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Are you looking to pick up a few souvenirs from Expo 2020 Dubai on a budget?
If so, The National has you covered as the event is a true treasure trove of random trinkets that are available free of charge to visitors.
I spent a couple of hours checking out what pavilions were giving away free of charge to visitors on Thursday afternoon.
Now, as I type these very words, I am the proud owner of a pair of VR goggles from Botswana, a book about investing in Mongolia, a coaster from the Dominican Republic, another book about coconuts in the Seychelles and a luggage tag from Antigua and Barbuda.
My hunt for trinkets did not get off to the most auspicious of starts with a visit to the Montenegro pavilion.
“If visitors want something they have to pay for it, it’s the same for everyone,” said the assistant, impervious to my attempts to sway her.
My mission to fill my backpack with as much free stuff as possible was met with more sympathy at the Lesotho pavilion, where it was explained to me there would be plenty of freebies for visitors – they just had not arrived yet.
It was on to the nearby Suriname pavilion where I was told a similar story. It was at this point that I was starting to doubt the wisdom of taking this task on, especially in the searing midday sun.
Thankfully, my faith was restored at the Seychelles pavilion where I received the gift of a hardback book about a type of coconut that is indigenous to the country.
Next up was the Swedish pavilion where I was able to get a free carton of water, most welcome in the desert sun to say the least.
I was informed that it was not just any water, the cartons were being displayed on a table that was made from similar cartons that had been recycled.
I said a hasty thanks and headed to the Azerbaijan stand next door.
The welcome could not have been warmer and I was told there would be plenty of freebies for visitors, from bags to stickers, in a few weeks’ time.
The next stop was the Kuwait pavilion where I was informed they could not give me any trinkets but every visitor could get a free ice cream and coffee.
As refreshing as this was, I was beginning to lose hope that I would be able to proudly display a table full of collector's items at the end of the day.
If ever there was an aptly named section of the Expo though it’s the Opportunity District.
My first stop was at Botswana and I could not believe my luck.
“We’re giving visitors interactive Virtual Reality headsets as well as brochures about Botswana,” said the assistant.
In terms of free swag, it does not get much better than VR headsets.
Mongolia was next up where I continued my streak by getting a free postcard and a book offering tips on how to invest in the country.
I now have no excuses for not understanding the nuances of investment laws in Mongolia.
A trip to the Antigua and Barbuda pavilion also paid off when it came to obtaining random freebies.
“Yes, we’ve got luggage tags that we are giving out to visitors. Of course you can have one,” said the helpful Francine.
At the nearby Dominican Republic there were further goodies waiting to slip into my swag-bag free of charge.
I was given a free coaster here which would have come in useful earlier with my free coffee at the Kuwait pavilion.
I checked in with the Jordanian pavilion finally, where I was told they were not giving anything away for free but in true souq fashion assured me they could do a good deal if I bought several products from the gift shop.
As my mission neared its end I felt that all in all it had been a success.
Visitors can rest assured they will find plenty of hidden treasures available at Expo, and not all of them will have them reaching for their wallets.