Hayyakum - welcome to the world - is Expo 2020 Dubai’s greeting as it opens the doors on a six-month celebration of unity and co-operation.
Messages of hope for the future are woven into the opening ceremony of one of the biggest in-person gatherings since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
Inside the landmark Al Wasl dome, spectators will see the story through the eyes of a young Emirati girl who receives an ancient golden ring as a gift.
The arches and domed trellis of Al Wasl, also called Expo’s jewel, are the canvas for a glittering show that will be seen inside and outside the structure.
The ring, a 3,000-year-old archaeological find, is the emblem of the Expo, which takes the girl on a journey in an extravagant musical production beamed across the 360-degree dome.
“We are bursting with hope and so happy to spread this to the world,” said Amna Abulhoul, executive creative director of Expo 2020 Dubai.
“This is our moment to share an Emirati story, but it does not reflect only the people of the UAE. It’s about how we can change the world when we come together.”
She said the story told by the young girl reflects “all Emiratis welcoming people to this land and making them feel at home”.
The performance, set in a garden built inside the dome, will feature 900 participants from 64 countries.
Tareq Ghosheh, Expo’s chief events and entertainment officer, said visitors would be enveloped in a sensory experience whether they were inside the Al Wasl dome or watching on screens at home.
“We want to tell an authentic story of this land and its people, to capture the nature and soul of Dubai and the UAE,” he said.
“We want to emphasise the historical moments of this nation, capture its unique spirit and convey it to a global audience in a way that is meaningful to people of all backgrounds and cultures.”
Across the site on Thursday, staff readied the venue with covers removed from chairs and tables, and cafes and restaurants stocked with water and refreshments.
The audio systems were checked by engineers, many of whom have been in the Emirates since June and will remain until the end of the world fair in March next year.
“It is a wow experience,” said Marco Carancini, an Italian engineer handling lighting for the event.
“Al Wasl is one of the biggest in the world. It’s a 360-degree experience and this is not normal to be inside a show, to feel like you are inside the lights, almost inside the video.”