Expo 2020 Dubai: Epic fireworks cap off Day 1 of worlds greatest show


Dubai - Khaleej Times brought you all the action on the first Expo day - as it happened.

By Text: Nandini Sircar, Saman Haziq, SM Ayaz Zakir, Dhanusha Gokulan; Photos and videos: Neeraj Murali, Abdul Karim Hanif, Shihab, Rahul Gajjar

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Published: Fri 1 Oct 2021, 8:19 AM

Last updated: Wed 9 Nov 2022, 11:11 AM

All roads, Metro and bus routes led to Expo 2020 Dubai on Friday, as it ushered in the world for the greatest show ever. The venue's three giant gates are now open — exactly 2,864 days of meticulous planning, will and self-belief after the UAE won the bid to host the region's first World Expo.

Our journalists were fanned out across the three thematic districts of the Expo — Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity — to document visitors' once-in-alifetime experience. Here's how it happened.


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Latest updates:


A dazzling end to an epic day

As Day 1 of the world's greatest show draws to a close, fireworks light up the night sky at The Pointe in Palm Jumeirah.

Two other locations — Dubai Festival City and The Frame — are presenting their own unique spectacles tonight.


Don't leave without a selfie!

Families, friends and everyone else — who made sure they were among the first to experience all that Expo 2020 has to offer — bring home snaps of a fun day out. As Al Wasl Dome lights up in all its glory, many take their spots for the perfect selfie.

Here's another visitor with her Expo passport:


Enchanting dances

India's Mohiniyattam dancers captivate the audience with their delicate movements and subtle facial expressions.

Mohiniyattam - literally interpreted as the dance of Mohini, the celestial enchantress of the Hindu mythology — is the classical solo dance form of the south Indian state of Kerala.

Performers from the eastern state of Odisha also wowed the crowd with one of the many forms of Indian classical dance - a dance of love and passion.


The rhythms and melodies of India

Performers take the stage, showing the world the rich cultural heritage of their homeland.


Thank you, UAE, for taking care of every Indian expat

Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, said India shares a special partnership with the UAE.

“It is constantly nurtured with the large Indian diaspora living in the UAE. I want to thank the UAE for taking care of every Indian during the Covid-19 pandemic," Goyal said during the opening event.

“We have launched negotiations to develop economic partnerships between India and the UAE,” he added.

Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, the UAE's Minister of State for Foreign Trade, was also present at the event. "We look forward to a successful participation of the Indian business community and the Indian expats [in this Expo]," he said.


Expo will bolster India-UAE's historic ties: Modi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated the UAE's leaders for the successful opening Expo 2020 Dubai.

In his video message, he also encouraged people to invest in India. The Expo, he said, will go a long way in strengthening India-UAE ties.


Yoga guru in the house

Visitors to the Indian pavilion got the chance to meet and greet yoga guru and businessman Baba Ramdev. Some got to take their selfies with him ahead of a cultural show marking the official opening of the pavilion.

The Consulate-General of India in Dubai tweeted more snaps:


Al Wasl Dome dazzles again

After seeing a preview of Al Wasl Dome's grandeur at the live-streamed opening gala last night, visitors throng to the Expo's crown jewel to see its splendour firsthand. And, well, it didn't disappoint.

Heres another stunning view of the plaza:


A grand cultural show

Traditional artists from all over India have arrived to perform in a grand cultural showcase at Expo 2020 Dubai. Listen to the beats of the South Asian country here:


Indian Pavilion officially opens

India welcomes the world to its Dh250-million pavilion — one of the biggest at the Expo.

A walk-through of the 4,800sqm pavilion spread across four floors takes visitors on a journey through India, from its rich cultural heritage to its technological prowess. Here's a first look inside:

Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles, and UAE Ambassador to India Dr Ahmed Al Banna led the inauguration.


Huge crowds of Indian expatriates patiently wait outside the Indian Pavilion ahead of the official inauguration ceremony.

