Inside Saudi Arabia’s stunning ‘window to the world’ at Expo 2020 Dubai

Officials say the structure's record-breaking features celebrate the country's past and reflect plans for the future

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A gigantic window that opens to the sky and thousands of crystals suspended from the ceiling are part of Saudi Arabia’s eye-catching pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai.

The structure is among dozens of pavilions at the world's fair site that opened to visitors on Friday.

Organisers said the number of record-breaking features, which include a striking 32-metre digital water feature that is almost two-thirds as high as the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, will make the Saudi pavilion a sure draw.

It soars skywards in a design that celebrates the country’s past. It is also made to look like a giant window, offering viewers a glimpse into what Saudi Arabia’s future will look like
Hussain Hanbazazah, Saudi Arabia Expo pavilion

The pavilion soars five-storeys high and is spread over an area the size of two football fields, making it second only to the UAE pavilion in size.

Visitors will have a different view each time they visit, with stunning designs that shoot multi-coloured bursts of light across sections, such as 8,000 LED floor lights and the world’s largest digital mirror screen.

Hussain Hanbazazah, commissioner general of Saudi Arabia, detailed the rich content on offer and how it reflected the country’s plans for the future.

“The Saudi Pavilion will not appear the same in the daytime as it will at night,” Mr Hanbazazah told The National.

“The lights will change depending on the content being played on the LED interactive digital mirror screen that is the largest in the world.

“Visitors will be able to enjoy a magnificent mirror and be entertained by many shows in the outdoor area by day, and an immersive experience in a majestic spectacle by night.”

Designers have also sought to reflect the country’s heritage.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai is a ‘window’ to the world,” he said.

“It soars skywards in a design that celebrates the country’s past. Drawing on the kingdom’s renowned tradition of hospitality, it is also made to look like a giant window, the building offering viewers a glimpse into what Saudi Arabia’s future will look like.

“We want people to see what makes our country unique, to see a never-before-seen Saudi Arabia, where they can experience and explore a nation undergoing rapid transformation.

“We want to convey our rich history, on which we will build our future while encouraging visitors from around the world to explore the natural wonders of Saudi Arabia.”

He said the architecture mirrored the ambitions of the Saudi people.

“The base of the prism-like structure represents modern Saudi society with deep-rooted history. It soars skywards, symbolizing the Kingdom’s limitless ambitions,” Mr Hanbazazah said.

One of the dazzling features is an art installation of 2,030 crystals suspended over an escalator.

Smart technology is embedded in the pavilion with organisers keen for visitors to experience the interactive features and choose specific regions in Saudi to explore.

Digital displays take visitors through the country’s latest offerings, including the Red Sea tourism project, the smart city Neom and the entertainment city Qiddiya.

In a walk through, Mr Hanbazazah said visitors would first see a 68-square metre curved LED screen, glimpse the Takuk mountains, dunes of the Empty Quarter in the south east, Unesco heritage and archaeological sites.

Four main themes cover the Saudi people, heritage, opportunity and nature.

The building’s roof is fitted with 650 solar panels as part of the pavilion’s commitment to being among the ‘most sustainable’ structures focused on water and energy efficiency, and reducing emissions.

More than 80 per cent of the waste from construction was recycled.

A traditional Ardah folk dance that combines poetry to the beat of the drums will be one of the highlights on Friday.

“From early October, pavilion visitors are set for a state-of-the-art, immersive experience, to explore our country’s rich heritage, diverse people, vast opportunities, and natural wonders,” Mr Hanbazazah said.

The monthly shows will cover discussions on redesigning cities, women’s empowerment, the power of art, musical performances, comedy, acrobatics and magic.

“We invite visitors from all over the world to visit the Saudi pavilion, experience our famed hospitality, and join us on a journey of discovery through the Kingdom's past, present, and future,” he said.

Updated: October 01, 2021, 7:08 AM