CULTURE – Almost a return to normal. The United Arab Emirates kicked off this evening of Thursday, September 30 with great fanfare in Dubai Expo-2020, the first world exhibition organized in the Middle East and the largest event on a global scale since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. .
The young Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, officially opened the opening ceremony of this $7 billion event.
“The whole world is gathering in the United Arab Emirates as we open Expo-2020 Dubai together with the blessings of Allah,” Sheikh Hamdan said ahead of the celebrations.
Projections and lighting effects illuminated Al Wasl Square, a futuristic domed enclosure, a symbol of Islamic architecture. Various concerts followed, including that of the famous Emirati diva Ahlam and the British singer Ellie Goulding.
Chinese pianist Lang Lang was also among the featured artists, as was Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli, who closed the show before Emirati leaders.
Postponed last year due to the health crisis, the exhibition will open to the public on Friday in the middle of the desert on the outskirts of Dubai, a city already known for its skyscrapers and sense of luxury. The Emirates hope to welcome 25 million visitors there.
While the European Parliament has called on its members to boycott the event to protest human rights abuses, Expo-2020 promises to unveil architectural marvels and technological innovations across its many pavilions representing more than 190 countries.
25 million visitors expected
The first World’s Fair was held in London in 1851 at the Crystal Palace, a building built for the occasion. And in Paris, the 1889 Exposition unveiled the Eiffel Tower.
Expo-2020 in the Emirates also promises to be the biggest event ever held in the Middle East, a year ahead of the World Cup, which will be held in wealthy neighboring country Qatar. Dubai hopes to attract 25 million visits for its six-month World’s Fair.
While Japanese authorities had banned the public for the Tokyo Olympics, Dubai is opening its doors wide to foreign tourists, who must wear masks and respect social distancing. Visitors must be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test.
The Emirates are among the countries that have vaccinated their populations the fastest, with almost 20 million doses administered for a population of around 10 million.
Expo-2020 is one of Dubai’s great ambitions, stringing together records to attract attention and tourists, as with its tallest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, 828 meters tall.
Thanks to the delay caused by the pandemic, on December 2, in the middle of Expo-2020, the Emirates will be able to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of this federation of seven emirates, which includes Dubai and the capital Abu Dhabi.
Attacks on freedom of speech
Among the expected attractions: the Harlem Globetrotters and a Chinese panda robot. Fans of futuristic travel can visit a Hyperloop cabin, while history buffs have a chance to see an ancient sarcophagus in the Egyptian pavilion.
China boasts one of the largest pavilions in the shape of a lightbulb, while Morocco has built its own in the ground for environmental reasons. The Dutch will have a pyramid covered in edible plants and irrigated with solar rainwater. On the French side, the investment amounts to 38 million euros, with stands representing all facets of French “excellence”.
Despite the European Parliament’s call for a boycott, most European countries are taking part in the event “to show their rejection of human rights violations in the Emirates,” according to a resolution passed in mid-September.
Despite their international charm campaigns, the Emirates are regularly criticized by non-governmental organizations, especially for attacks on freedom of expression or the conditions of foreign workers, such as those used en masse in the construction of the Expo 2020 site.
See also on The HuffPost: In Dubai, a race in the snow in over 40 degrees