India’s four-storey pavilion showcases a mix of everything India. Inside, exhibitions will showcase Ayurveda, yoga, the country's space programme, and its fast-growing $2.5-trillion economy.

ALSO READ: What the India pavilion has in store for Expo 2020 Dubai


Flying garden? Only at the Expo

At the Jubilee Park, this 'flying garden' caught the attention of several visitors.

This attraction, called Garden in the Sky, is an observation tower and offers 360-degree views of the 4.38sqkm Expo 2020 Dubai site.

Its upper floor is planted with 10 Peltophorum inerme trees – also known as yellow flame trees — and is linked by stairs to the lower floor.


Long queue for a Swiss experience

Visitors make a beeline for the breathtaking sceneries that Switzerland is offering at its Reflections pavilion:

Want to hike up the Swiss Alps? Well, you can do just that here. The pavilion in the Opportunity District aims to inspire one and all to act for a better world.

A movie-like entry sets the tone for a visit to the pavilion. As you walk through the gates, you are covered in a sea of fog, and as you emerge from it, a jaw-dropping view of the astounding Swiss Alps greets you. Read more about the experience here.


But first, ice cream

Everyone gets free ice cream from Baskin Robbins at three locations across the Expo site on Day 1 of the mega event.


Get your groove on!

There was dancing everywhere at the Expo site. On one street, this group suddenly breaks out in a dance:

In another area, visitors sweat it out in a dance class:

At the UAE Pavilion, people are greeted with traditional Emirati dance and rhythms:


Giant heart in UAE colours spotted in the sky

Expo visitors who are busy exploring the world fair are surprised to see jets flying overhead — putting on a stunning airshow.


Welcome to the Swedish forest

With a pavilion dotted with wooden trunks and innovations for a bio-circular economy, Sweden turns the spotlight on a 'co-creation' process that can provide solutions to the global challenges of the future.

Ludvig Daver, Deputy Commissioner General of the Sweden Pavilion, explains the big idea behind the hub:


In Dubai to explore the world

This Expo visitor Sardor arrived in the UAE from Uzbekistan — together with eight of his colleagues — just to witness the launch of the Expo 2020. They landed in Dubai on Thursday and plan to stay in the city for a week.

The group — all software developers — have all picked up October passes and plan to make the most of their week at the world fair.


Experience the 'Light of China'

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday wished Expo 2020 Dubai “full success”. The opening day of the mega event coincided with Chinese National Day.

In a video message for the opening of the China Pavilion, Xi said: “Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo held in the Middle East. Under the theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future', countries have an opportunity to share their philosophies and success... and enhance dialogue and cooperation. This shows the importance of the Expo.”


Call to prayer

Listen to the Azan, the Islamic call to prayer, at the Expo 2020 venue:


Inside Pakistan pavilion

From Mughal era to more contemporary offerings, here's a sneak peak of what to expect from the Pakistan pavilion:


En route to Pakistan

Take a trip through the Expo venue to the Pakistan pavilion with KT journo Abdul Karim Hanif. A kaleidoscope of colours, it is truly a sight for sore eyes.


UAE pavilion, a masterpiece: Sheikh Mohammed

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has taken to Twitter to praise the efforts that went into putting together the UAE pavilion.

Sheikh Mohammed called the pavilion "an architectural masterpiece" after his tour of the event on Friday. He also commended the pavilion's "distinguished cultural content" that awaits visitors from all over the world.

The Dubai Ruler said he also toured the American and Chinese pavilions. "East and West meet in Dubai," he said.

Of the Kazakhstan pavilion, Sheikh Mohammed said, "Our relations with Kazakhstan are constantly developing and their presence at the Expo 2020 Dubai is an opportunity to consolidate these relations."


