Expo 2020 Dubai: Hayyakum, this is the future!
You can feel it in the air… the buzz around the city, as Expo 2020 Dubai begins in all earnest. The World’s Greatest Show started with a spectacular Opening Ceremony. There were stars on the red carpet, ushering in the World Fair that is historical for the region – a first in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.
The future has arrived – and it’s as fantastical as you imagined it to be. From the Hyperloop and AI foods to the world’s first air train, guide robots and even tech that extracts water from air. It is truly about ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, the theme of the 182-day event.
You can globe hop across over 190 pavilions and see the best the world has to offer – even get an Expo passport stamped without having to leave the space that is equal to 268 football fields.
We were treated to a journey of discovery with a 1,000-member crew of star performers at the opening ceremony who set things off in Dubai’s distinctive style in the beating heart of Expo, Al Wasl Plaza.
Check out how the events unfolded at the opening ceremony on Thursday
Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sings 'The Prayer', standing in front of the ghaf tree symbolic of the UAE's deep-rooted values - stability, tolerance and resilience. Bocelli is then joined by the star-studded line-up of the night on stage.
Children carry giant flowers as butterflies are projected everywhere... A virtual garden... a rainforest, a world where humanity lives in rhythm with Nature.
Andra Day performs her original song 'Rise Up'
The little girl continues with her journey as the song plays on. Andra Day sings about the indomitable spirit of humanity.
She sings: "We will rise... a thousand times again.”
Among larger-than-life flora, the young girl wanders in a fantastical world of dreams.
Cerulean underwater projections give way to pink clouds and azure skies as Ellie Goulding begins performance. Draped in white, she sings, "Anything can happen."
A young girl tracks the path of a holographic falcon across the inner walls of Al Wasl Plaza dome.
Lang Lang's performance
A dramatic reference to aquatic life with the wall of the dome covered in projections and performers on stilts. It is like standing in the middle of a rich and wonderful coral reef in all its glory, home to nearly 27% of all ocean life...
Lang Lang performs
Chinese virtuoso pianist Lang Lang who won international acclaim while a teenager starts his performance.
Ahlam Alshamsi performs
Emirati singing sensation ‘Fananat Al Arab’ Ahlam Alshamsi performs. The versatile Firdaus Orchestra provides Alshamsi the support.
Holographic projections of the universe on display on the inside of the Al Wasl Dome. Lights dim and the dome is shrouded deep blue lighting, with performers carrying illuminated globes symbolising stars.
Full text of Sheikh Nahyan's speech
Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen; May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you. I am honoured to be with you here today, as we start a new chapter of a story that began almost 50 years ago. A story whose heroes are the leaders and children of this nation. A story of values that have shaped their spirits, ambitions and confidence in their ability to achieve what is best for themselves and others. Allow me to take you back in time to the year 1970.
A story whose heroes are the leaders and children of this nation. A story of values that have shaped their spirits, ambitions and confidence in their ability to achieve what is better for themselves and others. Allow me to take you back in time to the year 1970. In the city of Osaka, Japan. There, our people introduced themselves and our culture for the very first time at a World Expo, in a Pavilion inspired by Al Ain’s Al Jahili Fort. Established by the efforts of Late Sheikh Zayed Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, may his soul rest in peace.
That happened a year-and-a-half before the establishment of United Arab Emirates. What began with utmost faith and cooperation between our founding leaders Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum (may they rest in peace) – became the vision that now holds the flag of our nation up high.
The late father Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan announced the establishment of the State of the Union, bringing together seven emirates, joined by an unshakeable truth known by heart: we are stronger together. We are now Emiratis who belong to one country.
We have always strived to create a better life, with our leaders’ vision in mind.
We have focused on investing in human development, expanding our infrastructure, diversifying our economy, and creating opportunities for everyone to prosper and grow. Today, in the year of our Golden Jubilee, we share with the world the lessons we have learnt, most importantly that by connecting minds, we are able to achieve milestones others thought were impossible. It was the same vision that motivated us – back in 2011 – to bid to host the Expo and to choose ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ as its theme.
Today, 192 nations come together, each represented by its own pavilion – a first in the 170-year history of World Expos.
Our mere presence here, amid all the challegnes the world is facing, is proof of our keen commitment and desire to make the world a better place for all.
By hosting Expo2020 Dubai, we aim to convey a message of tolerance and that we are willing to collaborate with all of the world.
This is the vision we must keep in our minds, for every reality throughout history started with a vision.
Today, we say to the whole world: Welcome to the United Arab Emirates and welcome to Expo 2020 Dubai, which will provide a significant platform for all people to connect, discuss and work together. Welcome to Expo 2020 Dubai! Together, we will convey, from the UAE to the world, on our 50th anniversary a message of tolerance, coexistence and peace; a message of progress, prosperity and growth; a message of brotherhood, happiness and an unwavering will to create a brighter future for everyone.
May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.
Hamdan speaks at Expo opening ceremony
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, speaks at the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai.
"In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, Your Highnesses, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. Today, the entire world gathers in the United Arab Emirates. Today, we witness, together, a new beginning, as we inaugurate, together, with the blessing of Allah, Expo 2020 Dubai. May God grant us success," Sheikh Hamdan said.
