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From a parade of stilt-walkers dressed as aliens to traditional cuisines in country pavilions – the entertainment continued on the second day of Expo 2020 Dubai.
Pupils from UAE-based French schools paraded down the Avenue of the Nations, proudly waving their national flag.
Minutes later, the skies over the site were painted in the French national colours – white, red and blue – by pilots of the Patrouille de France, the aerobatics unit of the French Air and Space Force.
France’s official holiday, Bastille Day, is celebrated on July 14, but many of the 192 countries participating in the six-month extravaganza will host their own day to show off everything from culture, food and technology.
A speech by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Expo 2020 Dubai Commissioner General and Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, spoke of the ties between the UAE and France.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also attended to celebrate his country’s day at the “world’s greatest show”.
“In 1889, the Eifel Tower was the gate of the world exposition that took place in Paris, becoming a lasting legacy symbol of French ingenuity,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“As a founding member, France has had a remarkable history when it comes to international exhibitions, having hosted six world expos throughout the years.
“In this regard, we are pleased to celebrate you and your legacy today as one of our most actively engaged participants.”
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, visited the French pavilion and met Mr Le Drian.
He was accompanied by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai.
The national day festivities started with Mister Sigrid, a hat-maker, who dressed visitors with quirky headwear in the colours of the French flag.
Pilots with the Patrouille de France flew over the Expo site, turning heads as they performed aerobatics.
“It was a great show. The pilots performed really good stunts, and we felt very proud seeing the colours of our national flag over the Expo site,” visitor Adrienne Martin said.
Stilt-walkers dressed as aliens “invaded” the Mobility District – home of the French pavilion – and delighted children.
They are part the Les Cosmopodes performance show, which involves “silver creatures” who land on Earth and make contact with humans.
The evening drew in more visitors who enjoyed musical performances and light shows from points across the world’s fair.
Persian musical artists attracted visitors into Iran’s pavilion with traditional songs and instruments.
A crowd gathered around the Pakistan pavilion to watch folk dancers show off the South Asian country’s culture.
Reem Al Hashimy, Expo Director General and Minister of State for International Co-operation, said visitors will have a “remarkable experience” at the event.
"It's so exciting to see visitors come in and explore all of the different pavilions,” she said.
The UAE's hosting of the world's fair has been in the works since 2013.
Since then, a dedicated site the size of 600 football fields has been created in Dubai South.
"We've opened our doors after eight years, nine years of work and one year of a delay because of the pandemic, Ms Al Hashimy said.
"We're continuing to stay safe with our masks, requiring vaccination and negative PCRs but, by and large, this is remarkable.