Expo 2020 Dubai: Students 'meet' Ibn Battuta, explore UAE space missions at Alif pavilion

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Dubai - Visitors are also invited to board world’s largest passenger lift.


Nandini Sircar

Published: Wed 6 Oct 2021, 6:40 PM

Last updated: Wed 6 Oct 2021, 11:04 PM

For students who are exploring the Expo, a journey through space and time at the ‘Alif’ pavilion has been one of the most captivating.

The three-winged Alif–The Mobility Pavilion takes its young visitors on a voyage starting from thousands of years ago all the way to the present and the future — from the ancient days of trade; the travels of the world-famous Ibn Battuta; to the exploration of Mars and beyond.

Students got to discover how people, goods, ideas and data have moved and interacted across generations.


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‘Alif’ — which is also the first letter of the Arabic alphabet — pays homage to the beginnings of human progress and how the the UAE and the Arab world played a pivotal role in advancing development.

The mobility experience begins 4,500 years ago in Saruq Al Hadid, a settlement in the Dubai desert. Visitors are then invited aboard the world’s largest elevating platform, which transports them to the House of Wisdom in ninth-century Baghdad.

Salamah Mohammed Seed, a student of Al Dhait Secondary School for Girls, said: “It presents the story of global mobility in an immersive and inspiring way. I liked everything in that pavilion. I was especially in awe of the tall photo-realistic figures from the Golden Age of Arab civilisation. I also learnt quite a bit about the famous explorer Ibn Battuta and his innovations.”

Stories of historical giants are used to explore the concept of mobility and its far-reaching influence. Further innovations from the Arab region are also showcased.

Another student said: “I liked the prototype of the Hope Probe and the miniature version of the UAE Space Agency that was being displayed on the screens. I am really interested in space and have been following the UAE’s Mars mission since its launch.”

The display areas are divided into three key zones, each forming a petal in the tri-foil plan.

Visitors enter directly into the central core, which features the world’s largest passenger lift, capable of holding more than 160 persons. However, only 38 are currently allowed to board because of social distancing restrictions.

The Alif pavilion has been designed by the award-winning British firm Foster + Partners. The UAE Space Agency and Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre have provided key content for the space segment inside.

Marjan Faraidooni, chief experience officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The Mobility Pavilion will take visitors on a journey of discovery, allowing them to explore new horizons and discover how making connections — together with developing new technologies — is the basis of human progress.”

The pavilion and its grounds feature a partly underground, partly open-air 330-metre track alongside an amphitheatre and a second stage.

A plaza around the building is hosting mobility-related performances, events, symposiums and demonstrations.

“We are proud that this must-see pavilion celebrates the Arab world as a leading light in mobility across the ages, changing perceptions of what this region has achieved. We hope that visitors, especially young Arabs, will leave inspired — realising that anything is possible,” added Faraidooni.

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