With a 90-minute long jaw-dropping entertainment extravaganza that was held at the Al Wasl Plaza at the heart of Expo and beamed across the world on Thursday night at 8pm, curtains rose on the first-ever World Expo to be held in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia, dubbed the world's greatest show.
"The entire world gathers in the United Arab Emirates. Today, we witness, together, a new beginning. As we inaugurate, together, with the blessings of Allah, Expo 2020 Dubai, May God grant us success," said Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai declaring the Arab world's first Expo open.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bn Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai was present as the national flag was hoisted as a helicopter shot red, white and green fireworks outside Al Wasl. Emirati singer Rashid Al Nuaimi sang the National Anthem. The moving rendition of 'Ishi Biladi' reverberated as the world's limelight fell on Dubai tonight.
The translucent Al Wasl Dome – the crowning jewel of Expo –stood basking in glory as the trellis of its 360-degree projection surface dazzled in purple and gold. UAE inspired patterns and motives lit up across the stage and as celebratory fireworks launched from the adjacent buildings of the Plaza painted the night sky in brilliant colours and patterns.
An Emirati girl clad in pink took centre stage, and she was presented with an ancient golden ring representing the Expo logo. The ring, based on a 3000-year-old artifact, is both a symbol of the past of the UAE and a future built on connection. As she raised it above her head, it burst into a colourful array of lights representing the blending of the cultures of the world.
As the spirit of Al Wasl is awakened, the light transforms into stunning geometrical patterns on walls creating a tapestry that represents humanity expanded across the universe. The stained glass patterns were enhanced with the perception of light piercing through the shapes to reveal the full splendour of Al Wasl.
Saudi singer Mohamed Abdo delivering John Legend's 'If You Are Out There', sets off a chain reaction throughout Al Wasl, revealing over 200 participant flags in a display resembling flowers blooming in the desert. Angelieque Kidjo joins Abdo singing in French and English.
Adding to the magic of the night was Hussain Jassmi, Mayssa Karaa and Almas who took the stage and perform 'This is Our Time' the official song of Expo 2020 Dubai. As the song builds, a chorus of children fills in behind and around the performance establishing the importance of the future as we make our way through the ceremony
A message of peace
As much it was pomp and opulence, splendour and grandeour in equal measures, the opening night of Expo 2020 was also a clarion call, a reminder to a pandemic-hit world that there is much to be done through collective action – through Connecting Minds and Building the Future.
UAE's Expo 2020 Commissioner-General Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, said that by hosting Expo 2020, Dubai aims to convey a message of peace and tolerance to the world.
"Today, we say to the whole world, welcome to the United Arab Emirates and welcome to Expo 2020 which will provide a significant platform for all people to connect, discuss and work together."
"Together, we will convey, from the UAE to the world, a message of tolerance, coexistence and peace; a message of progress, prosperity and growth; a message of brotherhood, happiness and an unwavering will to create a brighter future for everyone," said Sheikh Nahyan.
Speaking after him, Bureau International des Expositions Secretary General Dimitri S. Kerkentzes said it is a "historic occasion for world expo's and the culminating moment in the incredible story of Dubai and the United Arab Emirates in the year of its Golden Jubilee."
With more than 190 countries participating and all the world is coming together, he said it is a "tremendous occasion to reconnect with the whole world and to truly engage with critical questions of universal importance" and showcase innovative and cutting-edge solutions to global problems.
He said the overarching aim of expos as global platforms for inclusivity and multilateralism takes on a renewed purpose at Expo 2020 as an unprecedented global health crisis punctuates the world with its profound consequences.
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