31 celebrities on 'truly impressive' Expo 2020 Dubai: Prince William to Malala

With only one month of the world's fair left to go, we reminisce on what its most famous guests have had to say about it

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There are 31 days left before Expo 2020 Dubai comes to an end on March 31.

In the five months it has run so far, since it opened to the public on October 1, a whole host of famous faces have walked through the exceptional entrance gates.

Some visited to perform, while others came for diplomatic purposes and more simply arrived to admire.

This is what some of those most notable guests have had to say about the "world's greatest show".

Jean Paul Gaultier

The famous fashion designer visited Dubai for the first time this week for the opening of an exhibition of his work at the France Pavilion.

"It's truly an honour to be here, to be part of this universal exhibition," Gaultier told The National. "With all the stands, to be part of the one from France is an honour for me. And to be in Dubai — can you imagine, I have never been in Dubai before!

"I was missing something, so I am enjoying discovering it — I love it, I love it, I love it. This is the first but not the last time, I think its fantastic.

"It feels like a new world, the architecture is absolutely incredible, not only of Expo but the city also."

Coldplay

Chris Martin, frontman of the four-piece British group Coldplay, and his fellow band members performed in Al Wasl Dome on February 15, as part of Expo 2020's Infinite Nights series.

“Thank you for last night’s incredible #InfiniteNights show at #Expo2020,” the band tweeted the next morning. “It was so inspiring to be with everyone, to visit the Sustainability pavilions and to see Dubai’s Reuse, Refill, Reimagine initiative in action.”

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, concluded his two-day tour of the UAE with a stop at Dubai Expo 2020 on February 15, as part of Turkey’s country day.

“I am truly happy to be with you on the occasion of the Expo 2020 Dubai Turkish National Day. I congratulate the friendly and sisterly UAE for the large scale event despite the pandemic conditions,” Erdogan said.

“The progress achieved by the UAE on the basis of the leadership and vision of the late Sheikh Zayed is truly commendable.

“One of the works that reflects the exemplary breakthrough of the Emirates is undoubtedly the Expo in Dubai. I also find the theme of Expo — connecting minds, creating the future — as extremely meaningful. We should think about a brighter future together, act together and unite on common ground to achieve it.”

Ranbir Kapoor

The Bollywood star made an appearance at the India Pavilion in February and took a souvenir photo of himself in front of the giant water feature.

“Mumbai is a lot like the Expo,” he told the audience as part of a talk he gave. "There are so many different cultures and people who have come together in the city … I have been to India and the UAE Pavilions, it was awesome. It’s so incredible to be in a place like this."

Armaan Malik

Armaan Malik and his brother Amaal Mallik, sons of famed Bollywood composer Daboo Malik, performed at the Dubai Exhibition Centre Arena at Expo 2020 on February 12.

Armaan shared a video in which he performed a song live for the first time at Expo 2020 Dubai, writing that he “couldn’t have asked for a better audience than YOU, Dubai”. Afterwards, he called the experience “magical”.

Prince William

The future King of England made a stop at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of the UK’s country day on February 10. This was part of his first official to the UAE, during which he met Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and also toured the Abu Dhabi mangroves.

While at the world's fair, Prince William embarked on an impromptu walkabout, shook hands and met families who had been queuing for hours. He ended the night by attending a performance at the Expo Arena.

In an exclusive editorial for The National, he wrote: “Visiting the incredible pavilions at Expo 2020, I was struck by the optimistic message Dubai is sending to its millions of international visitors — that when the world comes together, we can create a better tomorrow. It is a vision that is shared by the UK, too, as demonstrated by our two countries’ strong and enduring links.”

Queen Mathilde and King Philippe of Belgium

The Belgian royals visited Expo as part of Belgium’s country day on February 5. The couple met Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, at the Expo 2020 site, and the king gave a speech during their visit to the Belgium Pavilion.

“The UAE has proudly become a global centre at a crossroads of culture, while keeping its own unique culture," he said. "Belgium is proud of having been at your side as a partner and friend, and looks forward to contributing to the realisation of the Emirati dream.

