'A home away from home': How Expo 2020 Dubai changed lives for visitors

sandhya@khaleejtimes.com Filed on October 7, 2021

Photos by Shihab

Luciano Barbosa De Lima, Head of programming, Events and Protocol, Brazil Pavilion

Fatoumata Condé, Communications Manager, Guinean Pavilion.

Austeja Brasiunaite, Project Manager of the Lithuanian Pavilion

Marie Claire Azar, Swiss Pavilion staff

Pauline Weis, Media & Communication, Luxembourg Pavilion

How Dubai became ‘home’ to people from different parts of the world

What do you talk about when you talk about Expo 2020 Dubai? The greatest show in the world has given several talking points to the world. From conversations on sustainability to tech advancements to business to food, the list is pretty endless.

Amid the extravaganza that is playing out, the mega show has also changed lives, attracted a number of tourists and professionals to the city. Some of them have even made Dubai their home for the next six months while working for various pavilions and opening doors to new possibilities. For many of them, landing at the Expo site itself was love at first sight, and as they prepare for the next few months, these profes sionals are also getting acquainted with the city’s vibrant and diverse culture.

What have been their first impressions? How has Expo impacted their lives? What does interacting with people from different countries and cultures under one roof mean? We spoke to five professionals who came to Dubai because of the grand event to find out what being in the city at this very moment means to them.

‘I love how different cultures are respected’

Luciano Barbosa De Lima, Head of programming, Events and Protocol, Brazil Pavilion

Dubai is a beautiful city. Whilst the UAE is a modern and advanced nation, people from other countries are respected and their culture and tradition valourised. My family and I feel it is a great opportunity to experience the different aspects of other countries under one roof. We are getting used to some spicy foods and I am also eating spicy sushi.

At the Brazil Pavilion, we offer UAE residents an experience through the Brazilian waters. It’s an experimental and immersive pavilion, with a huge room for a temporary exhibition that will change every week, but the main attraction is the projection that takes visitors on a journey not only through different ecosystems but also our cities, our industries, our sustainable agriculture. To make sure that the visitor has a great experience, we have a restaurant with a Brazilian chef preparing the best of our cuisine with selected products. If you are a coffee lover, you can try the best coffee in the world here.

‘The open-mindedness is amazing’

Fatoumata Condé, Communications Manager, Guinean Pavilion

I am very excited to call Dubai home for the next couple of months. The city is vibrant and its people welcoming. Dubai offers all world-class comforts and amenities that one could aspire to feel at home whilst away from home. I am meeting people from all corners of the world everyday at the Expo which offers great opportunities that can help our country form advantageous partnerships.

What I like most about the UAE is the open-mindedness. Rarely have I seen a country that facilitates ease of travel and access to such a great extent. Just like Guinea, the UAE has an advantageous geostrategic position, which makes it a natural attractive hub for people from all continents. I am thrilled that for the next couple of months, all of us who came to Dubai for the Expo will contribute to its great cultural melting pot.

The people of Guinea and the UAE have been close for decades and the two countries have shared strong collaboration borne from their similarities; therefore, there won’t be much adjustment needed in terms of lifestyle. If I ever feel homesick, I also know that I can always head to Deira to have a plate of some delicious Guinean cuisine, such as rice or fonio.

Our pavilion is designed to be an invitation to come to discover Guinea. We invite visitors to come to find out about our country’s history, culture and key facts. As we wanted the pavilion to be accessible to all age ranges, we have activities that are specially designed for children. Without giving away spoilers, I think that most visitors will be excited to experience the main feature of the pavilion, which necessitates their direct implication to make it come alive.

‘It is a country that offers big opportunities’

Austeja Brasiunaite, Project Manager of the Lithuanian Pavilion

I have always heard about Dubai being a breathtaking destination but was thinking about it as maybe a possible place for a vacation. Thanks to this amazing opportunity to work at Expo 2020, I can now call Dubai my home for the next couple of months. Dubai and the Expo are life-changing experiences which I will remember and benefit from for the rest of my life.

