It’s time. The final countdown has begun. There are only 100 days left for the Greatest Show on Earth: Dubai’s Expo 2020. With COVID-19 protocols firmly in place, the emirate is gearing up to welcome visitors from far and wide; more than 190 countries are participating, bringing their best offerings to the table. As we head firmly into show time, here’s a look at 100 things to see, do and know about when October comes around.
1. On November 27, 2013, Dubai won the World Expo hosting bid, making Expo 2020 Dubai the first world exposition ever to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.
2. In the same vein, Expo 2020 Dubai is also the biggest event in the Arab world to date.
3. Expo 2020 is the first World Expo where each of the 192 participating countries will have its own standalone pavilion.
4. The Expo 2020 site stretches over a staggering area of 4.38 square kilometres, equivalent to four times the total land area of the largest shopping mall in the world – The Dubai Mall.
5. From a bird’s-eye view, the venue resembles three flower petals, each petal a Thematic District – Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
6. At the end of each zone lies a special Thematic Pavilion, a curated offering by the Expo organisers that epitomises the theme of that district.
7. At the heart of the venue is Al Wasl Plaza – the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface, which is constructed with 13.6 kilometres of steel, think the height of 16 Burj Khalifas stacked on top of one another.
8. The ultra-lightweight carbon-fibre gates to Expo 2020 are something entirely special. Designed by British architect Asif Khan, the three 'Entry Portals' reflect the event logo from certain angles, so keep your eyes peeled for that illusion. Though the gates are 21 metres high, you can swing it open with ease.
9. The Entry Portals employ a futuristic adaptation of the traditional mashrabiya shade structure, a design used across the region to regulate light and airflow.
10. Speaking of the Expo logo, it was actually inspired by an ancient ring found in Saruq Al Hadid, an archaeological site in southern Dubai. The relic is an apt symbol of drawing a connection between the present and the future of the UAE.
11. Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by Grimshaw Architects, is built to be net-zero for both energy and water. Among the solar-panelled 'Energy Trees', the self-sustaining building will also host a 'Water Tree' to capture water from air.
12. Alif – The Mobility Pavilion is home to the world's largest passenger lift, a spacious platform that can carry up to 160 passengers at a time (38 based on current social distancing restrictions) all the way to the third level of the building.
13. Donate a word at the UK Pavilion, which will use artificial intelligence to create poetry that will be projected onto the pavilion’s facade.
14. If you are a coffee lover there’s so much in store for you – head on over to the New Zealand pavilion for a sip of specialty coffee, which is ethically sourced, by Raw Coffee Company.
15. At the Spanish Pavilion, you will smell the ‘Forest of the Future’, woody scents from the northern Iberian Peninsula forests.
16. Did you know? The Netherlands is bringing vertical farming on to the Expo site – get ready to see mushrooms growing on pavilion grounds.
17. In Austria, you will smell the woodlands – a lovely woody scent that will make Austrians think of home and the rest plan a visit.
18. You can see the 3.18-million-year-old Lucy – one of our oldest ancestors – at the Ethiopian pavilion.
19. Take a hike in the Switzerland Pavilion – literally – and end your journey with authentic fondue here.
20. Pay homage to your inner child when you visit the Luxembourg Pavilion – you can slide down from the top of the Möbius-shaped building.
21. You can eat your plate once you are done with it at Expo 2020 - check out the South Africa pavilion for these; in Austria meanwhile, you’ll be served treats in more conventional – still yummy – packages such as ice cream cones that can be consumed afterwards.
22. In the Czech Republic Pavilion, there’s an unusual water solution to be had – it will showcase how water vapour can be extracted from the air using solar power.
23. Expo is dedicating an entire pavilion to celebrate women and the multiple vital roles they play in society. The Women's Pavilion is a first for World Expos since the 1900s.
24. Oscar-nominated director Nadine Labaki will be in charge of directing a moving film that will encapsulate the Women's Pavilion for the visitor.
25. Expo 2020 Dubai has gathered 142 social innovators from 76 countries to help solve some of the most challenging problems of our era as part of Expo Live.
26. There are plenty of immersive experiences at Expo 2020 that showcase history and culture. Head to the US or Canada Pavilion for 360-degree immersive shows that will edutain.
27. Bring your appetite to this show - there are more than 200 food and beverage outlets and 50-plus international cuisines that will offer nosh from across the globe.
