Emotional journey gives glimpse into transformation from boy to visionary leader
HH Sheikh Mohammed personally visited pavilion, which was developed in secret
The Vision Pavilion, conceived as a gift and tribute to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will continue to delight and enthral as part of the legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai.
The pavilion – one of the undeniable highlights of more than 200 pavilions across Expo 2020 Dubai’s vast site – welcomed almost 200,000 visitors between 1 October 2021 and 31 March 2022.
The pavilion is inspired by the book My Story: 50 Memories from 50 years of Service by HH Sheikh Mohammed, whose vision has shaped Dubai, one of the world’s most dynamic and successful cities, and host of the first World Expo in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.
The development of the pavilion was a top-secret project, initially led by an internal team of only four people, to surprise HH Sheikh Mohammed. His Highness subsequently personally visited the pavilion on 10 October and followed with a tweet that thanked the creatives who worked on bringing the pavilion to life.
Over the course of the six month, the pavilion recorded a visitor satisfaction figure of 96 per cent, the highest across all of Expo 2020 Dubai’s pavilions, and received the award for Best Small Pavilion at Exhibitor Magazine’s World Expo Awards.
Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Experience Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “The Vision Pavilion tells a relatable human story: we all had childhood wonders; we all have passions and pastimes; we all have ambition and a vision. We are all shaped by our environment and have the power to change it, too – HH Sheikh Mohammed was shaped by his father and grandfather’s values and by Dubai, and, in turn, has shaped Dubai and continues to do so.
“The pavilion was one of my personal highlights of Expo 2020 Dubai’s many, memorable pavilions and personified His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s unparalleled influence on a city that more than 200 nationalities today fondly call home. It is perfectly fitting that this window into the life of a man who shaped the future – much like Expo 2020 Dubai itself has strived to do – will continue to amaze and captivate visitors as part of Expo’s legacy.”
During event-time, the pavilion was staffed by the highest percentage of Emirati workforce of any Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion, with 100 per cent of the hosting team comprising UAE Nationals, offering bilingual tours or tours in Arabic or English as standard for visitors.
The 27-strong hosting team included 24 Expo Generation Programme participants. The programme represented a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for UAE youth to gain experience in leading, operating and delivering a major global event, as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s far-reaching legacy plans, preparing future generations and making a long-term contribution to the UAE and regional economy.
The modest size of the pavilion, at 360 square metres, coupled with the in-depth guided tour experience, meant that event-time capacities were strictly limited for tour groups, as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s safe and responsible response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pavilion acquaints visitors with HH Sheikh Mohammed through a more personal lens. The emotional journey offers a glimpse into the influences that transformed a young boy into a visionary leader and an extraordinary man who is admired both by his people and the many expatriates who call Dubai home.
Guided through a multisensory experience, visitors learn about HH Sheikh Mohammed’s childhood and passions, and the traditional Emirati values instilled in him by his father, His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, and his grandfather, His Highness Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum Al Maktoum, as well as the experiences that influenced his bold vision for Dubai and the UAE.
The Vision Pavilion’s façade was created from materials that illustrate His Highness’s passion for nature, and the magnificent city that rose from Dubai’s challenging natural environment – a symbol of hope for the world over.
The sands of the desert are symbolised by stone emerging from the ground in an attempt to cover the building, with visible carved lines that reflect HH Sheikh Mohammed’s future-focused plans to develop a regional port-city into a modern metropolis. The adjacent foamy aluminium resembles the waves of the Arabian Gulf breaking against the sands of Dubai’s shores.
Rising between the foamy aluminium and the stone, immaculate solid aluminium plates bind desert sand and sea, from which the city of Dubai is born. This key element is the representation of the fulfilment of HH Sheikh Mohammed’s vision: desert and sea working together and complementing one another to create a success story that reverberates in every corner of the globe.
The journey begins through a door replicating that of the home in Shindagha of HH Sheikh Mohammed’s grandfather. Arriving in the first gallery, A Place of Discovery and Learning, a room aptly fitted out with sandstone, visitors learn about the teachings of HH Sheikh Mohammed’s family, the tenets of the Bedouin lifestyle and traditions of the Bani Yas tribe. The walls transform into a large, black-and-white photo album, while a cinematic experience projects across three different graphic surfaces to tell the tale of HH Sheikh Mohammed’s trials and tribulations as a young child in the desert.
Next, a transition room titled Exploring His Surroundings reimagines HH Sheikh Mohammed’s special childhood room at Zabeel Palace – a physical manifestation of the first explorations and discoveries of youth. Alongside notebooks with reimagined drawings, visitors encounter man-made and natural objects collected and studied by HH Sheikh Mohammed’s as a child, ranging from insects and feathers to shells and toys.
Walking into Passions and Values, visitors are engulfed in grey sandstone, which rises from the ground into a striking 5.5-metre, 52-tonne sculpture replicating the neck and head of Dubai Millennium, HH Sheikh Mohammed’s most beloved racehorse. Sound and pictures begin moving and rising from inside the horse’s heart and intensify across the room, while HH Sheikh Mohammed’s poetry emerges on the walls. On the opposite wall, a multi-layered exhibit depicts horses in their moment of glory as they compete to the finish line, illustrating how one must make sacrifices on the path to victory – given an extra dimension by horseshoes lined up in the foreground to match the exact position of the horses’ hooves when viewed from the correct angle.
En route to the final gallery, visitors find themselves submerged underwater in Living Among the Pearl Divers, offering insight into life in Dubai before oil, and the harsh conditions that prompted HH Sheikh Mohammed’s to pursue economic diversification for the benefit of his country and its people.
In The Journey Continues, HH Sheikh Mohammed’s legacy is reinforced as a kaleidoscope of people who live in Dubai, young and old, from the UAE and around the world, share their stories of their relationship with the city and how HH Sheikh Mohammed’s commitment to a better future has impacted their lives. As they tell their stories, a model in the centre, with pin-powered tiles that rise and change shape, synchronise mesmerisingly with the stories being told to depict Dubai’s growth and evolution.
The Vision Pavilion will continue to welcome visitors and will now live on as part of District 2020, the human-centric smart city that will repurpose more than 80 per cent of the Expo 2020 Dubai site’s built environment.
It will remain as a significant cultural asset within District 2020, with the intention to relaunch the exhibition in the same format as was seen during Expo 2020 Dubai, but featuring a visitor experience further augmented with different programmes, alongside enhanced visitor services.