"Expo 2020 Dubai is one of the first major events since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. What you have achieved is truly impressive."

Alexandre Lacazette

Arsenal FC captain Alexandre Lacazette spoke on a recent trip to Expo 2020 Dubai, along with his teammates in the English Premier League football club. More than 20 first-team players visited the Emirates Pavilion in February, enjoying a glimpse of the future of commercial aviation through the immersive experiences.

“It was an incredible experience to visit Expo 2020 during our visit to Dubai," said Lacazette. "We’ve enjoyed getting down to hard work during our warm-weather training sessions in first-class surroundings, and it was great to have a break to explore the Emirates Pavilion.

“The boys found it very interesting to take a look into the future, and the gravity-defying waterfall was a particular highlight."

Cristiano Ronaldo

One of the most famous footballers in the world made an appearance at the world fair on January 28. The Manchester United forward was part of a Q&A session for Expo’s Health and Wellness Week at Al Wasl Plaza, where thousands of fans turned up to see him.

“Whatever Dubai does is just amazing and impressive. I am not surprised at things here. It’s just fantastic to see how things are made possible here,” he said.

“Expo is unbelievably impressive. Bringing 192 nations with their culture and traditions under one roof is something very exciting.”

Malala Yousafzai

The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize visited Expo 2020 Dubai to speak at the Women’s Pavilion on January 28. During her talk, she said that humanity as a whole could only thrive when women were thriving.

She then praised the work done by the organisers of Expo 2020 Dubai to help promote opportunities for women.

“When young girls visit the pavilions, they are learning something and can picture themselves in leadership roles,” she said.

“This is the message we send to our future generation: girls and boys can do anything, and gender should not be preventing them from any role they aspire to.”

Black Eyed Peas

The pop trio made up of Filipino-American rapper apl.de.ap and US stars will.i.am and Taboo performed at Al Wasl Plaza on January 25 as part of the Infinite Nights music series.

“As a group, we continue to evolve our music to connect with the hearts and minds of our community around the world,” the band said ahead of their performance.

"To be able to be here with my best friends, doing what we love to do and bringing that joy is a blessing," said Taboo of the UAE trip.

“We performed virtually during the pandemic and it was just us with a big screen behind. So to be able to come to Dubai here in 2022 is like a dream come true."

South Korean President Moon Jae-in

The President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, made a visit to the UAE as part of his Middle East tour. He made his way to Expo 2020 as part of South Korea's country day on January 16. Moon praised the UAE's hosting of the world fair while sharing hopes that South Korea could do the same in 2030.

"Expo 2020 Dubai is a source of great inspiration for us, and we are hoping to host an Expo in Busan, Korea, in 2030, and our theme of ‘Transforming our world, navigating towards a better future’ is aligned with the goals pursued by Expo 2020 Dubai.

“People of the world, through Expo 2020 Dubai, have been connecting their minds, and I hope we will connect again in Korea in 2030.”

G V Prakash Kumar

Indian composer and actor G V Prakash Kumar was particularly complimentary of the India Pavilion after a visit to Expo 2020 on January 3. "I feel very happy to be present here at the India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai which showcases India's strengths and achievements brilliantly," he said in a video posted to his Instagram account.

Tamer Hosny

The Egyptian singer took to the stage for a performance of his biggest hits on December 23. Afterwards, he shared a post of appreciation on Instagram, writing that he felt "immense pride" in the concert, thanking the audience, as well as the Arab community who attended his show.

Shekhar Kapur

World-renowned director Shekhar Kapur teamed up with Oscar-winning composer A R Rahman for Why? The Musical, which was shown at Expo 2020 Dubai's Al Wasl Plaza. The show follows the story of a curious young girl and a wise old man as they take audiences on a visual journey of discovery

“I feel blessed and honoured to be creating a musical spectacle in collaboration with Expo 2020 Dubai and A R Rahman. Designed especially for the largest projection dome in the world, Al Wasl Plaza, Why? The Musical celebrates diversity and inclusivity, as it takes audiences on a spectacular journey," Kapur said.