28. Dive into the depths of the ocean at the Norway Pavilion, where an interactive underwater exhibition will tell you all about the country's seafaring heritage - and did we mention that the pavilion is built in the shape of a mighty cargo ship?
29. Yes, Expo 2020 has its own dedicated mobile app. With the help of the official app, you will be able to enjoy exclusive built-in features to enhance your visitor experience like creating your very own schedule of events, attractions, and parades, as well as planning your journey to the site.
30. Expo is also set to launch a special app for people of determination called PODium, developed in collaboration with SAP, which will be an inclusive support guide dedicated to visitors with visual or hearing impairments, autism or intellectual impairment, dementia, photosensitive epilepsy, or reduced mobility.
31. Looking for an oasis with hanging gardens? Visit the Singapore Pavilion to experience how it would be like to live with shrubs, trees and other greens in cities.
32. The steel supplier for Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, ArcelorMittal, used 170 tonnes of steel made from recycled scraps to build the loopy white facade of the Luxembourg Pavilion.
33. As part of Expo's education initiative, the event even has its own anthology of 68 short stories that were submitted by the participating countries to enhance children's reading skills and help them explore new cultures.
34. Check out ‘Al Wasl Opera’, UAE’s first opera with music by award-winning composer Mohammed Fairouz and dialogues penned by bestselling author Maha Gargash.
35. Worried about the distance between you and Expo 2020 Dubai? The event has its own metro station called the Expo 2020 Station. Get off at this station, and you can directly arrive at the venue’s Metro gate.
36. Looking for an Instagram post that’ll turn others green? Sit yourself down on the Arabic calligraphy inspired benches and take a shot.
37. Located at the heart of Expo, Rove Expo 2020 is the only hotel on site and will feature 312 king, twin and accessible Rover Rooms as well as 19 Rover suites.
38. The UAE will break its previous Guinness World Record and host an even larger jiu-jitsu training session on November 15, 2021, at the Brazil Pavilion.
39. Want to see one of the new Seven Wonders of the World? At the Jordan Pavilion, you can rediscover the lost city of Petra, its entrance flanked by abstract towering canyons a lot like the gorge at the mouth of the ancient city.
40. If you're picky when it comes to the water you drink, head over to the Romania Pavilion that has a mineral water bar. Thank us later.
41. Chile is showcasing an interesting development: antimicrobial nano-copper technology. When the copper is mixed into clothes or into paint – as it is for the country pavilion’s use – it turns the surface an untenable home for a virus. Perfect timing, no?
42. The Mexico Pavilion will showcase the country’s famous Día De Los Muertos (Day of The Dead) festival on November 10, 2021. Popular – and typical - costumes will be worn during a parade on the day.
43. Experience a little piece of history as you visit the Peru Pavilion. The entrance will bring the ancient Incan bridge of Q’eswachaka to Dubai, the last standing Inca monument for the past 600 years.
44. At the Bahrain Pavilion not only will visitors be able to witness pros at work, weaving handloom and doing embroidery, they will also be able to pick up souvenirs at the pavilion gift shop.
45. Russia is throwing a party across Dubai. The participant country is bringing you ballet, folk dance, a sophisticated gala dinner and several music festivals throughout the six months of its participation at Expo 2020 Dubai.
46. The future is here – Uber will test flying cars during Expo 2020 Dubai.
47. Did you know? Expo 2020 has a volunteer programme that involves more than 30,000 volunteers from various ages, nationalities and cultures - that's more than the population of Dubai's Jumeriah.
48. When at the Ireland Pavilion, take note of a pair of mathematical diagrams on the facade. It’s the Hamilton's equation of motion – a mathematical formula that dates back to the 19th century and unlocks the basis for dealing with motion in three dimensions, still relevant to the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence and animation today.
49. Speaking of cool facades, head on over to the Japan Pavilion for a three-dimensional treat; the building is covered in what looks like origami paper cranes. This architectural element has two advantages: it makes the pavilion very, very photogenic and acts as an environmental filter, reflecting light and keeping the interiors cooler naturally.
50. A bacteria-resistant furniture collection means lower risk of contamination and infection, so make your way down to the Finland Pavilion worry-free, where Isku, the first in the world to develop antimicrobial furniture, is bringing its state-of-the-art technology and interior to Expo.
51. If you find yourself craving an authentic South Asian gastronomy experience, the Pakistan Pavilion has a 'Dhaba', which will transport you to a roadside shack.
52. Expo will ride the chess series 'Queen's Gambit' fever later this year by hosting the FIDE World Chess Championship 2021, a 14-game showdown between Magnus Carlsen, the four-time world champion, and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi.
