“For the first time in World Expo history, every participating country will have its own pavilion.” Expo 2020
The much talked about Dubai 2020 Expo finally kicked off last month after being postponed from October last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Offering visitors a trip around the world, Expo 2020 has 192 country pavilions ripe for exploring as well as art, culture, science and technology displays. There’s also live entertainment, one-of-a-kind events and oodles of global cuisine.
So what is the Expo? If, like me, you are a little unsure about what an Expo actually is, here’s a very basic explanation. World Expo events are global gatherings held every five years to showcase participating nations. The huge scale events combine an exhibition with unique experiences and since its humble beginning as the UK’s Great Exhibition in 1851, Expo has been held in thirty-four countries.
Why visit Expo 2020? Firstly it’s the first time the Expo has been held in the Middle East and the first time in Expo history that every participating nation has its own dedicated pavilion. Located between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the site itself is an impressive 483 hectares, offering visitors a unique display of modern architecture, world culture and cutting edge innovation. Dedicated zones centered around the central Al Wasl Plaza invite visitors to explore its three core zones of Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity. There’s lots to see with pavilions of all shapes and sizes, some well-organised, elaborate and engaging and others more low key. Smaller exhibits are grouped together in clusters throughout the three zones in shaded areas that’s perfect for a respite from the intense sun.
The huge site requires a LOT of walking and it’s impossible to see everything in the space of a day, two days or more. We were there for eight hours and only managed to visit twenty-six countries with minimal pit stops in-between. Those who are keen to explore over a couple of consecutive days can book into the Rove Expo 2020 hotel which is located right in the centre of the site.
Other key attractions not to miss include Jubilee Park where Oasis, a large interactive waterfall and the Garden in the Sky are located. Al Forsan Park is home to the UAE pavilion and the Terra Sustainability Pavilion is another popular exhibit in the Sustainability zone. Al Wasl Plaza comes alive at night with a light show and live entertainment. Visitors can add a bit of extra fun to their experience by collecting country stamps in the Expo passport available to purchase onsite for AED 20.
Food and drink from outside is not permitted onsite but dining at Expo could not be easier with a variety of options for every taste and budget. You can literally go on a culinary journey around the world with dishes from every corner of the globe. Choose from street food to buffets and fine dining and everything in between. Grab some familiar food from different countries like paella from Spain, lamington’s from Australia or a cinnamon Danish pastry from Denmark. Keep it simple with your favourite Dominos pizza or dine at local Dubai gem Ravi’s, the Satwa neighbourhood restaurant offering Pakistani Cuisine. Alternatively explore Alkebulan, the bespoke African Dining Hall offering dishes from top African chefs. See all the Expo dining options HERE
The Dubai Expo is very well organized with free parking, parking shuttle buses and visitor friendly transport options inside the site. There’s a Dubai Expo metro station and Expo Rider, the free public bus service. Choose your parking according to the district you want to explore first. For example: if you park in Mobility you can go straight to Australia, Opportunity has Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UK pavilions and Sustainability has my favourite, Singapore.
My top tips for a successful Expo visit are:
- Book online and walk straight in with your downloaded ticket
- Check the Expo COVID-19 guidelines prior to your visit (see below)
- Download the Expo app which has a GPS-enabled map
- If you want to go to particular pavilions go there first. Be prepared to queue if you are intent on visiting popular exhibits (we tried twice to visit the UAE pavilion and both at 11am and 6pm the queue was over an hour long)
- Go on a weekday if possible as weekend queues are very long.
- Avoid the hotter part of the day because there’s little shade and the sun is intense. Alternatively wait for later in the year when the weather will be cooler. For now the best time to go is from 4pm/4:30pm onwards.
- Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen and don’t forget a hat.
- Take a refillable water bottle as there’s lots of water stations and you definitely need to keep hydrated.
What happens when Expo is over? Once Expo 2020 finishes next March the site will be transformed into District 2020, a smart technology suburb and integrated mixed use community re-purposing 80% of the Expo’s environment
Location: Expo 2020 Dubai, Expo Road, Dubai South Jebel Ali, Dubai, UAE.
Date: 1st October 2021 – 31st March 2022
Opening Times: Daily 10am – 12 midnight (Saturday – Wednesday) 10am – 2am (Thursday & Friday)
Tickets: Adults (18-59 years) 1-day AED 95, Multi-day pass* AED 195 and season pass AED 495. FREE entry for Kids and youths (6-17 years), senior citizens (60+ years), students and people of determination. *30 consecutive days from 1st day of use
COVID-19 entry requirements for visitors aged 18 & over – Vaccinated visitors must present proof of at least one dose of any COVID vaccine. Unvaccinated visitors must present a negative PCR test result conducted within 72 hours of visiting. Some tickets offer eligible visitors a free on-site PCR test at the DHA Expo 2020 Testing Facility – click HERE for all COVID related information.
All views are my own. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2021. All rights reserved. Featured image, Garden in the Sky photo and additional information used with courtesy of Expo 2020 Dubai.