‘World’s Greatest Show’ a chance for UAE, region to shine

The one-year countdown officially began last month for Expo 2020 Dubai, with a campaign starring Black Eyed Peas rapper Will.i.am that invites visitors to what’s being billed as “The World’s Greatest Show.”

From Oct. 20, 2020, to April 10, 2021, representatives from over 200 nations, educational institutions and other entities from around the world will gather at the expo’s 1.7-square-mile site, with exhibits and other programming falling under the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”

It’s the first such event (commonly referred to as a world’s fair) to be held in the Middle East, and according to Marjan Faraidooni, deputy chief visitor experience officer for the event, organizers see it as an opportunity for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and others in the region “to showcase what they have to offer to the world in terms of technology, who they are as people.”

“We want people to understand our history as the United Arab Emirates,” Faraidooni said, and “for people to get to know who the real people of the UAE are, away from the glitz and glamour. 

“A lot of people don’t understand that our history dates around 10,000 years ago. A lot of people associate us from the time that we discovered oil, but … we’ve been playing this role of connectivity with the East and the West for many years. 

“The expo is happening at the eve of the 50th anniversary of the formation of our country,” she continued. “So this is a huge deal because we want to celebrate with the world where we came from, where we are and where we’re heading.”

And on that subject, Expo 2020 Dubai will examine technological ambitions in the UAE and around the world, particularly as pertains to sustainability. One of the expo’s pavilions, for instance, “is really at the forefront of using water management techniques and solar power,” Faraidooni said.

The expo is expecting 25 million visitors, 70% of them from abroad, “so this is truly a world expo, a world opportunity — that’s how we look at it,” she said. “And we want to use this as a moment of time to get people inspired.” 

But beyond the expo’s global scope, of course, the event presents an opportunity for Dubai and the rest of the UAE to showcase itself as a destination. 

“Delivery of the expo is a national project, so there’s a lot of work that’s being done together with the different tourism authorities,” Faraidooni said. “So for example, we work a lot with tour operators and ticket resellers in terms of getting people to the UAE, and clearly there’s going to be development of itineraries that’s not only specifically expo-based [but also] provides options of extending the itinerary to key areas around town.” 

For example, Ya’lla Tours USA has launched a dedicated website for expo tour packages, which include accommodations, unlimited access to Expo 2020, metro passes and roundtrip airport transfers. For more information and reservations, visit www.yallatoursexpo.com.

For more on the expo, go to www.expo2020dubai.com/en.