53. The first chess set that went up into space will land at Expo 2020 Dubai. When the cosmonauts of spacecraft Soyuz 3 and Soyuz 4 completed their missions, they did so in the company of a special chessboard for the first time in 1968 and 1969, respectively.
54. India is all-set to welcome visitors with a festive atmosphere; various events are planned around festivals such as Diwali, Lohri, Pongal, Basant Panchami and Holi to showcase the diversity in the 1.3-billion-plus population in the country.
55. Worried about visiting Expo 2020 and the WiFi being on the fritz? It’s becoming less of a possibility thanks to the introduction of 5G on the premises; whether you need the net to communicate with your office, home or digital media followers, Expo has you covered.
56. For engagement, try the Israel Pavilion, where ‘Desert blooms’, invite visitors to climb up and engage in interactive activities or recreations. There is also ‘Gates to the Future,’ an audiovisual show above the pavilion, showing Israel‘s landscapes.
57. There's a pavilion that will float on a shallow pool of water, a country home to the majestic Amazon Basin. So head over to the Brazil Pavilion to walk in refrigerated water that will create a cool micro-climate inside – you won't even miss the air-conditioning.
58. There are plenty of souvenirs to be had, whether it’s bags or limited edition T-shirts, there’s something for everyone.
59. The Italy Pavilion offerings involve coffee and oranges – except, you can't eat these. Crushed coffee and dried orange peels will instead paint the pavilion in an innovative approach to circular economy, where nothing goes to waste and, indeed, nothing will.
60. Never had the chance to see Michelangelo’s world-famous David sculpture? The Italy Pavilion houses a 3D-printed, five-metre-tall version of the statue. You can thank digital scanning, lasers and one of the worlds largest 3D printers for that 21st-century miracle.
61. Witness the projects that are changing the world first-hand: Innovations such as the Maji Bucket, which has saved thousands of lives thanks to its easy delivery of water for hygenic handwashing during COVID times will be on display.
62. Expo 2020 Dubai has six mascots to keep the children sufficiently entertained: Salama, an ancient and wise Ghaf tree; Latifa and Rashid, Emirati siblings interested in the sciences and the environment; and their robot sidekicks Alif, Opti, and Terra, who are the guardians of their respective pavilions – Mobility, Opportunity, and Sustainability. And guess what? They have their own fantastical universe.
63. Take a walk at the Azerbaijan Pavilion, which features 1,300 square metres of gardens and walkways.
64. Music and drama are integral to the Belarus experience, and its country pavilion will feature live performances by national folk and dance groups.
65. Here is another one for the space lovers: a replica of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will greet visitors at the United States Pavilion. This will also be the tallest structure on site.
66. Let’s talk food. Taste the best of Nordic cuisine, with a twist when you visit the Estonia Pavilion. Sample the country’s traditional rye bread and beloved local desserts here.
67. Hydrogen is the fuel of the future and, of course, at Expo, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) will feature hydrogen mobility by powering a number of fuel-cell vehicles with hydrogen produced by the first solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility in the Middle East and North Africa.
68. The Syria Pavilion is a deep dive into culture. Here you will find the Hurrian Hymn – the oldest hymn known melody – and learn about the development of early writing systems and the first alphabets. How can you say no to that?
69. Want a cool view for a sunset? Head on over to the Belgium Pavilion, which offers a lovely lounge experience with a stunning vista.
70. Grab a red parasol at the Switzerland Pavilion and create a collage with other visitors on the imposing mirror facade at the entrance.
71. Calling all football fans: the Chile Pavilion will host a Chilean-Arab integration week, where you can meet Chilean footballers Luis Antonio Jimenez and Carlos Villanueva from the Santiago-based Club Deportivo Palestino football club.
72. Visit the Tajikistan Pavilion for a chance to see an ancient technique of embroidery, known as chakan. The traditional style features on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
73. Experience the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, or ‘jebena buna’ in Amharic, at the Ethiopia Pavilion. Traditionally led by women, the ritual consists of roasting, grinding and boiling coffee beans over an open flame in a clay pot called the jebena, then finally serving the freshly brewed coffee to visitors.
74. Designer Morinaga Kunihiko has created a 'lit' look for the Japan Pavilion's staff, featuring a retroreflective pattern that reveals intricate designs when light hits it.
