MidEast’s first ever World's Fair opens in Dubai
After eight years of planning and billions of dollars in spending, the Middle East's first ever World Fair opened on Friday in Dubai, with hopes the months-long extravaganza draws both visitors and global attention to this desert-turned-dreamscape. Named Expo 2020, the event was postponed by a year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus last year. While that could have an impact on how many people flock to the United Arab Emirates, the six-month-long exhibition offers Dubai a momentous opportunity to showcase its unique East-meets-West appeal as a place where all are welcome for business. Not long ago, the site of the 1,080 acre (438 hectare) expo was barren desert. Less than a decade later, it is a buzzing futuristic landscape with robots, a new metro station, multi-million dollar pavilions and so-called districts with names like "sustainability" and "opportunity" - all built, like much of the Gulf, by low-paid migrant workers. Organizers say 192 nations are represented at the expo. Since first making a splash in London in 1851, world fairs have long been an opportunity for nations to meet, exchange ideas, showcase inventions, promote culture and build business ties. For more than a century, these global exhibitions have captured the imagination and showcased some of humanity's most important innovations. This year's expo is happening amid a global pandemic, when untold numbers are still working and studying remotely — and connecting to the world virtually. It's unclear how many visitors Dubai can attract, and how much the expo will stimulate its tourism-driven economy, but organisers maintained their goal to have 25 million people pass through its gates. To enter the expo site, visitors will need to show a negative PCR test or proof of COVID-19 vaccination.