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Travel: Mushroom farms and Michelangelo at Expo 2020 in Dubai

© Press Association ImagesDubai marina
Dubai marina

Nothing in Dubai is ever done in moderation.

In the last month alone, the glittering Emirate launched Deep Dive Dubai, the world’s deepest swimming pool, shortly followed by the tallest Ferris wheel – almost double the height of the London Eye.

Now the ambitious city hopes to stage the greatest ever global show. Postponed due to the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai has finally opened and organisers hope to receive 25 million visits between now and March.

A platform for innovation and interactions across the international community, it also promises to deliver on entertainment – from waterfalls that appear to flow backwards, to a sky garden shooting skyward. Here’s all you need to know to make the most of a whirlwind 24-hour visit.

What is Expo?

Launched with the intention of showcasing innovations, the world’s first Great Exhibition was hosted in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851.

Since then, the event has been responsible for some landmark inventions. The telephone, for example, was first demonstrated by Graham Bell in Philadelphia in 1876, where Heinz Ketchup and ice cream cones also made their debut.

Every five years, a different destination carries the mantle, each one leaving its legacy with a selection of fantastic buildings.

The Space Needle in Seattle, The Atomium in Brussels, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris have all become standalone tourist attractions since making their Expo mark decades ago.

What are the highlights?

The site is sprawling. An Expo app enables visitors to plan and pre-book pavilions, but it’s worth saving some time to wander freely and drop into different spaces.

The site is divided into three main areas connected to Expo’s overarching themes of Mobility, Opportunity and Sustainability – the latter being the most thought-provoking of the lot.

© PA
A girl inside the mushroom farm at the Netherlands Pavilion, Dubai.

Choose between two immersive journeys – diving under the ocean or burrowing beneath a forest floor – and walk through a collection of interactive exhibits highlighting human habits of over-consumption and asking where our priorities lie.

Equally concerned with environmental issues, another must-see comes from the Netherlands, whose pavilion has been transformed into a mushroom farm.

Guests are handed umbrellas and drenched with a rain-shower of technicoloured lights, then informed about fungi growing techniques using moisture collected from the air.

Other additions include a Swedish forest recreated by trees transplanted from Scandinavia, a controversial 3D print-out of Michelangelo’s nude Italian hero David, and a band of robots playing Beethoven.

Is the UK represented?

Designed by artist Es Devlin, the UK’s contribution is a cross-laminated timber structure, with a changing script of words projected on to slats.

Based on an idea by Stephen Hawking to transmit a message to outer space, the project asks visitors to donate a word which is then digested by an AI system to create a poetic couplet. Every contribution will form part of an ongoing script.

Where can I refuel?

There are around 200 different outlets on site to choose from, including a food hall serviced by robots and a multi-sensory extravaganza from experimentalists Bompas & Parr. Expect dishes that glow in the dark!.

Where should I stay?

The excellent Rove chain has a hotel set within the Expo site for anyone who wants to live and breathe the experience 24 hours a day. Alternatively, stay in the city and divide time with other activities.

Set on the beachfront in the Jumeirah district, Rove La Mer takes inspiration from its surroundings, with surf boards strapped to the walls and staff dressed in Hawaiian-style shirts.


Dubai’s weather is warm all year round.

The lowest average temperatures are around 20⁰C in January, while the summer months see averages of around 30⁰C. Dubai typically has up to 10 hours of sunshine a day, so expect blue skies and warm conditions whenever you visit.


From £110 per night with breakfast. Visit