75. Burundi is bringing its specialities to Expo 2020 – in its pavilion you can sample delicious local coffee, mountain tea and even some honey. In fact, it's also offering hair braiding experiences - are you ready for a beautiful weave?
76. How would you like to dance the cha-cha? Learn the vivacious Cuban dance in a truly Cuban environment at Expo 2020.
77. See cool mobility devices in action on a partly open-air and partly underground 330-metre track that runs around the Mobility Pavilion.
78. Visit Vietnam through an immersive virtual reality offering. Then, enjoy authentic foodie favourites pho and nem.
79. Expo 2020 Dubai will certainly keep you busy with up to 60 live events each day throughout the six-month event.
80. Experience an interactive hologram at the Turkmenistan Pavilion.
81. Al Wasl Plaza actually has an additional 10-plus metres on the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Expo's jewel is 67.5 metres tall.
82. Given the hundreds of hectares that the Expo site covers, planning your visit might feel overwhelming at first. Fear not, the event comes with bespoke itineraries that will prioritise your sole interests - find curated tours for families, foodies, techies and whatever your passion may be on the Expo 2020 mobile app coming this September.
83. The Republic of Korea Pavilion’s facade is a dynamic one. It aims to show varying images and colors by the minute by connecting and rotating cubes, according to its official website. Visitors will be able to enjoy the exhibitions at the half-open hallway while passing-through the spiral aisles simultaneously experiencing both the interior displays and exterior view, it adds.
84. Get your unique Emirati-made souvenir brought to you by Expo 2020’s Design and Crafts Programme, which offers handmade, high-tech, traditional and contemporary crafts.
85. Even a stroll around Expo's public spaces is an artistic experience. A trail of contemporary artworks curated by Egyptian-born curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh is the perfect opportunity to discover never-before-seen artworks.
86. Approximately 340 species of plants, shrubs and grass, many native to the region, make up the Expo landscape.
87. In the Ukraine Pavilion you may be hard-pressed not to whoop - the country is showcasing an e-scooter that reaches up to 380km on a single charge.
88. Gone are the days of traditional queuing, thanks to the smart queue system. At Expo 2020 Dubai, you can reserve a specific time slot to zoom right in at whatever time convenient to you.
89. In the Comoros Pavilion lies an unusual installation, a replica of the crater of Mount Karthala, where you can make a wish and cast a ring. Who knows? Maybe it’ll come true.
90. Pakistan is building its biggest pavilion ever beyond its borders. It spans an area of 3,251 square metres and showcases the world’s earliest recorded civilisation, about 7,000 years old.
91. Another chance to do good on your green promise at the Finland Pavilion - drink coffee brewed by the carbon dioxide you exhale after it is turned into synthetic fuel through a Power-to-X technology.
92. Feeling jaded and want to do more for the world? Head to Expo Live's The Good Place Pavilion that will spotlight social innovators and their solutions - a first for a World Expo in history.
93. Travelling with children? No problem. At Expo 2020 there are interactive exhibits, playgrounds and parks, and workshops where kids can hang out, learn and have fun.
94. Expo is buckling down to talk about issues inherently relevant to our time. At the World Majlis forum, global thought leaders will come together to generate new perspectives and connections, just as the theme of the mega-event dictates - 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future'.
95. Listen to the classic Beethoven at the German Pavilion – with a twist. There will be music via classical, rock, acoustic and electronic performances by robots.
96. The sinuous streets of the French Riviera are coming to Dubai at the Monaco Pavilion, whose structure resembles the 62-metre-tall 'Rock of Monaco' on the Mediterranean coast.
97. The 4,912 solar panels on Terra – the Sustainability Pavilion’s 130-metre wide canopy and energy trees help generate 4GWh of alternative energy per year, enough electricity to charge more than 900,000 mobile phones.
98. Check out The Envelope at Kuwait’s pavilion; it’s a facade that shimmers and reflects sunlight and - let’s face it - is really, really cool.
99. Teach your child not only about water management but also West African history and culture in the Guinea Pavilion where there are spaces entirely dedicated to children, with storytelling boxes and a kids corner.
100. Now, you might be wondering what's happening after Expo closes its doors on March 31, 2022. A whole new district will be coming to life next October, a smart, future-ready city called District 2020. As per Expo's sustainability agenda, the city will inherit 80 per cent of the Expo-built buildings for the event.
[Disclaimer: This article is based off the information on the official Expo 2020 Dubai portal as of June 23.]
-Sahar Ejaz, Sakina Juzer and Sara Hameed are interns with Gulf News.