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Expo 2020 Dubai: The architectural wonders of Middle East pavilions

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World Expos are synonymous with the most innovative and creative architectural designs, with some of the best talent behind the eye-catching and purpose-built sculptures unveiled at the global fairs.

With Dubai being home to some of the world’s most famous architectural wonders, Dubai Expo 2020 - the first one to be held in the Middle East since the fair was first launched in 1850 - promises to unveil some of the most spectacular pavilions in Expo history.

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Here are some of the most spectacular Middle East pavilions to be unveiled during the six-month extravaganza, set to kick off on October 20.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE pavillion, which will sit at the heart of the nearly 500-acre exhibition area, will be seen by the roughly 25 million visitors and participants who are expected to visit the Expo from October 2020 to April 2021. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
The UAE pavillion, which will sit at the heart of the nearly 500-acre exhibition area, will be seen by the roughly 25 million visitors and participants who are expected to visit the Expo from October 2020 to April 2021. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

Shaped like a falcon in flight, the pavilion tells the story of the UAE as a global hub, and the vision of its leaders to create a peaceful and progressive society with ambitious plans for the future.

Following a seven-month design competition with submissions from the world’s leading architecture firms, the National Media Council of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) selected Santiago Calatrava’s proposal for the UAE Pavilion at the Dubai World Expo 2020.

The structure, which will sit at the heart of the nearly 500-acre exhibition area, will be seen by the roughly 25 million visitors and participants who are expected to visit the Expo from October 2020 to April 2021.

The UAE Pavilion will be approximately 15,000 square meters (over 161,000 square feet) and will include numerous exhibition areas, an auditorium, food and beverage outlets and VIP lounges. It will be designed to meet LEED Platinum sustainable building standards.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Pavilion is the second largest after the UAE. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
The Saudi Pavilion is the second largest after the UAE. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

At the Saudi Pavilion – the second largest after the UAE’s – visitors will be able to encounter a 68 square-meter, curved LED screen greets visitors as they embark on a technology-enabled journey through five ecosystems, hinting at the Kingdom’s natural spaces, beautiful coasts, vast deserts, surrounding seas, and high mountains.

The journey will walk through the flora of al-Bardani Valley in Asir Region to the mighty mountains of Tabuk, and from the dunes of the Empty Quarter in southeastern Saudi to the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea.

Visitors to the Saudi Pavilion will then experience 14 cultural landmarks along an escalator ride. These include acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, Hegra Archaeological Site in AlUla, Historic Jeddah, Rock Art in the Hail Region, and al-Ahsa Oasis.

People, opportunity, nature, and heritage are the four pillars that anchor the visitor experience of the Kingdom’s 13,000 square-meter pavilion: an adventure woven into one of the most sustainable structures at Expo 2020 Dubai. It has been awarded the LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the highest internationally recognized sustainability rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

In addition, the pavilion holds three Guinness World Records: the largest interactive lighting floor with around 8,000 LED lights, the longest interactive water feature at more than 32 meters, and the largest LED interactive digital mirror screen at 1302.5 square meters.

Israel

The Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai draws inspiration from the arid landscapes of the Middle Eastern country and adopts the shape of sand dunes. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
The Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai draws inspiration from the arid landscapes of the Middle Eastern country and adopts the shape of sand dunes. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

The Israeli pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai draws inspiration from the arid landscapes of the Middle Eastern country and adopts the shape of sand dunes.

These dunes with a surface area of 986sqm are framed by seven LED screen gates using 630sqm LED panels, creating a significant open space for people to gather, discuss and share ideas.

Produced by AVS, a company headed by Malki Shem-Tov, and designed by Knafo Klimor Architects, the pavilion is 15 meters high and built over 1,550sqm.

The dunes sit on a raft foundation, and the pavilion has a steel structure prepared in the workshop in Dubai and assembled on-site using dry connections and multiple, approved, cladding materials for the finish.

The dune floor is formed using a thin layer of concrete on top of a trapezoidal steel paneled structure to create the dune's unique geometry, this is then topped with sand-colored, recycled rubber.

