Saudi Arabia pavilion embodies bold ambition

17 October 2021
The second-largest country pavilion at Expo 2020 highlights Saudi Arabia’s culture, heritage and economic vision

Saudi Arabia’s presence at Expo 2020 Dubai is the kingdom’s "window to the world", according to Hussain Hanbazazah, commissioner general for the Saudi Arabia pavilion at Expo 2020.

“Saudi Arabia’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai celebrates the heritage, culture and forward-looking mindset of a country set to become a key player on the global stage,” he tells MEED.

Hanbazazah’s objective is to showcase the image of Saudi Arabia as it is today to expo visitors.

“Our pavilion will offer visitors a unique experience that reflects the kingdom’s transformation under Saudi Vision 2030, our roadmap for the future formulated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. [It will showcase] the importance of pride in identity, history and heritage, and prioritise development and economic diversification, and a prosperous future for Saudis,” he says.

A closer look at the abstract pavilion logo reveals the distinctive shape of the pavilion itself, repeating 13 times, in 13 different shades. This is intended to signify the kingdom's 13 regions, its diversity and, above all, the outlook and vision of the country for the future, according to Hanbazazah.

Unique experience

Located in the expo site's Opportunity district, the Saudi pavilion is the second largest after that of the UAE. It covers an area of more than 13,000 square metres.

The construction of the pavilion commenced in February 2019 and was undertaken by Dubai-based contractor Alec. It was designed by Spanish architecture firm Boris Micka Associates.

The concrete work was completed in July 2019 and the steel work was finished by the end of October 2019. The completion of construction work was announced in late November 2020.

Rising five stories above ground, the facade of the building symbolises the country’s “deeply-rooted heritage, ancient culture, natural wonders, myriad opportunities, and the towering ambition of the Saudi people”, says Hanbazazah.

“Saudi Arabia has developed an outstanding architectural landmark, embodying a bold ambition to shape the world for the better,” he says. “The pavilion’s design reflects both the country’s past and aspiring future, inviting guests to explore our beautiful natural landscapes while learning about the rich history that has shaped the Saudi Arabia we celebrate today.”

The outer facade is covered with 650 solar panels manufactured in the kingdom. 

The pavilion was awarded a Leed Platinum 4 rating. It has also set three Guinness World Records, for the largest interactive lighting floor, featuring 8,000 LED lights; the longest interactive water feature, at more than 32 metres; and the largest LED interactive digital mirror screen, spanning more than 1,300 square metres.

Visitor experience

The Saudi pavilion's Heritage Path escalator ride takes visitors through multi-sensory displays of 14 cultural landmarks, including Unesco World Heritage sites.

Saudi Arabia’s participation in Expo 2020 Dubai celebrates the heritage, culture and forward-looking mindset of a country set to become a key player on the global stage" - Hussain Hanbazazah, commissioner general, Saudi Arabia pavilion

In a central atrium, visitors can learn about the past, present and future of the kingdom. The highlight of the exhibition is the Vision space – a floating virtual sphere, measuring almost 30 metres in diameter, brought to life by a collective of Saudi artists.

On the final leg of the journey through the pavilion, big electronic screens offer virtual windows onto key projects under the Saudi Vision 2030 initiative. Overhead is an installation made from 2,030 crystals.

Over the next six months, the pavilion will host events including poetry shows, as well as discussions about topics such as social issues, female empowerment and the power of art in film and print. There will also be family shows, storytelling experiences and art and craft experiences for children.

“Pavilion visitors will [learn about] the diversity found across the kingdom's 13 regions through vibrant, diverse and powerful cultural shows that include dance, poetry and music,” says Hanbazazah.

“We will celebrate our culture daily with the Saudi art form Ardah – an ancient tradition that is widely popular among Saudis, which includes a combination of singers, dancers carrying swords and a poet or narrator.”

Business goals

Investment opportunities in the kingdom is another area of focus for the Saudi pavilion, according to Hanbazazah.

“Among the central goals of Vision 2030 is for Saudi Arabia to become a global investment powerhouse, to create a more diverse and sustainable economy, and to transform the kingdom’s economy into the 15th largest globally, up from the rank of 19th today,” he says.

“Initiated under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s gigaprojects will create new industries that will put the kingdom’s economy on the path to a future beyond oil.”

Saudi Arabia reveals $7tn investment plan

The pavilion features a business park space where leaders from around the world can meet to discuss partnerships and investment opportunities.

In the Discovery Centre space, visitors can learn about Saudi Arabia’s foundational reforms and economic competitiveness.

“The Saudi pavilion will offer an opportunity to explore the investment opportunities available in the kingdom – for all investors, whether local, regional or international – and to discuss any partnerships that may be suitable for them,” says Hanbazazah.

“It will also allow government entities to present their achievements, partnerships, initiatives and outlooks, and to look into any potential strategic partnership ideas they may be considering."

Also in the spotlight will be “partnerships with non-profits such as Emirates Foundation, with its focus on volunteerism and youth employability across all sectors".

"Last but not least is our partnership with the volunteers themselves, who are giving their time at the Saudi pavilion to serve their homeland,” Hanbazazah concludes.

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