Expo 2020 Dubai has been a launch pad for the dreams of the many pavilion staff members who introduced the world to their culture.
Noura Mohamed, 32, who has been greeting guests at the Comoros pavilion since the beginning of the world's fair, said her experience opened her mind to new possibilities.
Invigorated by her time in Dubai, she will return home to The Comoros next month to open an English language primary school.
“I have decided to follow my dream when I get back,” said Ms Mohamed, 32.
“It was something I have always wanted to do but never thought it would be possible until then.
“I have made many new friends and contacts through the Expo who have said they would help me make it happen.”
Ms Mohamed said it was likely she would have to leave her current role as a secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to make her teaching dream a reality.
While she was excited about what her future may hold, she was also sad at the thought of leaving Dubai.
“I’ve had so many good moments here. It was amazing to be able to meet so many people from different countries and learn about their cultures,” she said.
“It was fascinating to see how some cultures were different from others. You would get a warm and friendly welcome at some pavilions while others didn’t seem to care if you were there or not.”
Another highlight for her was teaching visitors about her home.
“It was also a privilege to be able to tell people about my country and our customs,” she said.
“You would be surprised by how many hadn’t heard of it.”
“Everyone has been so friendly'
Odete Camacho, 36, will miss the warmth of the UAE sun and the people she met at the international extravaganza.
Ms Camacho, will be moving to Lincoln, England, to be near her sister, rather than moving back to her home country of Mozambique when the Expo closes its doors.
“It’s so cold in England, and I love the sunny weather,” said Ms Camacho, who has been working at the Mozambique pavilion since the world’s fair opened.
“I will also miss the warmth of the people at the Expo. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming.”
'This has been the best expo'
Alice Kuaningi, 40, has been doubling up in her role as a marketing director for the Papua New Guinea Tourism Promotion Authority by welcoming visitors to her country’s pavilion.
“I’ve been to other expos but this one has been by far the best,” she said.
“It blows the others away and has been excellent.”
For Ms Kuaningi, the highlight of Expo 2020 Dubai was educating people about her country.
“A lot of visitors to the pavilion were amazed to find Papua New Guinea was not in Africa,” she said.
“We’re actually closer to Australia and share a land border with Indonesia.”
While she has to return home at the start of next month, she is determined to be back in the UAE soon.
“I am going to back in May, hopefully for the Arabian Travel Market 2022 conference,” she said.
“I’ve learnt a lot about Dubai’s tourism infrastructure that will be useful in my job back home.
“The transport system here was particularly impressive in how easy it is to get one from one place to the next.”
Sampling new cultures and cuisine
Gabrielle Moxey, 22, had a very experience similar to that of many visitors during her time in the Bahamas pavilion.
Long queues of hungry Expo visitors outside Saudi Arabian restaurant Al Baik are common.
“The queues were so huge that I just ended up ordering Al Baik on Talabat,” she said.
“It took about 40 minutes to arrive, but I might have waited longer in the queue.”
Ms Moxey, who works for her country’s tourism board, said she would miss Dubai and was hoping to return for a holiday to meet up with friends she made during her time living in the Expo Village.
“For me, the highlight has been able to sample the cultures and cuisines of so many different countries in one place,” she said.
'I will be sorry when it is all over'
Sadulloi Ismat from the Tajikistan pavilion said he would be disappointed when Expo came to an end.
“It has been absolutely amazing to learn so much about different cultures, especially Arabic customs,” said Mr Ismat, 27.
“I will be sorry when it’s all over. When I was told it had been postponed because of the pandemic I was really upset.
“I turned down other job opportunities in the meantime so I could make sure I didn’t miss out, and it has been worth it.”
Another pavilion staff member who will be returning to their home country when the event ends is Aminath Manal Musthafa, 27, from the Maldives.
“For me the best thing about the Expo has being able to interact with schoolkids and tell them about my country,” Ms Musthafa said.
“They bring a lot of energy and fun when they come on school trips.
“If I had to pick a favourite pavilion to visit it would definitely be the Palestine one because of all the different spices you get to smell.”
Not every pavilion worker will be leaving Dubai when the Expo closes at the end of March.
Simran Kaluni, 24, has been working at the Greece pavilion since it opened at the beginning of October.
“I’m from India but I’ve been living in Dubai for the past 12 years,” Ms Kaluni said.
“One other pavilion I would really recommend people visit is Korea.
“It’s worth it just for the architecture and lighting alone.”