The pavilion, spearheaded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, uses many unique and smart elements. The LED screen wall can be used by the visitor as a game engagement platform with people in Israel, as well as have certain control over the live presented content.

These LED screens are also the cladding material of the seven gates inner walls. The LED screens will be presenting a variety of images and videos showcasing varied and timely content, such as reducing world hunger, protecting nature, energy for everyone, water conservation and adaptation for arid countries, health technologies and cyber security.

The dune level is also equipped with virtual reality binoculars, allowing visitors to experience the landscape of Israel. In the main hall inside the pavilion, a 360-degree immersive show on 250sqm of screen, will present the Israeli innovation for a better future.

Egypt

Inspired by nature and dedicated to the future of humanity, the Egypt pavilion will be located in the opportunities area, which is considered the most important areas of the Dubai Expo 2020. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
Inspired by nature and dedicated to the future of humanity, the Egypt pavilion will be located in the opportunities area, which is considered the most important areas of the Dubai Expo 2020. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

Inspired by nature and dedicated to the future of humanity, Egypt’s pavilion will be located in the opportunities area, which is considered the most important section of the Dubai Expo 2020. The pavilion will feature 106 activities, including workshops and discussion meetings, business meetings and cultural salons, in addition to nine specialized exhibitions. These will be in the fields of antiquities, education, real estate investment, and Egypt’s Heritage.

Also featured are recreational and cultural events to attract the largest possible number of audience and visitors to the exhibition. Three-thousand-year-old mummies are also now in the process of being transported to Expo2020 Dubai which will also include in its digital display artifacts from Ancient Egypt.

Egypt’s goal in participating in this event is to achieve the concept of integration with the world towards a better future, through developing initiatives that serve all aspects of life.

Kuwait

At the Kuwait pavilion, the past meets present to shape a far-reaching vision for the country’s future. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
At the Kuwait pavilion, the past meets present to shape a far-reaching vision for the country’s future. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

At the Kuwait pavilion, the past meets present to shape a far-reaching vision for the country’s future, shaped by a commitment to sustainable development to deliver a secure and prosperous future for its economy, environment, cities, and people.

Work on the desert and water tower-inspired pavilion began in September 2019 with the design of the pavilion revealed on 4 February 2020. Under the theme, “New Opportunities for Sustainability,” the pavilion will showcase Kuwait’s rich past and the sustainable future objectives, as well as economic diversity that will promote business innovation.

The total area of the Kuwait Pavilion is estimated at 4,550 square meters and is one of the largest pavilions participating in the Expo and with a sophisticated exterior design inspired by the Kuwaiti local environment expressed by sand dunes and the symbol of sustainability.

The pavilion aims to highlight the vast Kuwaiti skills and creativity in various fields where there are nine booths outside the pavilion to provide an opportunity for talented Kuwaitis to show what they have in front of millions of visitors who will arrive at Expo 2020.

Oman

The Oman Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will bring to life the Sultanate’s story of national progress through an exploration of frankincense. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
The Oman Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will bring to life the Sultanate’s story of national progress through an exploration of frankincense. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

The Oman Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai will bring to life the Sultanate’s story of national progress through an exploration of frankincense. The eye-catching design of the pavilion is inspired by Boswellia sacra, the tree from which the precious resin is harvested.

With an asymmetrical, flowing form that is reminiscent of the tree’s low, shade-giving branches, the structure appears to envelop and protect life.

For the past 5,000 years, frankincense has been valued for its power to lift spirits and encourage wellbeing. Transported by intrepid navigators who journeyed across land and sea, the resin was traded through a vast network of business partnerships and international friendships, transcending languages, cultures and continents.

Visitors to the pavilion will pass through five zones, illuminating how frankincense contributed to Omani advancements in transportation, knowledge, manufacturing, sustainability and exploration.

Designed to connect minds across time and space, this journey will feature both large-scale, high-impact moments, as well as subtle interactive experiences created using Oman-developed augmented and mixed reality technology.

Read more:

Saudi Arabia reveals Guinness World Record-breaking Expo Pavilion

Dubai Expo 2020: Everything you need to know about the UAE mega-event

Dubai Expo in focus as UAE racks up $700 mln of trade with Israel since normalization