Dubai Expo 2020 legacy: Site a ‘natural fit’ for 2040 Urban Plan, says delivery chief


District 2020, the name given to the Expo 2020 site after the event, will become a vibrant community for events, tourists and residents, according to a senior Expo official.

The Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan is an outline of how and where the emirate will grow and expand over the next 20 years.

The ambitious vision, seen by some as key to the emirate’s evolution into a mature global city, divides the city into five key areas of development, each focused on building on Dubai’s strengths.

The Expo 2020 site, currently preparing for the start of its six-month event in October, is one of the five areas and is set to become the city’s international gateway for exhibitions and events.

More than 85 per cent of what we are building is actually staying

Ahmed Al Khatib, Expo 2020

If you look at what the Dubai 2040 master plan and what it calls for, it actually describes a lot of what Expo has been doing,” Ahmed Al Khatib, chief development and delivery officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, told The National.

“Expo 2020 master plan, whether it is the event plan or District 2020 – which of course its legacy of the Expo – it’s a natural fit of the 2040 Dubai master plan.”

When Expo 2020 finally closes its doors to the public in March 2022, work will begin on transforming the site based on the original plan when it was first designed.

Mr Al Khatib said the more than 85 per cent of the site (higher than the previously announced 80) will remain and the transformation phase – which will last 9 months to a year – will convert the event space into a city area for residents and businesses.

“Since day one, we actually planned everything for legacy. Nothing that Expo has built will be removed, except for the overlay components that you have to build in order to manage the event itself, like the arrival plazas and the security gates,” said Mr Al Khatib.

“More than 85% of what we are building is actually staying. The entire transition phase will be retrofitting the Expo 2020 event area to more of an urban city.”

The country pavilions, which are constructed and paid for by each participant, must be dismantled and shipped to the home country, as per the regulations of Bureau International des Expositions, the expo organisers.


According to the Dubai 2040 master plan, District 2020 is expected to be an economic and growth hotspot featuring affordable housing and a focal point for the exhibitions, tourism and logistics sectors.

Mr Al Khatib said the Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity pavilions and two parks and a water feature will add to Dubai’s array of tourist attractions, all of which will be open to the public very soon after the event concludes.

“This will remain a very strong pillar and a strong tourist attraction like for all the travellers from all over the world,” he said.

The exhibition centre at Expo will be the future location of Dubai World Trade Centre’s exhibition halls.

“We kept the flexibility or expansion for future needs – it is expandable and can accommodate all the future needs we believe,” said Mr Al Khatib.

“It was designed extremely well – it’s a world class venue that caters for all the needs for exhibitions for the exhibition industry.”

He said the affordable housing is already in the Dubai South locality, while there will be apartments available in Expo Village, which is developed by the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Expo preparations

Preparations for the event is itself are “progressing very well”, with almost everything completed ahead of the opening date on October 1.


Expo gave residents a taste of what’s to come with the opening of the Sustainability Pavilion. It closes on April 10 next and Mr Al Khatib confirmed there are no plans to open another pavilion to the public before the big opening.

“The summer is starting and we need to have more focus on the preparation of the site and cleaning the site,” he said.

New Zealand announced its plans to use the event to relaunch itself on the world stage at Expo 2020. Mr Al Khatib said he expects other countries to follow suit.

“This is an event that everybody has been waiting for and it is an event that will be an opportunity for all the countries to use to restart their economies,” said Mr Al Khatib.

“Everybody will be looking at all the opportunities that this event will have, over a six months period, to restart their economy, whether it’s on the local level, or regional or international level, because this event will, of course, host the entire world.”

Covid forced organisers to postpone the event for 12 months, as countries around the world grappled with the pandemic.

Mr Al Khatib is hopeful that with the international response to travel, following the rollout of vaccines, Expo 2020 will still attract large numbers of visitors.

“We are very optimistic that, with vaccination and increased awareness of the entire world of how to deal with Covid, that people will continue to come to this event,” said Mr Al Khatib.

“It’s not an entertainment event, it’s a platform for so many opportunities that the world can benefit from.”

Updated: April 7, 2021 08:23 AM