Dubai: Every Expo 2020 Dubai visitor returns as a fan of ‘the world’s greatest show’. But there are some visitors whose visits have been extra special.
As the world fair gets set to conclude on March 31, Gulf News spoke to some of the top fans of Expo. They shared why their Expo visits have been special, their takeaways from the Expo and what they will miss the most when it ends.
Aazam Tahir Gandhi, 31, is dubbed ‘No.1 fan’ of Expo 2020 Dubai. Having flown in from India just to take part in the Expo, Aazam has been a regular at the Expo site since December 2021.
“I have toured all the 192 country pavilions two times and I visited my favourite pavilions seven times,” said Aazam, who has bought 23 yellow passports and won 10 white passports for getting more than 100 stamps on his yellow passports, a t-shirt, Expo raffle pages etc.
Aazam said he has won an ASEAN Challenge passport, and also collected around 300 memorabilia, including flags of 72 countries, currencies of 23 countries and the green passport from Bangladesh Pavilion.
Asked what he likes the most about the Expo, pat came Aazam’s reply: “The memories with people from across the world.”
And it is “the company of those wonderful people” that he is going to miss the most when he will bid bye to Expo and head home after the show ends.
‘I will miss the food’
Emirati Sara Almansoori is also among the top fans after having visited the Expo 74 times.
The 24-year-old university student, born and raised in Abu Dhabi, came to stay with her relatives in Dubai for three months from October till the end of December just to visit Expo frequently.
“I stopped counting after my seventh visit but I was told according to my ticket it was over 70 visits (74 times, as verified by Expo office),” she said.
For Sara, her Expo experience was enlightening to say the least. “It felt like a crash-course on global cultural experience.”
She said she also loved the knitting workshop at Opportunity District. “It was called Hammour House and was mostly sea-oriented.”
“What I liked the most and what I will miss the most are in fact the same thing—the food. I tried many cuisines for the first time in Expo... My favourites by far were the African, Greek and Saudi cuisines,” she added.
Sudanese national Sahar Abdulla Rasheed is a young pianist who got a chance to perform at the Romania Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.
A student of RIT university Dubai, the 19-year-old has been visiting the Expo in two capacities.
“I have visited Expo 2020 as a visitor for more than 30 times and I enjoyed it every single day. Also, I visited Expo as a volunteer for more than 100 times and I’m proud to be a part of this world class event,” she said.
“Expo2020 Dubai gave me a chance to gain new friends and discover countries that I never heard of before, also I faced many challenges and it took me out of my comfort zone, as well as I have met wonderful people from different parts of the world and I learned a lot from them, I got a chance to know more about the latest technology, development, sustainability and about always striving to improve humanity.”
Sahar said what she liked the most at Expo “is that you can just travel and visit the whole world in one place. Expo 2020 Dubai connected minds from all over the world to create a better future. So it opened my perspective about the world beyond my usual surroundings”.
She added: “I’ll miss working at Expo, I will miss my colleagues, and the amazing events that made us happy, and I wish Expo 2020 could last for a lifetime.”
While most visitors have been using the yellow-coloured Expo passport for collecting pavilion stamps, Indian student Amina Afsal created an enlarged version of the Expo passport by drawing the flags of all the 192 participating countries and she took the stamp of each country against on its flag page on her passport.
The special passport created by the nine-year-old won the hearts of many at pavilions. But the “most special stamp” that Amina received is the signature and greetings on her special passport by a special person — Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth.
“I got a chance to meet the minister at the Expo. When I showed her my passport, she gave me an autograph with her signature and a message of best wishes to me. I was so thrilled,” Amina said.
“Each pavilion is special with unique things. I learned a lot about all the countries. I will miss everything about Expo. But the one thing I will miss the most is visiting the Expo with friends and having fun over there,” she added.