Watch: UAEs DMSat-1 lifts off from Kazakhstan

UAE 100 Million Meals: Over 600,000 meals distributed in Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan


The crowd is building


Rest for the weary

Visitors relax on bean bags under the shade of a tree. Lovely garden areas at the Expo venue will offer guests a chance to take a quick break before continuing their exploration of the mammoth site.


Way to go green

Called Expo Explorer, this train takes passengers on a sight-seeing journey while experiencing the sustainable future of transport.

The Explorer may look like a classic locomotive, but it runs on compressed air, making it pollution-free.


How to get the Expo passport

The special Expo 2020 Dubai passport, launched last month, will help visitors 'travel' around the world and explore over 190 participating pavilions.

And it's quickly shaping up to become one of the most popular Expo souvenirs for visitors, who can get a stamp from every pavilion they visit.

Here's all you need to know:


New and improved

Have you seen these brand-new Expo-themed Nol cards?


Workers' images to be beamed across digital screens

Expo 2020 Dubai has developed the Workers Portrait Series, which features stunning images capturing the diversity and spirit of the Expo workforce, accompanied by their inspiring quotes.

The images will be displayed on the digital screens around the public realm for visitors from around the world.

The series follows a 2017 audio-visual exhibition that showcased workers’ stories of Expo 2020, told in their languages.


Show of support

American national Lance Chase, and his sons Calvin and Magnus, decided to dress up in traditional Cambodian outfits. His wife, a Cambodian, is volunteering at her country's pavilion.


"So much to explore"

Dubai residents talk about why they wanted to visit the Expo on the very first day.


Special silver coins issued

The Central Bank of the UAE (CBUAE) on Friday announced the issuance of silver coins that feature Expo 2020s official mascots.

This is the second commemorative coin produced to mark this global event. The first gold and silver commemorative coins were issued on the occasion of the UAE hosting Expo 2020.

The Central Bank will issue 2,020 silver coins, each weighing 40 grams.


A two-storey sculpture of a 'life-giving female figure’, named Haliya, welcomes visitors to the Philippine pavilion.

The gigantic sculpture by Duddley Diaz intends to confront the world of the 21st century with a monumental commitment to life-giving.


Philippine pavilion enchants visitors

Inspired by coral reefs, the Philippine pavilion is now officially open.

Filipinos from across the UAE gathered around the Bangkota (coral reef), getting a first glimpse of the ‘flying sculptures’ and mythical creatures crafted by some of the country’s renowned artists.

The mesmerising interiors are another story altogether. Take a look:


Breathtaking water feature

Water, earth and fire form the "Expo 2020 Water Feature" - one of the most stunning attractions on site.

Giant sheets of water tumble down 13-metre-high vertical walls. By night, the water will defy gravity and flow upwards, organisers had said earlier.

Situated between Al Wasl Plaza and Jubilee Park, the Expo 2020 Water Feature combines the elements of water, earth and fire.

The 153 individual waves range from glistening sheets to bursts of water that literally leap from the walls as they make their dramatic descent to the plaza below.

Visitors can walk to the base of the falls to see how the water disappears through the stone.

At the feature’s centre is a “mysterious circle of fire” that produces enormous bursts of flames in hues of red, green and yellow.


All in the design

The vision of the Qatar pavilion is derived from four elements:

Dhow: The sweeping and ascending geometric form of the pavilion relates to the billowing form of the dhow’s sails.

Palm Trees: The abstract fusion of two intertwined palm trees is manifested through the sculptural monument.

Swords: The intertwined swords are represented by two intertwining dhows that encompass the building form.

Water: The reflective pools represent the Arabian Gulf encompassing Qatar.

The pavilion occupies a site of approx. 960 square metres and accommodates a total built area of approx. 620 square metres.


Taste of Qatar

Performers participated in a traditional dance at the Qatar pavilion, which opened today.

Inside the pavilion, the walls have been transformed into giant screens that showcase the country's vision for the future, as well as innovation, technology, sustainability and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2022.

Meanwhile, six totems have also been erected, mirroring the display on the walls.

