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Middle East Update: Dubai and Abu Dhabi

October 1, 2021 marked the long awaited opening day of Expo 2020 -

a date that all 191 participating countries and visitors from across the world have been eagerly anticipating. The Covid-19 pandemic provided an extra year for preparation and marketing of this world exposition, delaying the start date from 2020 to 2021. The thought provoking theme of EXPO 2020 Dubai is “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future” and through exhibits, presentations, and the venue itself, event goers will see how this applies to the future of our globe, utilizing sustainability, mobility and opportunity. 


According to Kyna Perry of Ya’lla Tours, an Authorized Ticket Reseller for Expo 2020, Ya’lla’s expected Expo bookings are down from initial expectations due to Covid-19, but they have seen a marked increase in interest and bookings over the last few months, and significant increase in traffic on their Expo dedicated web site (, especially since the opening of Expo on October 1, 2021.


The Expo attendance numbers for the first 24 days were nearly 1.5 million, representing over 175 nationalities. Expo Dubai 2020 closes on March 31, 2022, so there is still plenty of time to purchase tickets for the event and accommodations. Most of Ya’lla’s Expo bookings include some additional touring in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and the Arabian Desert in addition to attendance of the Expo. Oman and Jordan are also popular extensions.


Once the event is over, District 2020 will use 80% of the Expo buildings in a mixed use, human-centered community to carry forward the Expo 2020 ideals of connection and collaboration, inclusiveness and diversity to achieve balanced and sustainable innovation and growth.


In addition to the tourism draw from Expo 2020, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has launched a new global campaign called “Dubai Presents,” which features Hollywood stars Jessica Alba and Zac Efron. The campaign invites global travelers to put themselves in Dubai’s breathtaking locations, write their own script and create their own exciting adventure.


Other news in Dubai tourism includes the October 2021 opening of the world’s biggest and tallest Ferris Wheel. Located on Bluewaters Island, the Ferris Wheel offers breathtaking views of the Dubai skyline. The Ain Dubai stands at 820 feet tall and is constructed from 11,200 tons of steel. As a comparison, the London Eye stands at 440 feet tall. The Ain Dubai has a seating capacity of 1,750, and one full rotation takes around 38 minutes. 


The location for future tourism developments include the town of Hatta, which is to be transformed into a major travel destination with an inland beach, lake, and cable-driven mountain railway. Hatta, located near the border with Oman, has already been transformed into an adventure getaway, with mountain biking and kayaking popular activities. A major part of the new plan will develop the Hatta Beach Project as a year-round tourist destination, while conserving the heritage and natural environment of the area. The plan will develop a mountainside health resort and the first tourist funicular system of its kind in the region to transport visitors.


Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi is now welcoming all international vaccinated travelers and those traveling from Green List countries back to the Emirate, without the need to quarantine. Also using star power to boost tourism, The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (Abu Dhabi Tourism) features John Cena in their new tourism campaign, “Abu Dhabi – The Time is Now.” The campaign encourages travelers to book a trip to the United Arab Emirates’ capital – stat. In the promotional video, Cena parachutes out of a plane and lands on the roof of the iconic Louvre Abu Dhabi. The video follows Cena’s journey through Abu Dhabi’s beautiful landscapes, world class attractions and legendary entertainment scene. 


The overarching message is that Abu Dhabi offers visitors year-round sunshine, and is an ideal place for travelers looking create amazing memories. From high-adrenaline dune bashing in the desert, to relaxing on its pristine beaches, taking in its vibrant and contemporary art and culture scene, or exploring family fun attractions and theme parks – there is a world of possibility to discover during a trip to Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi has diverse offerings for tourists, from the majestic sand dunes to Yas Island’s Ferrari World, with more to come. 


A massive marine park is entering its final phase of construction on Yas Island and will soon invite visitors to enjoy the world’s largest indoor aquarium. Scheduled to be completed next year, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi will be home to tens of thousands of marine species across five levels, along with a dedicated research center to focus on marine conservation. Attractions will include interactive exhibits, an immersive ride detailing a visual journey from North Pole to South Pole, and what is billed as the largest aquarium in the world.


The long-awaited Guggenheim museum in Abu Dhabi by architect Frank Gehry is set to open in 2025, nearly 20 years after plans were unveiled and 14 years after construction began. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi is currently being constructed on Saadiyat Island – a cultural district under development off the coast of the UAE capital. The museum will be the largest of the four Guggenheim outposts, overtaking Guggenheim Bilbao that Gehry also designed. Plans for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi were first revealed in 2006 and work began on site in 2011, but it was then suspended for several years. It will form part of a larger complex of arts and cultural institutions on Saadiyat Island that is intended to establish Abu Dhabi as a major cultural destination. Other buildings on Saadiyat Island include Jean Nouvel’s Louvre Abu Dhabi, which was the first outpost of the Musée du Louvre outside France.

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