DUBAI // The UAE pavilion opens at the Expo in Milan on Friday, five years before the World’s Fair comes to Dubai, with the aim of telling an ancient story of survival and overcoming the world’s energy and food challenges.
The pavilion, with high, rippled walls, represents the UAE's desert landscape. Visitors will walk along a canyon-like path, ascend a winding ramp to watch a short film, A Family Tree, within a golden drum theatre before finally reaching an oasis of date palms, olive and citrus trees.
The towering structure is one of the larger plots and is located along the Decumanus, or the expo’s central avenue. Interest in the distinctive structure means it will be among the top 10 most-visited pavilions, believe Italian and UAE officials.
“There is great excitement in Milan, both among the teams involved in the project’s construction, and from the organisers,” Salem Al Ameri, the UAE Expo 2015 commissioner general, said.
“Camera crews from Italy, Russia, Japan and elsewhere are vying to be the first to record the pavilion after it opens. The pavilion is being featured in a special event by the Italian national television, RAI, in the famous Piazza del Duomo in the heart of Milan.”
About 145 countries will participate in the Milan Expo, with eight million tickets sold so far. About 53 countries, including the UAE, have built pavilions. Emirati ambassadors equipped with tablet computers will be the face of the UAE. They will inform visitors about the history, traditions, culture and the transformation of the country into a thriving, dynamic state.
About 126 Emirati volunteers have been recruited so far, with the deadline to register on May 9, according to the Emirates Foundation. Four hundred volunteers will be recruited for the six-month fair.
“What we look for in our volunteers are young people who are committed, responsible, reliable, outgoing and ultimately those who are team players,” Maytha Al Habsi, chief programme officer at Emirates Foundation, said.
“To volunteer for the Milan Expo applicants must be UAE nationals aged between 20 and 35, and fluent in English. A third language, especially Italian, is also highly desirable and those with previous experience of attending expos in other countries would be very beneficial.”
Close attention to detail was paid during the planning process, with drones used to capture the ripples of dunes and the varied colours of desert sand.
The 12-metre high structure has also been built to endure the climates of Milan and Abu Dhabi, where the pavilion will later have a permanent home in Masdar.
“Construction required a high degree of accuracy. The walls are made up of 903 individual glass reinforced concrete panels, which if they were lined up end-to-end would create a one-kilometre elevation of desert sand,” said Gerard Evenden, a senior executive partner at architecture and design firm Foster + Partners.
“It has been very exciting to see the pavilion coming together at such a rapid pace.
“Many of the plants chosen have stories attached to them explaining how successive UAE generations have used them for food, building resources and medicine, making them relevant to the ‘Feeding the Planet’ theme.”
A permanent corporate exhibition, “Future Business UAE”, will be managed by Dubai World Trade Centre on behalf of the National Media Council. This will be a fixture throughout the fair, a first for the UAE pavilion.
“Unlike normal trade shows, this is not so much about selling as forging lasting connections and creating new partnerships,” Mr Al Ameri said.
“It provides a unique opportunity for UAE companies to engage with the private and public sectors in Italy, particularly in areas connected to the Expo 2015 theme. A number of key UAE entities will support the pavilion in telling the country’s unique story, focusing mainly on business, economic and technological aspects.”
Five years before the World’s Fair comes to Dubai, the UAE pavilion opens at the Expo in Milan on Friday. The pavilion has been designed to echo the UAE’s desert dune landscape. Emirati ambassadors will greet visitors and fill them in about the UAE’s history, tradition and culture. With some 200,000 tickets already purchased by UAE residents, attendees have been promised a fast-track visa procedure by Italy’s ambassador to the UAE.
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