The Qatar pavilion was designed and built on an expedited timeline of just five months. The pavilion’s sharp, sweeping form makes reference to the country's coat of arms. The design aims to translate these cultural elements to capture movement, mobility, strength, and tradition.


Weekend plans: Set!

Abu Dhabi-based teacher Mary Mendoza has got herself an October pass and plans to visit the mega fair every weekend.


Explore the Expo on wheels

You can rent cycles on the go around the Expo 2020 site, with 23 stations set up for visitors to book and use the bikes.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) said on Friday that Careem has stationed 230 bicycles to tour the exhibition facilities. The cycles can be booked via the Careem Bike app.


Sheikh Mohammed visits Expo site

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has arrived at the Expo 2020 venue.

A tweet by the Dubai Media Office said the Dubai Ruler is currently inspecting the Expo headquarters. He is accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the UAE.

He will visit the pavilions of the UAE, USA, China and Kazakhstan on day one.


The Thai story

The Thailand pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is their biggest yet, in the country's history of participating in world expositions over the last 150 years. Take a look at the gorgeous facade:


Expo 2020 monument unveiled; features names of 200,000 workers carved in stone

The Expo 2020 Dubai team has paid a touching tribute to workers who helped bring the event to life.

A monument dedicated to the workers has been unveiled at the Expo site and it celebrates more than 200,000 workers from around the world.


>> Expo 2020 Dubai: Here are some quick facts


Excited faces are everywhere

These female tourists have travelled all the way from Saudi Arabia for the Expo!


Smooth security process

As part of security checks, visitors are asked to place their belongings in trays as they walk past scanning gates. The process takes no more than a few minutes and operations are being handled efficiently, say reporters on the ground.


First arrivals

Journalists from around the world have descended upon the Expo 2020 site this morning and have gathered at the media plaza to collect their accredited passes ahead of the first full day of the mega event.

One level up, people are being ushered in through different queues, as they enter the site with their camera equipment.

Announcements are being made at regular intervals for visitors to keep their vaccine cards handy as they enter the Expo site.

As the temperature outside hovers around the 30°C mark, visitors continue to arrive before the day's events begin.

Designated lanes have been segregated with orange ribbons, as a significant number of the Expo staff pleasantly guide people in.

Visitors to the site are recommended to wear comfortable clothing and shoes, and carry water bottles to avoid dehydration.


Live from the venue

Watch KT journo Abdul talk about why this Expo is so important :


Take the shuttle bus... or walk!

Shuttle buses at the Mobility car park run every 5 minutes, but with the venue just five minutes away, you can head over on foot too.


Excitement is in the air!

With a promise from the Ruler of Dubai himself that Expo 2020 will be an "unprecedented" event, anticipation is high for the mega fair.


All aboard!

KT journalists Nandini Sircar and Neeraj Murali have boarded the Metro, which opened at 8am — two hours before its usual operating schedule.


All roads lead to Expo

The Metro is, of course, not the only way to get to the world's greatest show. Watch KT journo Abdul Karim Hanif talk about driving down to the site this morning.


Train ride to remember

Today, October 1, marks a major milestone in the Expo journey, as Route 2020 launches its first official journey for the general public.

A massive area has been allocated at Jebel Ali Station for underground parking and commuters who wish to take the train can avail of this facility to park their cars free of cost.

Roads were devoid of traffic as usual this morning — but, no doubt, they will soon get busy as the UAE gears up for an action-packed weekend.

Today also marks the first full day of the Expo after the inauguration of the site that held its gala, star-studded opening ceremony on Thursday evening.

The anticipation has reached fever pitch as we head to the mega event, which is a voyage of hope, invention and collaboration with several architectural marvels.

Route 2020 runs from Al Rashidiya station on the Red Line to Expo 2020 station. The fare cost Dh7.5. Metro users can also top up their Nol cards if they wish to avoid standing in the queue.

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