In the fall of 2021, Dubai will host a World Expo with 190 participating countries showcasing their innovations and ideas for a smarter, stronger, and more sustainable future lived in cooperation on this planet. The first ever event of its kind to be hosted in the Arab world, Expo 2020 Dubai will demonstrate the full extent of Emirati hospitality by celebrating culture in every form over the whole course of the 6-month program. This is an event with a long-lasting legacy dating back to 1851, and the UAE is uniquely positioned to set the tone for a coming decade of opportunity, mobility, and sustainability, the three themes of this World Expo. Through touring different pavilions and districts laid out across the event space, visitors can experience the future being built in real time with topics touching on AI, social issues, youth empowerment, and even exploration of the universe. 

World’s Fairs and Expos have been capturing the public’s imagination since they began in the modern age as events that showcase the full extent of what humanity is capable of achieving, both in the present day and in the near future. As a city, Dubai has consistently positioned itself to remain at the forefront of innovation, always bringing the future into the present day and daring people to think again about what is possible. From the immaculately sculpted islands of the Palm Jumeirah to the top story of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai’s architecture always seems to be extending a visual invitation to dream a little bigger. The Dubai Frame is perhaps the best example of the city’s vision. 

The Frame invites people to explore the history of Dubai in a very innovative way. The interactive nature of the experience made it very appealing to me. If you look at Dubai from the outside you will see the futuristic inspiration put into the city, but it’s not until you see how they envisioned it and the values and morals behind it that you truly learn to appreciate it all. My biggest takeaway was understanding that with globalization we can achieve so much more —  when we bring talents from all over the world to work as one, we have the ability to create something as unique as Dubai, for example.” 

Travel photographer Matias de Rada certainly understands the value of transporting talent around the world and building connections that make it easier for people from all places to work together. He was able to join our team on a recent trip to Dubai, where he and other influencers were able to see the finishing touches being put on the Expo 2020 preparations. Though the event will now start welcoming visitors in the Fall of 2021 and into 2022, it retains the name Expo 2020 in the spirit of its three themes: opportunity, sustainability, and mobility. When one door closes, another opens; an event with such global scope and with cooperation at its core is the perfect way to set the world on the right track again after recent trials and tribulations. 

These themes represent real-world iteration on Dubai’s visions for the future. On her visit to The Frame with our team, wheelchair user and accessibility advocate Chelsie Hill was amazed by the innovations that the city has in mind for its residents and visitors. “One moment I will never forget is watching a video about where planners see Dubai in the next 50 years — they show someone with a spinal cord injury getting up to walk. To show that to the masses is a huge breakthrough. It makes me excited to go back and visit Dubai again.”

Each theme will have its own “district”, designed by such reputable architects as those who worked on the popular “Gherkin” building in London and the roof of the Hong Kong International Airport. 190+ countries are participating, each with their own individually designed pavilions in one of the three districts. There will be food from all over the world, cultural celebrations, and hour after hour of live performances from acts such as the Al Wasl Opera every day. These personal touches are just the tip of the iceberg, as each nation presents its own vision of the future through exhibits about its ecosystem, its artistic traditions, or its technological innovations. 

The attention to detail present throughout the country designs and overall Expo village infrastructure impressed Marcela Marañon, travel accessibility advocate who joined our team on a thrilling visit to the pavilions. 

“Visiting the Dubai Expo site was a jaw-dropping experience for me. Seeing the stunning architecture of every country’s building made me want to come back to Dubai when the event opens! I felt like I was living in the future for a moment. I was very happy to learn how Dubai is focusing on wheelchair accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities and the steps they are taking to improve the quality of life of every person living in the emirates.”

Movement and ease of access for all is front of mind in the design and exhibitions at Expo, with visitors able to get a glimpse at the future of hyperloop technology and see the latest developments in 3D printing, a technology that can be used to provide prosthetics and many other valuable tools. 

There’s also a focus on making familiar aspects of our lives more sustainable — at the Germany pavilion, visitors will be able to learn all about concrete that’s able to generate solar power, a subtle and functional innovation for the city streets of the future. 

As one of the three major subthemes, sustainability is of course an integral part of the approach to Dubai Expo’s design. While the larger village will incorporate smart water usage and smart energy solutions, some individual country pavilions have gone a step further. The Netherlands pavilion, for instance, was built solely of materials locally sourced from the Emirati region, reducing transport and construction footprint. Within the pavilion, the centerpiece is a cone-shaped vertical farm growing mushrooms to be used for everything from nutrition to construction — if you haven’t heard of bricks made from mushrooms before, you have now.

Dubai even has plans to reuse much of the infrastructure developed especially for Expo, with hopes to convert about 80% of the facilities into multi-use commercial and residential space after the conclusion of exhibits. With large solar-energy producing “trees” and traditional falaj irrigation systems remaining here in perpetuity, this is a sustainable model of urban life that will live on and inspire long after its debut this year. Our team was massively inspired by the work being done on the Expo pavilions, and to see firsthand how each of the event’s themes are being implemented with intentional use of space and resources. We’re eager to return in a few months for the event, when the world can come together and celebrate the present while imagining the future we all want to build.   

Follow along for all updates around Dubai World Expo 2020 on their website