Two years from now, the world's attention will be focused on Dubai, as the city plays host to Expo 2020.
It will be the first time that the world's biggest exhibition, which began in 1851 at Crystal Palace as the centrepiece of London's Great Exhibition, will be held in the Middle East and African region.
With only 730 days to go before Dubai Expo 2020 opens its doors on October 20, 2020, we look at what have been achieved so far and what are the things to come.
According to the Expo 2020 organising committee, "construction is well advanced on the three Thematic Districts that form the core of the Expo site. Foundations and structural works are complete within these areas."
All concrete works for the Thematic Districts have now been completed, with about 243,000 cubic metres of concrete poured. Precast production and installation is now taking place and façade, mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), and public realm works are also in progress. All major design elements are complete - the last being the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, a 130-metre wide, 67.5-metre tall domed space that will be enjoyed by millions of visitors.
Ahmed Al Khatib, senior vice-president, real estate and delivery, Expo 2020 Dubai, told Khaleej Times: "All projects across our 4.38sqkm site are rapidly taking shape.
The concrete works for the Thematic Districts have now been completed, with approximately 243,000 cubic metres of concrete poured, the precast façade installation is substantially complete, while glazing, MEP and public realm works are progressing.
"There are currently about 26,000 workers on the Expo site with more than 44 million work hours having been achieved to date. Early next year, at the peak of construction, approximately 40,000 workers are expected on site, including employees of third-party stakeholders and participating countries," he added.
Maha Al Gargawi, director - international participants, Expo 2020 Dubai, added:
"More than 170 countries have already confirmed their participation - a significant number this far out from the Expo - and we are excited to see how these participating nations will bring to life our theme of 'Connecting Minds, Creating the Future', as well as our three key subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
Mohammed Alhashmi, senior vice-president - innovation and future technologies, Expo 2020, said: "We are designing a 'smart site' that will be one of the most connected places on Earth and support a personalised and unique experience for millions of visitors. Its 5G-enabled network, which is expected to be around 20 times faster than 4G, will support a variety of applications from smart food ordering and dynamic crowd management to real-time way-finding information and immersive 4K content. State-of-the-art technology embedded throughout the site will help to ensure a seamless experience that will 'wow' visitors."
Involving the youth
Expo Live's University Innovation Programme is encouraging and supporting university students in the UAE to work together to find creative solutions to some of the most pressing challenges in the country and wider region.
The first cycle of the programme was launched in September 2017 and received 280 applications from 1,000 students. Nineteen student teams received up to Dh50,000 funding, as well as support and exposure, to help develop their creative solutions.
The Expo School Programme is working to inspire the younger generation by engaging with schools and educators across the UAE.
Through various initiatives including school roadshows and Expo field trips, the Expo School Programme has already reached more than 40,000 students from 620 schools across the UAE, and hopes to reach many more. The programme has also engaged more than 800 educators from both public and private schools to discuss how they can involve their students in the Expo and encourage them to play an active role in advancing human progress. The search for more than 30,000 volunteers who will be the 'face of Expo 2020 Dubai' was launched last year in collaboration with the UAE Ministry of Community Development and Emirates Foundation.
Abeer Al Hosani, head of volunteers - human resources, workforce and volunteers, said: "The Expo 2020 Volunteers team cannot wait to celebrate this exciting milestone with our community. From October 2020 to April 2021, more than 30,000 volunteers will help welcome the world to the UAE.
Route 2020 test run to begin from May 2019
Mattar Al Tayer, Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) director-general and chairman of the Board of Executive Directors, recently briefed His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, on the progress of construction work Route 2020.
The new route covers the 15km extension of the Dubai Metro Red Line to the site of Expo 2020. The Project includes seven stations (five elevated and two underground).
According to Al Tayer, the project's completion rate has reached 53 per cent.
The design of the iconic station at the Expo site features plane wings that reflect the city's journey towards the future through innovation. One of the key stations of the project that will serve millions of visitors, it has been designed to ensure the smooth entry and exit of passengers at all times. The project also features an interchange station linking Route 2020 and the Red Line of Dubai Metro at Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station.
Its design is similar to the existing stations. The designs of the elevated and underground stations were tailored to provide higher capacity than the existing stations on the Red Line. The elevated stations have an area ranging from 8,100 to 8,800 square meters and the areas of the underground stations range from 27,000 to 28,700 square metres. The Expo station has an area of 18,800 square metres. The interior design of the metro stations reflect the four elements of nature: air, earth, fire and water and features futuristic elements.
The first of the new metro trains to be used on this route will arrive in Dubai in November. The first train will start operations in December. The RTA will start testing carriages in May 2019, and conduct test runs of trains in Feb 2020 to ensure the readiness of the train and control systems. The test runs will continue until the official opening of the project.