Dubai: A large crowd taps their feet to the rhythm of loud Latin music, as they wait in a long queue to enter the Colombia pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai. Just in 18 days, the pavilion has seen over 50,000 visitors, and there is good reason for that.
Located in the Opportunity District, the pavilion has a bare white mesh and metal exterior, surrounded by lush greenery. But, the façade barely gives an insight into the many colours visitors will see inside.
Juan Pablo Cavelier, the Commissioner-General of the pavilion told Gulf News: “The structure might give you the impression of work under progress, but that’s exactly what the designers intended. The design conveys our message that Columbia is a constantly evolving country.”
Artwork by an iconic sculptor
Right outside the entrance, in a space called ‘Botero’s garden’, visitors wait their turn to take an Instagram-worthy shot next to a huge sculpture called The Reclining Woman.
“It is one of the most iconic sculptures by the Colombian artist Fernando Botero. He is one of the most important living Colombian artists of recent times,” said Cavelier.
The three-meter-high sculpture was transferred from Hong Kong, where it had been on display since 2018 at the Peninsula Hotel, to Dubai.
Colombian coffee and a virtual tour
As you enter the pavilion, the sweet aroma of Colombian coffee brewing at the ground floor cafe hits you.
Coffee is crucial to the Colombian national economy. “Colombia is the third-largest global exporter behind Brazil and Vietnam,” explained Cavelier.
“Our coffee is well known worldwide. It is grown on the hillside, is picked by hand, and is not very bitter,” the commissioner-general added.
Visitors get to learn more about Columbian coffee plantations during a virtual tour on the first floor.
Explaining the three virtual tours on each floor, Cavelier added: “The objective of the pavilion is precisely to say, if you didn't have an image of Columbia, we want you to have a very special image of the country. As you go in, you start discovering what we call the three major regions of Colombia, which are the Andean region, the Amazon, and the Orinoco region, and then finally the coasts, the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts. We want visitors to see what an incredible place Colombia is and leave with an ambition to visit our country.”
Do the Salsa, play the drums
The third floor is the most interactive of all. Now, if you are a fan of dance and music, you must visit this floor for some quick salsa and drumming lessons.
The Colombia pavilion is highlighting music and the performing arts during the Expo 2020 Dubai. After all, from the Queen of Latin Music – Shakira to Colombian Reggaeton, the country’s music regularly tops charts and billboards.
Reggaeton may have originated in Puerto Rico in the 1990s, but the hip-hop influenced genre has found a natural home in Colombia in the recent years, and many people are calling Colombia the world capital of reggaeton right now.
Crafts and Emeralds
Another thing not to miss at the pavilion is the intricate tapestry, handmade items such as baskets and vases, and a shop that sells Colombian emeralds.
Colombia is by far the world's largest producer of emeralds, constituting 50–95% of global production. As you return to the ground floor, you reach a jewellery shop that displays emeralds of various grades from the Muzo mine. The cheapest is priced at Dh1,100 while the costliest is Dh60,000.
A jeweller at the store said: “The colour of Colombian emeralds is different, they are green-bluish. When you are buying an emerald, look for a deep green colour and brilliance.”
Industries and trade
Cavalier added: “Behind the scenes, we have a very aggressive agenda trying to bring in the new industries from Colombia. Aside from coffee, we are major exporters of flowers, we're the second-largest producer of flowers in the world.”
He added: “Another Colombian product that people like very much in this region is Banana Bocadillo.” These are smaller than regular Cavendish bananas with thinner skin.
Meat is another market that Colombia is planning to expand in the UAE. Cavalier added: “We want to increase our presence in the UAE in terms of the export of more of our grass-fed meat here. It is excellent quality and tasty.”
Colombia’s president, Ivan Duque is due to visit the UAE and his country’s pavilion on November 5 and 6, to establish new business links and bilateral relations. And, nearly 200 entrepreneurs will also visit the pavilion to promote their brands in the coming months.
Meet local artisans
According to Cavelier, in the coming months, most likely in November, artists and artisans from Colombia will also be visiting the pavilion. Visitors will be able to meet them and engage with them to know more about the arts in the country.
Visitors can also buy chocolates, coffee, honey, and tea at the Evok stall, a farmer-focused retailer in Medellin.