Lionel Messi

The Paris Saint-Germain star made a surprise visit to Expo Dubai 2020 on December 13. Messi, who recently clinched a record-breaking seventh Ballon d'Or award, carried a football during the trip as he posed near Expo's popular waterfall attraction. He also met with Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, and Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth, during his tour.

“Each pavilion has its own thing, its own place, it shows you its culture, its country, it makes you see and learn from each one of them. And I think the place is very big and very impressive,” said Messi.

“When I visited in 2020, there was practically nothing, and in a year and a bit they turned it into something extraordinary.”

Alicia Keys

The Fallin’ hitmaker debuted her new album Keys during a concert for Expo’s Infinite Nights series on December 10.

"Performing in Expo 2020 Dubai’s Infinite Nights series is going to be such an incredible experience! I’m so excited to share such a beautifully unique and special performance on the eve of the release of my new album Keys with the world," she said ahead of her performance. "Keys is all about letting go of anything that holds you back and breaking through the invisible ceilings above us! It perfectly reflects Expo’s values. I cannot wait to unlock this new universe with you.”

Taking to Al Wasl Plaza's stage, her performance featured songs both old and new.

After the gig, she wrote on social media: “Launching it in Dubai was incredible!!!!! But better than everything is the LOVE!! The love is REAL!! We are LOCKED In!!!”

Muniba Mazari

Muniba Mazari, also known as the Iron Lady of Pakistan, is an activist, anchor, model and motivational speaker. She gave a talk at the Pakistan pavilion on November 28 on the theme Pakistan – Connected through Diversity.

Mazari discussed her own journey, which saw her bound to a wheelchair after a car accident at the age of 21.

Ahead of the event, she expressed how she felt about Expo 2020 Dubai being a perfect campaign to bring people together. “It’s a wonderful initiative, and I’m so glad that a lot of people are coming from all across the globe, especially when I visited the Pakistan pavilion. That was so beautiful. I mean, that’s the true depiction of what Pakistan really is.”

Pep Guardiola

The Manchester City coach surprised football fans with a visit to the Expo on November 15. He made stops at the UAE Pavilion, where he learnt more about the traditions and culture of the country, and the UK Pavilion, before hosting a Q&A session with invited guests.

“It’s incredible and has been a wonderful experience to witness the energy of grassroots football here at Expo 2020 Dubai and to see how the club connects with people around the world,” Guardiola said. “The enthusiasm for the game demonstrated by the next generation of aspiring players is marvellous.”

Usain Bolt

The world-famous athlete was at the world's fair as part of a partnership between Bolt, Gatorade and Expo 2020 Dubai's Sports, Fitness and Wellbeing Hub. He led a 1.45-kilometre family run to raise funds for Al Noor Rehabilitation and Welfare Association for People of Determination on November 13.

“It has been a pleasure visiting Expo 2020 Dubai and learning more about how Dubai has reimagined the future of mobility, including make it easy and accessible,” Bolt said after the run.

Prince Albert of Monaco

Prince Albert visited Expo 2020 Dubai to mark Monaco’s country day by getting a tour around the site, as well as giving a speech at the Monaco Pavilion on November 13.

"International expos are, in general, a key platform for international exchanges and dialogue, as well as to provide various opportunities to move forward. Expo 2020 Dubai is also a great opportunity for us to enhance our cooperation with the UAE and establish links with other countries," he said.

Yoon Doo-joon of Highlight

The K-pop band boy band took to the Jubilee Stage to perform live as part of the Kite: K-pop in the Emirates 2021 concert on November 12. Joining them virtually were fellow groups BTOB, Luminous and Laboum. Punch, known as the "K-drama soundtrack queen" in the UAE, also performed live.

“Expo 2020 is a global festival and a global event [so] it is such a great honour for me to be able to participate,” Highlight's leader Yoon Doo-joon said at a media conference earlier in the day. “I have been to Dubai on transit and on my way to other cities, so it is actually my first time to be here."

