After years of anticipation and planning and six months of hard work on the ground, thousands of staff at Expo 2020 Dubai are preparing for life once the world’s fair ends.
While some will stay in Dubai, many will return home to the nations whose pavilions they have represented since the exhibition opened its gates on October 1.
Most have collected souvenirs to remind them of their time in Dubai, while others have made new connections and found job opportunities in the months ahead.
Glen Grixti at the Malta pavilion worked with Emirates for 16 years before joining the exhibition, and will take a government role developing new businesses when he returns home next month.
“I will make a map with all the badges I have collected at Expo when I go home to Malta,” said Mr Grixti, 40.
“Dubai is like my second home, I’ve lived here for 16 years, so Expo was a great opportunity for me to come back but now I am looking forward to going home to Malta.
“I have missed the food, and my family, of course.”
Pastizzi, a pastry filled with ricotta and peas, is a traditional snack in Malta that Mr Grixti has missed most of all.
As a kitesurfer who has competed around the world, he is also looking forward to the reliable Mediterranean Gregale winds to resume his sporting passion.
Visitors to his pavilion have been most surprised by the Maltese language, he said, with its Semitic origin written in the Latin script.
“Malta has a great history going back 8,000 years, so we have a lot to offer and people are fascinated by our language,” he said.
“Our dishes are mainly Sicilian based, with a little Arabic fusion, so I have missed our food.
“Anyone coming for the first time to Expo this month should try to visit in the evening to see the Al Wasl dome. It is special at night.
“The Saudi Arabia, UAE, German and Japanese pavilions are all really worth queuing for too.”
At the UK Pavilion, Turkish national Tuzcu Munirgalip has been serving fish and chips to visitors since October.
Mr Munirgalip has carved a career for himself around Expo events around the world, and hopes that can continue.
Contacts and future job prospects
“I have worked at other Expos since 2013 and it was through those contacts that helped get me this position in Dubai,” he said.
“It has helped establish an amazing network for people like me, from all over the world.
“So far, I have been to more than 70 per cent of the pavilions. Japan, Germany and South Korea were the highlights.
“There were great interactions inside, and they each told the story of how they were created.
“It felt like you were living the culture while learning about the building itself.”
Interest remains strong in visiting the exhibition, with more than a million visits registered in the last week of February, and 16 million in total.
Mr Munirgalip said there was still time for first-time visitors to make the most of the events and live music concerts still to come before March 31.
“There are more than a hundred events taking place most days, so if people still haven’t been and want to come, they need to plan ahead,” said Mr Munirgalip.
“Music events and smaller concerts have been great, and there is still plenty to catch.”
At the Samoan Pavilion, volunteer Satheesh Kuttan has taken days off work to give up his time for free during the exhibition and will miss the hustle and bustle of everyday life on site.
“The last six months have gone by so quickly,” said Mr Kuttan, from India.
“If anyone wants to come in the last few weeks, I would suggest coming early in the morning before the crowds get too busy.
“I will be going back to my administration and accounting job, and I will miss coming here.
“I have taken annual leave from my job to work.
“I’ve collected 127 badges so far from the different pavilions — I have just three weeks to collect the rest.”