The legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai was back in the spotlight on Saturday morning as four pavilions from the world's fair reopened to the public.
Expo City Dubai officially opened one year on from the start of the world's fair and guests were able to revisit their favourite attractions, including the Surreal water feature, as the repurposed site opened a new chapter.
About 50 Expo City Dubai staff and their families opened the Sustainability Entry Portal at 9am, welcoming the public to the city's latest district.
Although the first morning at Expo City Dubai did not come close to the hectic scenes of the world's fair itself, there was still a palpable buzz around the site as several eager visitors got there early to beat the heat.
Guests could take tours of four main attractions on Saturday morning: Terra, the Sustainability Pavilion; Alif, the Mobility Pavilion; Vision; and the Women’s Pavilion.
Later this evening, Al Wasl Dome will "reawaken" with a light show.
“Today is a very significant day because it marks the opening of Expo City Dubai, six months after Expo 2020 Dubai closed,” said Sholto Douglas-Home, the site's chief sales and communications officer.
“We’ve gone from a six-month-long global event, with millions of visitors, to opening a city.
“We have a number of iconic attractions open that people know and love from the Expo event, including the colossal Al Wasl Dome that we’re going to reawaken with stunning projections on.
“We’ve also got landmark pavilions open with many more pavilions opening over the coming months.”
Although most of the pavilions from the world’s fair are no longer open to visitors — several are completely gone — visitors are free to walk around the site.
The low-key nature of Expo City Dubai’s opening could not be further from the hustle and bustle of the world’s fair but that was exactly the point, according to Mr Douglas-Home.
“We don’t have a target number of visitors because we’re a city now and the idea is that people can just come here and walk around,” he said.
“Some of the pavilions from Expo are not reopening but they are still extraordinary architectural structures that can be admired.
“Many people have already visited the pavilions before and we’re expecting them to come back just to remind themselves of the experience.”
Although Saturday morning was the official opening of Expo City Dubai, the site has been open at a reduced capacity to the public since the beginning of September.
“We had a soft opening in September with two pavilions open to the public — Vision and Sustainability,” Mr Douglas-Home said.
“It was more to give our staff training and to accommodate interest from schools.
“The weather wasn’t really conducive to having many visitors but it allowed us to tweak car parking arrangements and make sure we were ready for a higher flow of visitors.”
Admission to Expo City Dubai is free but visitors can expect to pay Dh50 ($14) for entry to each pavilion, with a day pass for all attractions available for Dh120.
Once the weather improves, the number of visitors to the site will increase, Mr Douglas-Home said.
“It’s still hot right now but we expect to see a lot more visitors in the winter once it cools down."
He added that the attractions and facilities would continue to grow over time.
There were more than 200 food outlets during the six months of Expo, so visitors on Saturday morning had understandably fewer options.
Officials said the onsite restaurants on Saturday were Emirati outlet Al Fanar, Ecco Pizza and Pasta, and Grand Beirut, along with five food trucks.
Among the first visitors through the gates on Saturday morning was tourist Rishabh Shah, 39, from India.
“We were here for the Expo itself last year and couldn’t wait to come back,” he said.
“We were so impressed that we couldn’t wait to return.
“It was much more crowded last time and now we can walk around in a more relaxed environment. It’s a lot more fun like this.”
Also making sure they were among the early birds were Ramanuragi Lohariwala and his wife Devanshi Thard, on holiday from India.
“It’s a great place to learn about other countries and their cultures, as well as finding out about what future technologies are going to be like,” Mr Lohariwala said.
“We are excited to be here at Expo City and see what it is all about.”