The Expo 2020 logo
The Expo 2020 is certainly an exciting moment for the UAE as the world looks forward to this mega event hosted by Dubai. But the story behind the logo, inspired by the Saruq Al Hadid gold ring, is a fascinating story unto itself. Image Credit: Screengrab

Dubai: This Emirate, Dubai, is not just defined by a vibrant vision of the future.

As it turns out, it's also conditioned by fascinating memories of a very distant past. As in, Iron Age past.

And so on October 20, 2020 will kick off, in Dubai, before the world's prying eyes, the biggest party of earth — with about 200 countries joining in.

So exactly a year from now, people and leaders from all over the world will descend upon this ultra-modern, but down-to-earth city, with spires that reach out to the heavens, and palm-shaped islands that can be seen from the heavens.

On a purpose-built venue that will be sort of both serious and fun at the same time, a confluence of global cultures, innovations and connections will happen.

Showcase of countries

Countries will showcase their best foot forward through their futuristic national pavilions, each decked up in fancy and distinct designs.

For the UAE, Dubai in particular, it’s certainly a defining moment — the world looks forward to this quinquennial (once-in-five-years) mega event. It will demonstrate how a once remote pearling town has been transformed by vision and hard work into a megalopolis confident about its future.

The Dubai edition is expected to be a party like no other, and the most popular World Fair since its inception, first hosted by London in 1851, in Hyde Park.

Dubai, in United Arab Emirates, won the right to host Expo 2020 in 2013 during a hotly-contested event in Paris. By bringing the Expo to this city, the UAE’s standing in the community of nations will be raised even higher.


Yet behind this mega-party is a colourful and fascinating past. Why is Expo 2020 going to be such a momentous event?

This is the Saruq Al Hadid gold ring
This is the Saruq Al Hadid gold ring, one of the treasures from the Iron Age found in Dubai. Housed in the Saruq Al-Hadid museum in Dubai, the ring has inspired the Expo 202o logo. Image Credit: Expo 2020

For starters, it's the first time a global gathering of this magnitude is being hosted in the Middle East. The Expo is wholeheartedly supported by the UAE leadership and its people.

Now, there’s a peculiar part of the Expo 2020: The logo.

What inspired this logo — emblazoned on Emirates aircraft and in the Expo 2020 materials — is a story unto itself.

The logo of Expo 2020 is actually inspired by a simple gold ring.

There's a fascinating story that surrounds this ring: It was dug out from a place that was covered by several metres of sand dunes.

The place is called Saruq Al Hadid, an archaeological site discovered in Dubai, hidden for centuries and millennia by several metres of sand dunes.

The logo, and the story behind it, is in a way, a significant milestone. It shows how Dubai, and the UAE as a whole, has come full circle.

How old is this ancient site, who discovered it, what's its significance to you and me? Here’s all you need to know about the Expo 2020 logo:

What inspired the Expo 2020 logo?

The Dubai Expo 2020 logo was inspired by a gold ring found at the Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It is one of the most important and enigmatic historical sites in the country. Findings from the site are displayed in a museum with the same name in Dubai.

Who discovered this important archaeological site?

The site was originally discovered by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, while flying his helicopter across the desert.

Shaikh Mohammed Saruq Al Hadid
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inspects the excavations at Saruq Al-Hadid. Image Credit: WAM

When was it discovered?

It was discovered in 2002. Saruq Al Hadid sits deep in the desert sands of the southern reaches of the Dubai emirate and is believed to have been an Iron-Age settlement.

What were the artefacts found on the site?

Artefacts discovered here date back to the Iron Age — gold jewellery, swords and daggers, pottery, animal fossils, cedar wood from Lebanon and even objects from India and Afghanistan.

BUrj Khalifa Saruq Al Hadid gold ring
The 828-metre Burj Khalifa, currently the world's tallest building, jazzed up in Expo 2020 logo inspired by the Saruq Al Hadid gold ring. Image Credit: File

Archaeologists said the artefacts show evidence that the place was a place to gather and connect — "where people and ideas met to create something astonishing".

Why is this site important to archaeology?

Saruq Al Hadid is one of the important archaeological sites discovered relatively recently in the UAE.

Based on up to 12,000 artefacts found on the site so far by archaeologists, they believe it is one of the main centers of copper manufacturing of various tools in the region since the beginning of the Iron Age.


number of artefacts found on Saruq Al Hadid so far by teams of archaeologists

The site contains large amounts of metal ores, and through the work of active exploration, thousands of rare artefacts were unearthed — now stored on display in a museum. These implements present the importance that this area had in the past.

Who manages the site today?

It is owned and managed by Dubai Municipality Architectural Heritage Department.

What makes the site enigmatic?

Saruq Al-Hadid is by far the most unusual site yet recorded within the Emirate of Dubai. It was covered by a 7-metre deep dune. Archaeologists discovered a dense concentration of metal slag and other fragments of metal processing such as ores and grinding stones as well as abundant ceramics.

