Embark on an engaging journey through time and space, from the Arab world’s intriguing past to a city of the future, at Alif – The Mobility Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
Even before Expo 2020 Dubai opened its doors on October 1, 2021, the mega event’s iconic architecture was already making waves globally. From the grand Al Wasl Plaza and its crowning dome to the surreal entry portals, the stunning structures at the event site have captured the world’s attention, thanks to their striking design.
Perhaps, one of the most futuristic-looking of them all is Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, instantly recognisable as an Expo icon with its extraordinary shape and sleek façade. Conceived by the award-winning British architectural engineering firm Foster + Partners, the structure appears to almost float on air from a distance. Its curved exterior, wrapped in polished, stainless steel cladding, reflects activity from the surrounding areas, and it was designed as such to evoke a sense of movement. It is only fitting, given that the experiences inside bring stories of global mobility to life in inspiring and immersive ways.
The pavilion especially highlights the pivotal role that the UAE and the Arab world have played in advancing human mobility, from ancient exploration several millennia ago through to ambitious space pursuits of the future.
Journey to the past
At Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, the experience begins 4,500 years ago in an ancient settlement of Saruq Al Hadid in the Dubai desert. In its heyday, this Bedouin colony shared a strategic trade relationship with the rest of the Middle East, the Levant and West Asia.
Visitors will be able to discover how early trade in the region contributed to the development of the Arab world before they are transported to ninth-century Baghdad aboard an elevated platform to the House of Wisdom.
From here, celebrated world explorers and navigators then steal the spotlight with towering nine-metre-tall photo-realistic figures depicting historical giants from the Golden Age of Arab Civilisation. Visitors can delve deeper into the stories of Ibn Majid and Ibn Battuta and learn about their contributions that led to advances in world exploration and influenced global mobility through the centuries.
Set sights on the future
The journey then leaps forward straight into the 21st century, where visitors will enter a data-driven virtual world before being propelled into a city of the future. Here, visitors will be able to take a peek at the evolution of mobility and where it may potentially lead humankind in the decades to come.
In focus is the inspiring story of Dubai and its remarkable transformation from a fishing village to a modern metropolis. As visitors journey along, the emirate and the UAE’s incredible progress over the past 50 years comes to light. The experience particularly highlights the nation’s contributions to several mobility-related fields, including aviation, logistics and smart cities, and extending into the solar system through the UAE’s space programme and the Hope Mission to Mars.
Aside from the immersive journey inside the structure, the pavilion and its grounds feature a partly underground, partly open-air 330-metre track that allows visitors to see cutting-edge mobility devices in action.
Marjan Faraidooni, Chief Experience Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “We are proud that this must-see pavilion celebrates the Arab world as a leading light in mobility across the ages, changing perceptions of what this region has achieved. We hope that visitors, especially young Arabs, will leave this experience inspired – realising that anything is possible, motivated to make a difference in our world and looking with optimism to a future when we connect and work together on a global scale.”