Seven best African pavilions at Expo 2020 Dubai, from Algeria to South Africa

The pavilions showcase the breadth, history and future of the continent

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With all 54 countries of the continent represented at Expo 2020 Dubai, the world fair provides a wonderful snapshot into the cultures, rich history and future of Africa.

Like the nations themselves, the pavilions differ in scope, size and focus.

However, when dedicating an Expo visit to experiencing these countries' pavilions, a powerful image of the continent arises.

It is one where innovation is informed by a keen understanding of the past and where culture is as important as commerce.

Here are seven African pavilions to see at Expo 2020 Dubai.

1. Algeria (Mobility District)

Inspired by kasbah architecture, the Algerian pavilion resembles a mix between a fortress and an open-air madinah.

Those historical flourishes are replaced inside, however, with modern and high-tech features showcasing the North African country's geography, ecology and future sustainability initiatives.

The pavilion also boasts a mini theatre that regularly screens The Voyage of Life, a documentary on Algeria's history and culture.

2. Angola (Mobility District)

This is one of the Expo's most impressive pavilions in terms of design and content.

Inspired by sona geometry, an ancient form of sand drawings linked to Angola and neighbouring Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the pavilion resembles an amphitheatre with an outdoor area housing a music stage.

Inside, you will see various terracotta-coloured rooms featuring Angolan floral and art installations, digital displays showcasing the southern African country's resources and a mini theatre screening various programmes about Angolan culture.

Make sure to also check out the souvenir shop where you can buy sustainable fair trade fabrics and trinkets made by local designers.

3. Botswana (Mobility District)

The Botswana Pavilion features dimly lit and zen-like interiors. Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

There is something zen-like about this pavilion.

Maybe it's the dimly lit interiors and cool temperatures that act as welcome relief from the blazing sunshine outside, or maybe it's how unassuming it is, with visitors given ample space to walk around and check out various artworks and installations.

Whatever it is, a trip to Botswana is the respite you need during a busy day at the expo.

4. Djibouti (Mobility District)

There is something charming about Djibouti’s ramshackle pavilion.

Sure, the displays could have looked better, particularly that precariously leaning mini straw house, however, you can't help but be enchanted by the sea of smiles you see courtesy of the large series of portrait photos of Djiboutians from all walks of life.

While there is interesting information about the small country in the Horn of Africa that has become a vital hub for transport and logistics, it is that human touch permeating the pavilion that fulfils its brief as the "land of trade and meeting".

5. Ethiopia (Opportunity District)

Different types of coffee on display at the Ethiopia Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Ethiopia has fully embraced Expo's spirit.

Not only does it have a vibrant pavilion, the stars of the show are the wonderful staff who all hail from the ancient country.

Ethiopia's steep history forms the opening segments, with displays showcasing objects and tribes going back more than three million years.

The middle section takes us to the present as we learn more about Ethiopian produce while the experience ends with a serene coffee ceremony in which you can taste the rich brew the country is renowned for.

If you come at the right time, you may also see the staff perform a dance.

6. Senegal (Mobility District)

The Senegalese pavilion is technology-driven. Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

Arguably the most high-tech of all the African pavilions, Senegal is full of various flat-screen TVs showing everything from the coastal country's recent sporting triumph of winning the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament in February, plus its ecology and landscapes.

A Senegalese guide is also on hand, dressed in traditional garb, to take you through the exhibitions and provide some fun anecdotes of daily life in Senegal.

7. South Africa (Opportunity District)

South Africa's pavilion celebrates the country's various achievements. Photo: Expo 2020 Dubai

Since the opening day of Expo 2020, the South Africa Pavilion has been a hive of activity with concerts, culinary displays and even being a television studio for a variety show featuring South African celebrities such as Nomzamo Mbatha.

The pavilion is laced with colourful geometric prints linked to the Ndebele ethnic group and its spacious and uncluttered design allows you to take in all the exhibitions exploring South Africa’s cosmopolitanism, sporting achievements and some wonderful images of pioneering former leader Nelson Mandela.

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Updated: March 16, 2022, 1:00 PM