Dimitri Kerkentzes, Secretary General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), gives the welcome speech.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence, arrives to give the welcome note of address.
He welcomes people to a new chapter of a story that 50 years ago. "We have always strived to create a better life... we're focused on investing in human development and creating opportunities for everyone to prosper,” Sheikh Nahayan says.
"In the year of our Golden Jubilee, we share with the world the lessons we have learnt, most importantly by connecting minds...we are able to achieve milestones others thought were impossible..."
"Today, 192 nations come together each represented by its own pavilion a first in the 170-year history of world expo.... Today we say to the whole world - welcome to the United Arab Emirates and welcome to Expo 2020, which will provide a significant platform for all people to connect, discuss and work together," said Sheikh Nahyan.
All-women Firdaus Orchestra play in the back. The orchestra was trained by AR Rahman in collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai.
The Expo Song "This is Our Time" begins playing, with children holding the Expo 2020 Dubai flag and running around the guests. The children pass the flag to one another.
"We are the generation that cannot afford to wait... the future is here..." song being sung. Having performed at the recent Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo is bringing her colourful musical fusion of reggae, pop and jazz to Expo 2020 Dubai.
The flag ceremony of 190-plus participant countries commences in a moving display layered by the soulful vocals of Abdo and Kidjo.
It ends with the world map projected on to the dome, followed by Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo performing. He is often referred to as 'The Artist of the Arabs'.
An Emirati old man and a young girl wander the plaza in an intergenerational tableau play. The gold ring unearthed at Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site that inspired the Expo 2020 logo is being handed over to posterity as a symbol of progress and hope.
Hussain Al Jassimi performs as the opening act. He sings 'Marhaba Ya Hala'.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai is welcomed, along with His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The UAE flag is raised and the national anthem, 'Ishy Bilady', is sung by Rashed Al Nuaimi.
Welcome to the show
"Esteemed guests welcome to the Opening Ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai..."
With these words, narrated in different languages, the event begins.
'Dubai welcome' states the opening act of the show. Bright lights shine through the dome of Al Wasl Plaza as Emirates air hostesses greet the world in different languages.
The show starts
Opening Ceremony to start within the next 2 minutes. The Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity for the world to come together after all the restrictions globally over the past 18 months.
Pre-show arrivals begin with VIP guests making their way in, some eagerly filming the majestic dome with their phones. Screens show a celebration of the UAE's arts and culture heritage as part of Expo's welcome to all the guests. Arabic percussion instruments set the tone for a culturally steeped fair for the next six months.
Watching the ceremony
Residents gather at City Walk to watch the Expo 2020 live streaming.
The live drone camera takes us in slow circles around the striking Al Wasl Plaza, bathed in a soft blue light making it look ephemeral. The translucent dome is the world's largest 360-degree projection surface, soon to come to life from the inside out with 252 light projectors.
Watch: Oud master
Dubbed as 'The Artist of the Arabs', Saudi singer and oud master Mohamed Abdo will kick off yet another performance in Dubai to mark tonight's spectacular occasion.
The Dubai Expo 2020 opening ceremony was on invite. However, several people made their way to get a peek of the inauguration. Unanimously, they say the Expo spells opportunities.
Wadha Abdulla, 32 years of age, Emirati
Scenes from the opening ceremony
People at the Expo centre for the opening ceremony
Watch: Lang Lang
Internationally acclaimed Chinese pianist Lang Lang will regale spectators from the centre stage.
Watch: Mayssa Karaa
Grammy-nominated singer Mayssa Karaa doubles as the artistic creative lead for Expo 2020 Dubai and is one of the voices of Expo's anthem 'This is Our Time'. The Lebanese singer is also creatively involved with the all-women Firdaus Orchestra.
Diplomats excited for Expo Gala night
Dubai: We are only few hours away from the official opening of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE’s Diplomatic Corps are all excited to attend tonight's big gala event.
Top diplomats and various heads of missions of over 100 countries are gathered at the Global Village before proceeding to the Expo site.
“Everyone is excited. This is a very historic moment – the biggest event in the world,” South Korean Consul General Moon Byung-Jun told Gulf News after he sent a selfie photo of him and Indonesian Consul General K. Candra Negara inside the Expo Rider bus.
“We (South Korea) are very proud to have one of the biggest pavilions at the Expo and we are ready to showcase our best innovations to the world. It is really very exciting to have around 200 nationalities connecting and collaborating at this big global event,” Moon added.
“The moment has finally come,” added the Indonesian Consul General. “We have overcome all the challenges, difficulties, including the pandemic, and other problems – and now we are going to witness the opening of the greatest show on earth," Negara said.
Watch: Scott Givens
Leading the wider crew for the Opening Ceremony is Scott Givens, a connoisseur of grand events including 15 Olympic Games.
Expo 2020 Dubai’s star-studded Opening Ceremony will be streamed live to screens in New York’s Times Square. Both the 37-metre-high Nasdaq screen and the Thomson Reuters display, which spans 23 storeys, with seven separate screens, will show the Opening Ceremony for one hour from 2030-2130 GST, which is just after midday in New York.