The one-year countdown to Expo 2020 kicked off across the UAE on Sunday evening, bringing together people from across the globe and offering a glimpse into next year’s expo, known as the ‘World’s Greatest Show’.
American singer Mariah Carey and Emirati star Hussain Al Jassmi headlined the celebrations at Burj Park, as part of Expo 2020’s One Year to Go (1YTG) activations across all seven emirates.
One attendee was Sara Al Boom, an Emirati digital media manager at Dubai Cares, who has been watching the Expo 2020 campaign evolve since the city won the bid in November of 2013.
“I’ve been following the Expo story since the day Dubai got the bid, and I think it’s remarkable how the past seven years have gone by and how the entire city is now very much in tune with the concept of Expo and what Dubai is trying to push towards,” said the 27 year old.
“I can’t believe there’s just one year left until we actually host the Expo. I’m really excited to see what the city has to offer and the flow of visitors from across the world. It’s really exciting personally as an Emirati to be able to see the city grow and be able to actually see what Expo is all about.”
Al Boom was also anticipating seeing the Grammy-winning Carey for a second time — and celebrating her sister’s birthday.
“I wanted to share this experience with her. They’ve hyped the event so much over the past few months; this is kind of like a glimpse of what we’re going to expect but on a really small scale, and I really want to push the agenda for what Expo is trying to get at,” she added.
Meanwhile, three UAE-based American educators — Elle Shauntae, 34, J. Lee, 37, and Ka-Aja Brown, 32 — had big hopes for what the Expo 2020 experience would offer.
“I’m a fan of Mariah, but I’m also very interested in the Expo 2020, so this being the one-year kick off, that’s very exciting. I’m looking forward to the inventions, because new things happen at different Expos, so at 2020, we’re expecting spaceships and things of that nature. So, I’m looking forward to the spaceships,” said Shauntae, who is from Atlanta by way of Mississippi.
Lee, however, was looking forward to “the flying cars.”
“Expo 2020 should be an awesome thing for Dubai. Dubai is already this beautiful, magical place and it’s going to be even more wild and beautiful during the Expo,” he said.
Brown added: “I think it’s going to be grand. Everything is going to be finished and Dubai is going to be even way more beautiful than what it is now.”
Filipina digital account executive Madelle Esguera, 36, was excited to see Carey perform — and to get a small idea of what Expo 2020 would offer.
“It’s a big fuss next year, so we’re thinking what will happen? We’re so excited, we want to know what’s in Expo 2020,” she said.
A night to remember
Carey and Al Jassmi delivered a memorable performance for their diverse fans at the Downtown Dubai venue.
Al Jassmi, an Expo 2020 ambassador, arrived in a traditional ghutra and kandura, wearing his signature smile. He had the backing of an orchestra as he performed hits such as ‘Ana Shaki’, ‘Ahibak’ and ‘Bushret Khair’.
He also sang happy birthday to one surprised fan, telling them: “Anything is possible in Dubai.”
Bollywood actress Shraddha Kapoor then took the stage with host and Emirati social media personality Khalid Al Ameri, as the pair counted down to Expo 2020 at precisely 8.20pm. A fireworks display followed, as the Burj Khalifa lit up in the background.
Carey ended the high-energy evening in a floor-length golden gown. She kept the crowd enthralled with a collection of her biggest hits, including ‘A No No’, ‘Dreamlover’, ‘Emotions’, ‘My All’, ‘Make It Happen’, ‘I’ll Be There’, ‘Always Be My Baby’, ‘Obsessed’, ‘We Belong Together’ and ‘Hero’, showing off her world-famous whistle register.
The singer even brought her children on stage for a special appearance.
“Thank you to all of you in every emirate for being part of the One Year to Go celebrations. It’s going to be the World’s Greatest Show so be sure to be there next year,” she said.
Expo 2020 will open its doors to the publicfrom October 20, 2020 and rununtil April 10, 2021. The six-month World Expo is expected to draw visitors from all around the world.
Simultaneously on Sunday night, family-friendly activations were taking place across every emirate.
Residents and tourists around the UAE were invited to enjoy festivities, food, music and entertainment in Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwainfrom 5pm onwards.
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WHAT IS EXPO 2020?
Expo 2020 is a World Expo that will be hosted in Dubai.
Visitors should expect high-tech innovations – the possibilities are endless, from autonomous cars to space travel – and daily entertainment. The theme of the global event is the World’s Greatest Show and it will feature more than 60 live shows per day “with everything from operas to A-listers, pop-up theatres to flash mobs, and sports events to national day celebrations,” according to the official website.
Plus, visitors can attend workshops or eat at one of more than 200 restaurants, offering bites from 50-plus cuisines from around the world. The six-month affair is set to kick off on October 20, 2020 and wrap up six months later on April 10, 2021. Dubai won the bid to host Expo 2020 nearly seven years ago, in November 27, 2013.
How can you attend?
Through an online draw on their website, Expo 2020 is giving away seven pairs of 1-day tickets to Expo 2020 per week. Meanwhile, tickets will go on sale to the public starting in April of 2020.