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Expo 2020

Expo 2020 Dubai: How to get there, timings, what to see, everything you need to know

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The big day is finally here.

After the United Arab Emirates officially launched Expo 2020 Dubai in an opening ceremony streamed by millions across the world the stage is now set for the biggest cultural gathering in the world.

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Over 182 days, than 200 participants – including nations, multilateral organizations, businesses, and educational institutions, as well as millions of visitors – aim to come to come together to create the largest and most diverse World Expo ever.

The 4.3sq kilometer site was desert when Dubai was chosen eight years ago to follow the 2015 Expo in Milan, Italy.

Now, $6.3billion later, the event officially expects 25 million visits to the site over the next six months,

Here is what you can expect from the first day of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Opening times, tickets

Visitors can get tickets online at the official Expo website or in person at the site, but the savviest way of buying a ticket is to purchase a Expo 200 monthly pass for $20 (Dh95) which is then valid for the whole of October.

The ‘October Pass’ gives residents the chance to explore the site for 31 days where they can enjoy immersive experiences, electric entertainment and innovations – all for the price of a single-entry day ticket. The pass will only be available to purchase until October 15.

Visitors above the age of 60, people of determination and children under 18 can visit for free.

Doors open at 10am until 10pm.

Getting there

Whether you are coming by Metro, bus, taxi, or car, getting to Expo 2020 couldn’t be simpler. There are three main entrances which are a 20-minute drive from Dubai Marina, while the Metro’s Route 2020 takes you directly to Expo 2020.

The fastest and most sustainable way to get there, the Dubai Metro Red Line takes you from the city of Dubai to the entrance of Expo 2020. First arrivals to the Expo Station are at 06:15 Saturday to Thursday and 09:15 on Friday. Last departures from the Expo Station are at 00:00 Saturday to Wednesday and 01:00 Thursday to Friday.

Giant photo-realistic sculptures, the world’s largest elevating platform and highlights of the UAE’s space program are among the attractions set to feature at Alif – The Mobility Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Supplied)
Giant photo-realistic sculptures, the world’s largest elevating platform and highlights of the UAE’s space program are among the attractions set to feature at Alif – The Mobility Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Supplied)

You can also get to and from the Expo 2020 site via a dedicated public bus service: Expo Rider. It’s free of charge for Expo 2020 visitors and you can catch it from different locations in Dubai and other Emirates. Just remember where it drops you off as you’ll have to take the return trip from the same gate. You can also pay to hop on any of RTA’s standard buses.

Dubai’s taxis and car hires are plentiful and another way to get to the Expo site. Taxis can be booked by phone, but the simplest way is to download the Careem, Uber or S’hail app. Through the Careem app, you can also book ‘Hala Taxi’, which is Dubai’s most affordable taxi. There will be a starting flat fee of AED 20 for rides originating from the Expo site.

If you’re driving to the Expo 2020 site by car, you can get there from all major roads. Follow the signs for one of the four designated parking zones: Opportunity parking zone (from the E77 Expo Road), Sustainability parking zone (from the E77 Expo Road or D54 Zayed bin Hamdan al Nahyan), Mobility parking zone (from the E311 Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road), Dubai Exhibition center parking zone (from the E311 Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road).

Parking is free of charge. Entry is from 08:30 to 23:00 Saturday to Wednesday, and 08:30 to 01:00 Thursday to Friday and special days.

Navigating the site

On Thursday, Expo 2020 launched its official visitor app and a business-focused app to help the millions of expected visitors make the most of the 182 days of the world’s biggest cultural gathering.

The official Expo 2020 app allows users to tailor their visit to the fair, matching individual interests to create a personal schedule of events and attractions, across a site twice the size of Monaco.

Visitors can use the app to buy tickets, choose from more than 200 dining options and themed culinary events, and manage reservations for Expo 2020’s intelligent Smart Queue system – offering guests the ability to reserve a convenient time slot to visit a pavilion of their choice and avoid queues.

Garden in the Sky at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Twitter)
Garden in the Sky at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Twitter)

The app – available to download via the App Store or Google Play – allows visitors to create an Expo 2020 account or link their social media account, as well as access a GPS-enabled interactive map of the Expo site and step-by-step directions to points of interest across Expo.

A chatbot on the app will provide information on making visits to Expo 2020 safe and enjoyable, including details on opening times, parking options and how to reach Expo using Dubai’s public transport options.

What to see

On day one of Expo 2020 there are plenty of events lined up.

The UAE pavilion, shaped like a falcon in flight, officially opens on Friday.

The structure, which will sit at the heart of the nearly 500-acre exhibition area, 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.

An illustration of Dubai's Expo 2020 site. (Supplied: Expo 2020)
An illustration of Dubai's Expo 2020 site. (Supplied: Expo 2020)

Visitors can also get chance to see 191 pavilions in total spanning every corner of the globe.

There are about 60 live events to see each day of the Expo.

