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Free tickets and a national holiday drew in tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people for the Golden Jubilee celebrations.
Police band bagpipes and Khaleeji drums echoed along the parade route in a rousing spectacle for families who lined the streets, while a stunt jet fly-by drew gasps from the crowds.
A police officer wearing a jetpack even took to the air at the site's centrepiece, Al Wasl Plaza dome.
Mohamed Al Sheki, an Emirati from Dibba on the east coast, was thrilled by the packed schedule.
“Our National Day is very special to us — it's is a celebration of what we have achieved,” he said.
“We know more change is coming but we are excited about that. Some countries stay the same and don’t move forward but the UAE is not like other countries.
“I think in the next 50 years we won’t be on Earth any more!”
Families flooded from the metro to the main gates from shortly after 9am, with queues all the way back to the station doors at one stage.
At Saudi Arabia's pavilion, one of Expo's most popular attractions, 60,000 people had come through the doors by lunchtime — twice the normal daily visitor count.
Rubab Yousuf Ali, from India, is a social science teacher at Gulf Indian High School.
“Expo is like a dream and it will show what can be achieved by holding this event. I’m sure other countries will want to host Expo once they see how successful Dubai has been,” she said.
She has taught her pupils about the country's rapid growth in the past half century, and told them how there are few other countries to have seen comparable progress. Like nearly nine million other expats, she has made the Emirates home.
“Since 1971, there have been so many changes and many new job opportunities, that has been good for all of us,” she said.
“There is so much opportunity in the UAE, but most of all it is a safe place.
“I tell my pupils I can walk safely after 12 at night, that is the UAE.”
Emirati Hossain Al Shehhi, 27, an aircraft engineering student from Dibba, said the Golden Jubilee was the latest landmark in the story of his country.
“We want to compete with America and European countries and show we are just as good, if not better. To see the world come to visit us at Expo makes us all very proud,” he said.
“People learn more and more about us every day they are here, and they feel safe. That in itself is something to be proud of.
“It is my first time to come to Expo, it is very busy but we really want to see the UAE Pavilion as it is very special for us all.”
Yousuf Ali, a 41-year-old from India, has been in the UAE for 15 years and is an accountant. He lives in Deira.
“This celebration is important as we call the UAE our second home. We love this country and want to show that by wearing the colours of the flag.
“There has been so much change in my time here, and my family has grown up here so it means a lot to me to call the UAE home.”