Idex 2021: Abu Dhabi gears up for a very different defence show

Strict safety measures in place for first major in-person exhibition since Covid-19 outbreak

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Tanks practise manoeuvres on concrete aprons, military vehicles are covered in tarpaulin and jets scream overhead.

Abu Dhabi is preparing for a very different defence fair this year that promises to be no less striking.

The National joined a tour of Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre – where Idex and Navdex is being held – to see preparations enter the home straight before the fair opens on February 21.

People can expect to see a magnificent show. Although there is Covid, we will make it very successful

The five-day event is a display of the most advanced military hardware on the planet where billions of dirhams of deals are usually sealed. The event will feature more than 1,000 defence companies across 35,000 square metres of exhibition space running through the 12 exhibition halls. Idex is the Middle East's largest defence fair and Israel will be among five new countries participating this year. It will also feature live military drills and aerial displays from Al Fursan, the UAE's aerobatics team.

"The high participation levels at Idex ... demonstrates the leading position which these exhibitions have reached in their 27th year," said Humaid Al Dhaheri, managing director of Adnec. "It further indicates the wider international interest in these vital events, and how the UAE's defence sector has reached an advanced global stage."

It will be the first major in-person exhibition held in Abu Dhabi since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. Teams at the sprawling complex are working 24 hours a day, seven days a week to make sure the event is a success.

“The build-up is going smoothly and it will be held in a very safe way,” said Saeed Al Mansoori, director of Idex. “We have inspectors on the ground and they are monitoring it, we have floor managers and we have the government entities who are coming to inspect everything."

Strict measures are in place to protect public health. International attendees do not have to follow the mandatory 10-day quarantine in place in Abu Dhabi but all those coming from abroad are required to do a PCR test on arrival and another on the sixth day and 12th day. All arrivals must quarantine at their accommodation until the first test result comes back negative.

At the event, masks are mandatory, social distancing strictly enforced, and the exhibition halls will be sanitised daily. Thermal scanners will be placed at all entrances, while isolation rooms are provided should anyone require treatment.

"We are doing everything per the rules and regulations. We do not anticipate any delay in the work. We are monitoring on a day-by-day basis," Mr Al Mansoori said.

Saudi Arabia has a prominent pavilion this year, covering 3,000 sq m, while the Emirati pavilion will feature the Edge Group, among others. Edge is one of the biggest defence groups in the Middle East encompassing at least 25 companies making everything from bullets to armoured personnel carriers.

Asked if the job of staging Idex in the era of Covid-19 was difficult, Mr Al Mansoori said organisers always learnt something during challenging times.

“This is not something new,” he said. “We are used to that. People can expect to see a magnificent show. Although there is Covid, we will make it very successful."