On the first day, these include a ‘Moroccan Popular Event’ – a celebration of live music and dance – which is being held several times throughout the day at the Opportunity Zone and the Sustainability Zone on the Earth Stage.

There will also be a celebration of Hungarian contemporary dance in the same zone, while Malaysia will host a ‘Truly Asia Cultural Showcase’ which will display the country’s exotic culture, also to eb shown on the Earth Stage in the Sustainability Zone.

Visitors can also get ready for a culinary extravaganza as Expo reveals award-winning chefs and brand-new dining concepts across 200+ eateries. The celebrity chef line-up includes David Myers, Matthew Kenney and Rohit Ghai.

Visitors shouldn’t forget to pick up their Expo Passport from the Official Store and get it stamped as they visit pavilions around the site.

On the first day, visitors can enjoy all the fun of the fair on Around the World, a classic Venetian carousel with hand-painted images of past World Expos.

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)

Visitor looking for some retail therapy can visit the World Souq which features a range of beautiful pieces of ethically sourced craftsmanship from around the world or they can enjoy some down time at the ‘Beyond Walls’; giant frescos in the Al Forsan Park.

The after-dark visitors can enjoy witnessing the buildings and spaces come alive with projections and light installations create a magical world of wonder and beauty.

Celebratory fireworks

For those not heading to Expo 2020 on the first day, there are still ways to mark the launch of the world fair.

To celebrate the opening day, Dubai will be hosting fireworks around the city.

They kick of at 8pm at three locations around the emirate: The Frame, Dubai Festival City and The Pointe on Palm Jumeriah

Apart from the firework display, Duabi Festival City and The Pointe will incorporate a dazzling light and sound theme show based on Expo 2020 Dubai in their fountain show.

Visitors to The Frame can enjoy fireworks and seeing the structure light up in Expo 2020 colors.

Opening ceremony: A star-studded extravaganza

The first day of Expo 2020 follows a star-studded opening ceremony.

Aside from the 3,000-strong audience inside Al Wasl Plaza, millions across the globe tuned in to virtually view the eagerly awaited opening event.

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020, on September 30, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020, on September 30, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

With the golden ring of connectivity – the inspiration for the Expo 2020 Dubai logo – raised to the trellis of the magnificent Al Wasl Plaza, the heart of the Expo site and the setting for the ceremony, the most inclusive World Expo ever was officially underway.

In addition to music from some of the most influential artists on the planet and a live orchestra, a sensory overload of powerful visuals was beamed across Al Wasl Plaza’s dome, the world’s largest 360-degree projection screen. More than 3,000 lighting fixtures, 1,000 speakers, 1,300 costumes and buckets of passion and emotion from every one of the 1,000-plus participating performers and volunteers also contributed to a one-of-a-kind spectacle of artistic collaboration.

The flags of Expo’s 192 participating nations, revealed via a domino effect as flags were opened one by one, was a visually moment that also signified a reawakening of the world.

It was celebrated tenor Andrea Bocelli who brought the house down, rounding off the night’s electrifying proceedings with one of his all-time classics, The Prayer, its lyrics of human connection crescendoing into the grand finale.

With more than 80 million albums under his belt, classical music’s biggest-selling living artist said that performing at Expo 2020 was a “great honor” and that his presence at Al Wasl “reflects all of the affection my audience has been giving me for many years and I hope to give it back.”

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020, on September 30, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)
Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020, on September 30, 2021. (Karim Sahib/AFP)

Andrea Bocelli said: “We have all gone through a year that no one could ever have imagined. For a year, we have lost the essentials, our freedom in and, in a sense, and even our dignity.”

“Now we finally see the light and I hope that this event will also help to instill in everyone a sense of optimism, a desire to achieve and to put what has been behind us.”

Before that, chart-topping British vocalist Ellie Goulding belted out a resounding, uplifting version of Anything Can Happen; Andra Day enraptured the audience with Rise Up; Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang wowed with his wizardry; and four-time Grammy winning singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo, together with renowned Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu, sang John Legend’s powerful If You’re Out There?, with its moving lyrics imploring the world to join together.

Other highlights included the official Expo song, This Is Our Time, sung by Arab artists Hussain Al Jassmi, Almas and Mayssa Karaa, while Emirati singing sensation Ahlam Alshamsi completed the formidable regional line-up. The artistic prowess of Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman’s all-women ensemble, the Firdaus Orchestra, comprising 50 musicians from across the Arab world, also proved a pivotal part of the ceremony’s journey.

Scott Givens, executive producer of the Expo 2020 Opening Ceremony, who co-curated and co-produced the show with Franco Dragone, artistic director, said: “We picked artists that had songs that belonged in the ceremony and that tied in with Expo’s themes.

“Of course, we wanted to represent the world, we wanted to be plural and we wanted to reflect the diversity of our planet. I’m very proud of the combination of talent that we’ve brought together to do this and the way they’ve executed the story.”

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