From technology to wellness: 10 sessions to see at Expo 2020 Dubai's World Majlis

The conversations will be conducted in the intimate format of an Arabic majlis

Some of the world’s leading minds will share their experiences at Expo 2020 Dubai.

As part of the World Majlis, a series of public forums held in various pavilions throughout the six-month event, vibrant discussions will be conducted, encompassing subjects from technology, sustainability and ethics to the arts, travel and health.

Speakers include London’s Lord Mayor William Russell, Emirati diplomat and author Omar Ghobash, Hungarian chess grandmaster Judit Polgar and Tunisian artist eL Seed.

While some of the topics may be heady, event curator Federica Busa tells The National they will be conducted within the intimate format of an Arabic majlis.

"As people who live and work here, we know the role that a majlis plays in sharing news and where we come together with families, friends and strangers," she says.

"The majlis is the place where you see the pulse of the community and we wanted to bring that spirit to the Expo.”

Busa hopes such an approach will result in spirited and probing conversations.

“It’s different than a standard conference where people come in with an agenda and there is a focus on controlling the message,” she says.

“With the majlis format, the idea is to go in without prepared slides and bullet points, but with an open mind. Bring your passion and expertise and interact with each other.”

Launched by Expo 2020 Dubai five years ago, the World Majlis has previously conducted events in Abu Dhabi, New York, Shanghai and London. Its arrival in Dubai brings together a culmination of the learnings gleaned from those discussions.

The all-English-language sessions will be split into various weekly themes – including Space, Knowledge and Learning, Travel and Connectivity, and Health and Wellness – with events open to the public and streamed online.

“It will be like a great dinner party where participants share ideals, question each other and really get to know each other,” Busa says.

Here are 10 sessions to check out at the World Majlis. All events listed take place between 4pm and 6pm, unless otherwise noted. Entry is free and subject to availability with an Expo pass.

1. Sustainability for All (Tuesday, October 5: UK Pavilion)

We have been talking about it for years, but how can we practically implement sustainability measures in our economy?

A panel of civic and industry leaders, including London's Lord Mayor William Russell and Hungarian environmental academic Diana Urge-Vorsatz, provide insights on how to rethink our communities and lifestyles for the betterment of the planet.

2. Lessons from Space (Tuesday, October 19: India Pavilion)

Reaching for the stars is only half the purpose of space travel.

As learned majlis guests, including Switzerland's first astronaut Claude Nicollier and Nasa scientist Gioia Massa, will reveal, it's how you use the knowledge gleaned to serve our planet that makes the journey worthwhile.

3. Art for Good (Sunday, November 14: Italy Pavilion)

A high-powered panel of visual creatives, including Tunisian artist eL Seed and Kirsha Kaechele, curator of Australia's Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), interrogate the function of art and how it can be a catalyst for change in society.

4. The Business of Compassion (Tuesday, November 16: Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion)

The title is not a misnomer; rather, it's an approach fast becoming an asset to companies and societies.

Badr Jafar, the Emirati social entrepreneur and chief executive of Crescent Enterprises, will feature in a discussion examining ways to build a more inclusive economy, exploring how we need a fresh set of economic indicators other than GDP to measure a society's progress.

5. Tolerance and Inclusivity for Women’s Rights and Empowerment' (Wednesday, November 17: Women's Pavilion, 11am to 12.30pm)

This wide-ranging discussion examines the corrosive effects of gender norms in society, in addition to the role faith-based and educational institutions can play in instilling equality.

Participants include Zimbabwean human rights lawyer Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda and Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

6. Digital Brain, Digital Morality (Thursday, November 18: Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion)

The responsible use of artificial intelligence and robotics is not only the subject of Hollywood blockbusters, but a salient view essential to developing and protecting society.

Australian futurist Genevieve Bell and British ethicist James Williams will grapple with big questions, such as how can we build trust in technology and how do we subject AI to ethical standards?

7. The Science of Everything (Sunday, December 12: Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion)

Is the digital age leaving science in its wake?

This timely discussion, featuring the UAE's Assistant Minister for Culture and Public Diplomacy Omar Ghobash and Barjeel Art Foundation founder Sultan Al Qassemi, lays the case for the defence of science in the age of online misinformation.

The speakers will provide suggestions on how to build scientific literacy in the age of "fake news".

8. The Winning Match: When the Worlds of Education and Play Meet (Thursday, December 16, Spain Pavilion, 6pm to 8pm)

Be in the midst of Hungarian chess grandmaster Polgar, who – with fellow guests including Mansoor Al Awar, chancellor of Dubai's Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University – looks at how strategy games provide stimulating ways to develop analytic skills.

9. Digital Twins and New Realities (Tuesday, January 11: UK Pavilion)

This panel offers a fascinating look into one of the latest frontiers in technology.

From augmented reality to the concept of mirror worlds (such as looking through camera phones and the use of digital assistants), Bahraini virtual reality artist Najla Al Khalifa and British filmmaker and designer Keiichi Matsuda will explore how we are still coming to grips with these leaps and what they mean for our lives.

10. Off the Beaten Path (Thursday, January 13: India Pavilion)

Travelling is not only a serious business but one that could potentially cause an existential crisis for our planet.

With international travel gradually resuming in the wake of the pandemic, international industry experts – including John Pagano, chief executive of Saudi Arabia's The Red Sea Development Company – will analyse ways we can make journeys sustainable and culturally respectful.

More information is available at

Updated: October 1st 2021, 7:09 AM