“The magic of Expo will continue,” wrote Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the UAE’s Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, in a series of tweets on Monday. He was referring to the announcement that the site of Dubai Expo 2020, occupying a large plot of land just north of Al Maktoum International Airport, will be transformed into the UAE’s newest urban agglomeration: Expo City Dubai.
Playing host to major global events is always a unique honour, as well as a special kind of challenge, for large cities – and Dubai’s successful hosting of Expo was no exception. The honour comes in providing a world-class venue for communities from around the globe to safely and happily gather, exchanging stories, building new ideas and reinforcing common bonds. And while a great deal of the challenge comes in the intricacies and complications associated with staging any major event, the bulk of the trials come after it is over, when it is time to refashion the site into a longer-term investment.
In Expo City Dubai’s case, it is an investment that looks increasingly likely to pay large dividends. Among the Dubai Expo’s themes was sustainability. An entire pavilion – one of the event’s largest – was dedicated to the subject, and dozens of countries based their own presence at Expo on ideas for creating a sustainable future. For Expo City Dubai, this focus will translate into “extraordinary infrastructure advantages to generate local and global economic value as a clean and green tech hub”, as Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Co-operation and managing director of Dubai Expo, puts it. The city will be built to leading environmental standards, in line with Dubai’s plan to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
Opportunity was another of Expo’s themes, and in Expo City Dubai residents are expected to find plenty of it. Siemens, the German technology giant, has said it will move hundreds of staff there. And among the first tenants expected to move into the city are 85 start-ups, who plan to set up there by the end of this year. The start-ups are an anchor for Expo City Dubai’s global entrepreneurship programme, Scale2Dubai. Start-ups already play a considerable role in the UAE economy, comprising about 95 per cent of the country’s companies, and employing 42 per cent of its workers. Now, they will find a new centre of activity from which they can grow alongside the UAE economy and plug into international markets.
There will be opportunity for artists, too. Among Dubai Expo City’s features is expected to be unique art and world-class architecture. The city will also host a new museum and exhibition centre to meld global and local talent and display it to the world.
And when it comes to mobility, the third Expo theme, Expo City Dubai is set to enhance what Dubai, already a major global travel hub, already has to offer. It will be a “24-hour neighbourhood”, and one with direct access to two airports and one of the Middle East’s largest ports.
One of the defining features of Dubai’s development, and that of the UAE as a whole, in recent decades is its transformation into a destination that fuses its rich heritage with a global identity. Now, in Expo City Dubai, it will have a global neighbourhood that represents some of the greatest fruits of that process.