 mobility pavilion


What’s a World Expo?

While our previous article about the Dubai Expo 2020 briefly touched on it, World Expos are large international exhibits that aim to highlight countries' achievements. They also place a particular emphasis on celebrating ideas, invention and projects, along with cultural exchange. The first Expo was held in 1851 in London and had six million visitors, among them were Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, and George Eliot. Along with London, 32 other cities have hosted them, including New York, Barcelona, Seville, San Francisco, Shanghai, and most recently, Milan. 

What has come out of World's Fairs, or now, Expos? They include the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Ferris Wheel, the iconic Space Needle in Seattle and IMAX Cinema. Americans believe that the ice cream cone originated out of the 1904 World's Fair in Saint Louis when a Syrian concession vendor cooled one of his confections, shaped it into a cone and scooped ice cream inside.


Dubai Expo 2020

Dubai Expo 2020 will be held in the new Dubai South development, home to the brand-new Al Maktoum International Airport that is poised to become the world’s largest. Dubai South is home to the Dubai World Central Free Zone (DWC), offering you a chance to take advantage of one of the over three-dozen Free Zones in the UAE.  

The Expo is projected to host more than 25 million visits during its run, and with 70% of them coming from people from outside the UAE. With a theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future,’ it will host pavilions from more than 190 participating countries. The pavilions are divided under three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. 

The premises also include Al Wasl Plaza, Jubilee Park and Al Forsan Park to host a range of outdoor events that can house up to 15,000 people in Jubilee Park. The Dubai Exhibition Centre has also gone under expansion for the event and its 45,000 square metre facility will bring the best in innovation, design and technology together to make it an ideal setting to host events in the facilities.

They have also enlisted some of the world’s most highly-renowned architects to create the installations. They include Norman Foster’s Foster + Partners for the Mobility Pavilion (which we’ve included in the picture above), Santiago Calatrava for the UAE Pavilion, Grimshaw Architects for Terra-The Sustainability Pavilion and Cox Architecture for the Opportunity Pavilion.

Plus, as with any Expo, you’ll get the chance to enjoy food and drinks from all over the world from over 200 vendors, including over 30 concepts that are going to be brought to Dubai for the first time. From food trucks to menus carrying the stamps of Michelin-starred chefs, you’ll have the chance to delight your palate along with exploring the cultural and business opportunities at the Expo facilities.


Dubai Expo 2020 latest news

What will you find in each of the areas? Here are the highlights, as well as some of the countries you'll find. 


Opportunity District

The Opportunity Pavilion will use gamification to challenge visitors to think about users related to basic needs such as energy, food and water through simulating real-life environments of those who act as change agents in their communities. Countries in this area include the United Kingdom (where you'll have a look at innovations for the future), Japan, Saudi Arabia, China and Norway. 


Mobility District

The Mobility Pavilion will start on the largest elevating platform and transport you to ninth-century Baghdad's House of Wisdom. The next part of your journey will take you to the historical giants of Mobility that stand at the height of nine metres. The countries in this district are the USA (with a pavilion including a Hyperloop) and the Republic of Korea (where you'll be sure to find K-pop music). You'll also find Poland and Oman, whose pavilion will have five zones dedicated to the over 5,000-year legacy of frankincense in the country.


Sustainability District

The Sustainability Pavilion, also known as Terra, also uses gamification with visitors playing a high-stakes round of pinball. You'll also meet a fish that's displeased with the plastic polluting the oceans. The countries with pavilions in this district include Brazil (whose building will create the Amazon basin) and Spain (which explores a plethora of concepts ranging from organ transplants and biodiversity to adventure and historical innovations centred around a plaza atmosphere). You'll also find the Netherlands, whose pavilion will highlight its sustainable solutions such as a cone-shaped vertical farm


UAE Pavilion

The UAE Pavilion will highlight the country's place in the world as a global hub with connections to all corners of the globe. Calatrava designed it to look like a flying falcon and will highlight the country's leaders objectives of fostering a progressive, pacific society full of promising plans. 


How will Dubai change after hosting Expo 2020? 

80% of the construction around the Expo 2020 Dubai site will become part of a new business district called District 2020. District 2020 has already seen Accenture and Siemens lease space in the area, as well as the aforementioned expanded Dubai Exhibition Centre (DEC).  

While the Dubai government predicted that the emirate's GDP would increase by 3.8 per cent in 2020 and then drop to 2.8 per cent in 2021, questions remain about how the event will impact the rest of the economy. The repurposing of 80% of the Expo's new construction for the new business district following Expo Dubai is part of the legacy planning after the event. The critical thing will be to see how this will all translate to sustained growth into the future. 

If you're looking to discover business opportunities in this area of Dubai during Expo 2020, or even during the legacy period, do not hesitate to contact our team. We will be delighted to guide you on what you need to do to host an event on the premises or work to set up a base in the Dubai South Free Zone.   


Written by

Laura Mackley

Laura Mackley

Senior Associate, Europe Emirates Group  


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