Archaeologists working on the Saruq Al Hadid site. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office / Youtube

The mound covers an area of about 1.5 hectares (15,000 square metres), but is obscured on three sides by "active" dune fields — shifting sands of the desert. Why it became an ancient settlement of a thriving human civilisation remains a bit of a mystery. 

What objects were found in Saruq Al Hadid site?

The expeditions uncovered hundreds of metal objects including complete bowls and pitchers, incense burners, jewellery and decorative objects, daggers, arrow heads, tools and even fish hooks.

Most objects are bronze. But a few are made of iron. The inventory even includes one dagger with a bronze handle and iron blade.

Arrowheads round at Saruq Al Hadid site. Image Credit: Youtube screengrab / Dubai Media Office

In addition to finished metal objects, excavations found dozens of whole ceramic vessels, including numerous large water jars with moulded snake decorations.

At least two teams of archaeologists joined the investigation of Saruq Al-Hadid, employing a meticulous excavation and a methodological process, to corroborate results of previous team’s work, and to analyze the stratigraphic sequence in order to know its chronological phases of occupation.

How many objects were unearthed in Saruq Al Hadid?

In all, over 12,000 unique objects have been unearthed at the site. An abundance of pottery and metal artifacts were found in the area.

In which part of Dubai was the Saruq Al Hadid site discovered?

The site was discovered in the Southern Part of the Dubai, towards the Empty Quarter. Dubai, one the seven states (or emirates) the comprise the United Arab Emirates, is the most populous city in the UAE, which is situated on the south-east coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Archaeologists working on the Saruq Al Hadid site. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office / Youtube

What is the archaeological significance of Saruq Al Hadid site?

Saruq Al Hadid was a major location for smelting bronze, copper and iron. The site is considered to have been a centre of constant human habitation, trade and metallurgy from the Umm Al Nar period (2600–2000 BCE, Before the Common Era) to the Iron Age (1,000 BCE).

It shows how Dubai, the modern city we see today, is the latest iteration of a long tradition that stretches back at least 4,000 years. So from such a settlement, which later turned into sea-side town engaged in the pearl trade, there emerged a emirate built by visionary, positive and forward-thinking ethos we know today.

But it's the gold ring found at Saruq Al Hadid that became the centre of attraction.

The elaborately fashioned gold ring, as Sheikh Mohammed said then, was evidence that “this land connected ancient civilisations” long ago — and symbolised that “we will continue to be a hub that connects the world”.

Archaeologists also believe its most important period of flourishing was as a metallurgical centre in the Iron Age II period (1100–600 BCE).

BCE, CE and BC
BCE (Before Common Era) and BC (Before Christ) mean the same thing — previous to year 1 CE (Common Era). This is the same as the year AD 1 (Anno Domini), which means “In the year of the Lord.”
State-of-the-art technology used to check the archaeological finds from the Saruq Al Hadid site. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office / Youtube

Where are the artefacts kept?

A number of key finds are on public display at Dubai's Saruq Al Hadid Archaeology Museum in Al Shindagha, housed in a traditional barjeel (wind tower) building constructed in 1928 by Sheikh Juma bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.

The site, a millennia-old hub for manufacturing and trade, has been linked to Dubai's present role as a global trading hub.

The Sarouq Al Hadid Archaeology Museum in Al Shindagha, Dubai. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/Gulf News

What is the significance of the logo?

In 2013, Dubai's winning bid for the Expo 2020 resonated with the participating nations, as it was anchored on the theme: “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” (the sub-themes being Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity).

Emirates has
Emirates has launched a new limited edition collection of Expo 2020 themed aircraft models for aviation enthusiasts and passionate scale-modellers. Image Credit: Supplied

Subsequently, a competition to create the logo for Expo 2020 was launched; it drew 19,000 participants.

The ring may be a tiny little gold object, found alongside 12,000 other artefacts in an ancient settlement in Dubai that was covered by the dunes for centuries and millenia. But the ring is fascinating in its detail and symmetry. It is made of pure gold, with ornate and artistic designs around it.

It's almost as if the ring's shape and design has prefigured the Expo 2020 theme — which inspires connectivity, resilience and strength.

When is Expo 2020?

Expo 2020 is a World Expo to be hosted by Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, opening on October 20, 2020.

At the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) general assembly in Paris on November 27, 2013, Dubai won the right to host the event in 2020.

The six-month exposition that is expected to attract up to 25 million visitors. It runs from October 2020 to April 2021.

Where will it be held?

It will be held at Dubai Trade Centre-Jebel Ali, a 438-hectare (4.38-million sqm, or 1,080 acres) site equidistant from the centres of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

The Expo 2020 site, equidistant from the centres of both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, will be serviced by the Dubai Metro.

The emirate won the bid to host the event in November 2013.

How many countries are joining?

As of April 2019, 192 countries have confirmed to join the Expo 2020 in Dubai.