I see UAE as a country with big opportunities to improve myself by learning and interacting with people from so many cultures. There’s always positivity in the air that makes you think everything is possible. Also, what fascinates me is that among all the innovations and modern way of life, you can feel its rich cultural heritage.

In general, our tradition and food are very different. But since I love travelling and diving into new things, I’m really enjoying my time here now and try to make my discoveries on food, lifestyle and culture. If during my stay here I ever miss Lithuanian food, I can always grab it at the restaurant in the Lithuanian Pavilion.

Our pavilion is dedicated to showing our country as sustainable and innovative, open for co-creation. We invite visitors to discover and experience Lithuania, its nature, culture, people and technologies. Our welcoming staff will take guests through the pavilion narrative and one will leave with much more knowledge about this still undiscovered country.

‘Hats off to the visionary leaders of the country’

Marie Claire Azar, Swiss Pavilion staff

I am quite excited about my stay in Dubai for the next few months. I have been to this lovely city before, but this is the first time I get an opportunity to live here at a stretch. Dubai is the land of opportunities, and these are very exciting times for the city and the world. I am looking forward to exploring this city and getting to know more about the UAE culture and tradition.

I admire the visionary leaders of this country. The progress that the country has made in the last 50 years is astonishing, especially when it comes to the future as they are already talking about the country in 2050.

Not to forget, the UAE has one of the best infrastructures in the world. Dubai is a global city, so I actually have a variety of choices when it comes to food. With many international cuisines, you find every type of food in the city at almost any time of the day. The Arab culture is different from ours, but Dubai has an accommodative and inclusive society, and is like home away from home.

The Swiss Pavilion will present our country as a world-leading innovation hotspot in collaboration with Swissnex, the global network connecting Switzerland and the world in education, research and innovation.

Swissnex will present content based on the Expo theme weeks, which are linked to the UN sustainable development goals. Swiss universities, start-ups, and innovative companies will showcase their research and inventions through temporary exhibits and presentations for the public.

In addition to this, panels, workshops, pitch contests and networking events will take place at the event space and the rooftop terrace. The Swiss Pavilion will also give visitors a glimpse of Switzerland, featuring its myriad landscape with the Sea of Fog experience as well as its latest innovations.

‘The many experiences it offers are fascinating’

Pauline Weis, Media & Communication, Luxembourg Pavilion

Dubai is a melting pot of cultures, and I am excited to meet people from all over the world. I genuinely enjoy getting to know people with different backgrounds and trajectories. Another thing that I already adore about Dubai is the warm weather.

I was expecting to live among skyscrapers, malls and highways for the next six months, but I was surprised and thrilled to learn that the UAE actually boasts a grandiose landscape and offers so many outdoor activities. From hiking to kayaking to cycling, if you are an outdoor buff, you’ll really enjoy the UAE!

In Luxembourg, I am used to walking or cycling anywhere. Here in Dubai, having a car is essential. Luckily, taxis are very affordable, and I truly enjoy my rides in Dubai metro where I can catch up on work.

A visit to the Luxembourg Pavilion will showcase the country’s extreme diversity and versatility. It’s an educational experience where you get to appreciate Luxembourg’s human face and its leadership role when it comes to valuable sectors, such as green finance or development aid. My favourite part of the Pavilion is the recreation of Luxembourg’s lush forests since it highlights Luxembourg’s attractiveness for travellers from around the globe.

In terms of services, you shouldn’t miss the Schengen Lounge where you can enjoy Luxembourgish fusion food. Every dish is a unique creation, that can’t be enjoyed anywhere else but the Luxembourg Pavilion.

sandhya@khaleejtimes.com

author

Sandhya D'Mello

Journalist. Period. My interests are Economics, Finance and Information Technology. Prior to joining Khaleej Times, I have worked with some leading publications in India, including the Economic Times.