How many Expo 2020 Dubai passport stamps can you get in one day?

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There’s an exclusive club for people who have visited every country in the world.

The fastest to do so is an American woman called Taylor Demonbreun, who holds the world record for visiting them all in about 18 months.

Expo 2020 Dubai makes this task a little easier though. Here in Dubai, 191 pavilions from the family of nations are gathered in one place.

So how many can I visit within 24 hours?

Armed with an Expo 2020 Passport for those crucial stamps as proof of my voyage, I set out from Al Wasl Plaza at the heart of Expo as dusk begins to settle.

First up was meant to be Gabon, but it is temporarily closed for cleaning – the pavilion, not the country – so I head to Bangladesh, which like the UAE celebrates its 50th birthday this year and where, apparently, there is a 200-year-old Armenian church.

That’s the thing about this Expo. Every country has its own pavilion and its own story.

In the real world, Bangladesh is about 7,000 kilometres from Papua New Guinea, but at Expo they are neighbours.

I meet Joshua Kalinoe, Papua New Guinea’s ambassador to Belgium. He tells me his country has 1,000 tribes and 800 languages, “but we live in unity and diversity.”

Just arriving is Mary, sporting a magnificent tribal headdress of feathers and shells. Mary, who lives in Dubai, reassures me that she spared Papua New Guinea’s wildlife in its construction.

“I got it all from the craft shop,” she says.

At Benin, I learn of Queen Hangbe and her ferocious Dahomey warriors, real-life Amazons.

Then another statuesque and charming young woman shows me around Montenegro, followed by the Seychelles and coconut palms, Venezuela, and Kuwait, a huge Ferrero Rocher of a building with a replica water tower rising up through its interior.

That’s seven countries and five continents in just the first hour. But now the going gets tough.

Uzbekistan has yet to open to the public and in Singapore there is a temperature test and a 15-minute queue, although it’s well worth it for the fabulous hanging gardens.

Mozambique doesn’t have a passport stamp yet – a problem at several pavilions I visit – but the remote Marshall Islands obliges, along with Malta, Moldova and the Maldives. Slovenia has a green, heart-shaped sticker.

After a break for Yemeni grilled chicken at Maraheb Restaurant, there is time for Peru, Austria, China, Antigua and Barbuda, plus Nicaragua and Burkina Faso, before my feet are screaming in protest and it’s time to head to the Metro and bed.

The next morning begins with the opening of Expo at 10am. It’s time to tackle some of the bigger pavilions, even though the queues are going to cut back on the countries it will be possible to visit before sundown.

I set out a route to follow around each of the three districts and two parks, but this quickly falls apart after leaving Sustainability and the giant brain inside the Russia Pavilion, as I find myself in Jubilee Park.

So I just wander. Here is Turkmenistan, the “home of neutrality”, and Botswana, with display cases filled with hundreds of real diamonds.

In Sri Lanka they dispense a welcome cup of tea, while in the Netherlands they hand out umbrellas as projection screens for a video on water and sustainability.

Water is a big feature in Brazil, with what may be the world’s largest paddling pool. In New Zealand, it cascades down from the roof.

The Czechs extract water from the air, and at Vietnam’s cafe they extract Dh60 for a lunch of three spring rolls, admittedly delicious but more expensive than I recall from visits to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. But I do get to play a xylophone made of rocks.

It’s also hot and humid and fast becoming a bit of blur.

Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Peru – no wait, been there, done that – Britain, Morocco, Tunisia, Lithuania, Switzerland, oh, and Azerbaijan.

Israel, Lebanon and Palestine don’t have passport stamps yet, along with at least a dozen more I visit.

But by now the light is fading and so are my energy levels. My Fitbit vibrates with 20,000 steps taken.

I estimate in 24 hours I have walked over 30km and visited about 70 countries, so over a third of the total, collecting 64 passport stamps in total.

But that’s the point of Expo 2020. There’s plenty to see and do, and with six months left, plenty of time to take your time.

Updated: October 21st 2021, 6:42 AM
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