Ragheb Alama

Lebanese singer Ragheb Alama performed along with Nancy Ajram on November 12 as part of the Infinite Nights concert series. He shared photos from the event on his Instagram and wrote that the crowd left him speechless. “A magical evening. Thank you all for being there and a special thank you to everyone that took part in organising such a breathtaking event,” he wrote.

Ali Zafar

The Pakistani singer-songwriter was at Expo 2020 on October 24, to perform as part of The Land of Melodies with Ali Zafar, a celebration of the friendship between Pakistan and the UAE.

He also took to Instagram to share a photo of himself outside the Pakistan Pavilion. “Felt proud of Pakistan’s highly professional and visually sublime representation at the Dubai Expo 2021,” he wrote in the caption.

Mikel Arteta

Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta took a trip to the Emirates airline pavilion on October 11. His visit also included stops at the Spanish and Argentinian pavilions, the Sustainability Pavilion, Al Wasl Dome and the popular Garden in the Sky observation tower for a 360-degree view of the site.

“It was incredible to visit Expo 2020 during my recent visit to Dubai,” he said. “To experience the future of aviation at the Emirates pavilion was fantastic and Al Wasl Dome light projections were a particular highlight. It was a truly unique experience that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Dubai in the next few months.”

Nomzamo Mbatha

South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha made an appearance at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of Celebrating SA's Global Icons: Women Category, alongside former Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, on October 7.

“Our pavilion here in Dubai was great because it’s about knowing that we have an equal footing and that we earned our place to be in the international market," Mbatha told The National. "I came here to meet my international peers and it is through those conversations that our industry will grow."

Hend Sabri

Tunisian actress Hend Sabry visited the world fair during its opening week in October. She took photos around the Expo 2020 Dubai site. Afterwards, she took to Instagram to praise the event.

“Dubai strikes again. Such a great experience at the @expo2020dubai with my @garnier family and the big announcement of their partnership with @natgeo to create edutainment content about #sustainability and #greenBeauty,” she posted on October 2.

Andrea Bocelli

The Italian tenor shared a photo of himself taken with his fellow performers from the September 30 opening ceremony on Instagram, as part of a gallery that also showcased Al Wasl Plaza.

“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 instil in everyone a sense of optimism, a desire to achieve and to put what has been behind us,” he said.

Lang Lang

Chinese pianist Lang Lang posted a behind-the-scenes photo of himself standing in a circle with all his fellow performers from the opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai. It was shared by Hussain Al Jassmi, Angelique Kidjo and Mayssa Karaa, who also took to the stage on the evening.

"To play at the Expo was a really a beautiful moment for me," he said in a later interview with The National. "It felt absolutely amazing to be there with all the people."

Hussain Al Jassmi

Jassmi joined others stars in the opening day ceremony.

“This is a golden opportunity to showcase the potential and talents of the people in this region. I also consider it a perfect opportunity to express pride in my dear country by telling the story of the UAE and Expo 2020 to the whole world. I can’t wait until Expo 2020 Dubai welcomes people and cultures from every corner of the planet to the UAE for a once-in-a-lifetime celebration that also aims to make our world a better place,” he said.

“This is a unique opportunity for everyone in the UAE to highlight the nation’s spirit of warmth, optimism and tolerance on the global stage that Expo 2020 provides. As the UAE approaches its Golden Jubilee, I am delighted and honoured to play my part in showing how far we have come in the past 50 years, as well as our limitless aspirations for the future.”

Khaled Alkhaledi

Saudi Arabian actor Khaled Alkhaledi posted a video to his Instagram, in which he is seen with Dubai TV host Abdullah Ismail on September 30.

"I have waited so long to come here. Where are we?" he asks Ismail. "We are the Expo 2020 opening ceremony, the exclusive launch for media, social media influencers, and celebrities," says Ismail. "Your presence, Khaled, has brightened the UAE and Expo altogether."

"The UAE has been working on Expo for seven years, day and night. This is our Emirates, a nation that contains kindness, and warmth," says Alkhaledi.

Updated: March 25, 2022, 1:12 PM