Visitors to the UAE pavilion are seeing much more than exhibits and films showcasing the Emirates, they are also getting the opportunity to meet some of the country's young people.
On Saturday, the first 10 volunteers with the Takatof organisation were on hand to welcome the public as they arrived at the pavilion, which resembles a shimmering sand dune.
More were due to fly into Milan on Saturday night. In total, about 400 volunteers are set to take part in one-month rotations for the duration of the world's fair, which runs through October.
For Sara Al Ameri from Abu Dhabi, the expo represented "a big opportunity to show [visitors] who we are”.
"It's like an exchange of culture. We show them our culture, how it looks, and we want to know their culture,” said the 23-year-old, who has recently graduated in geology from UAE University in Al Ain.
"We learn to communicate with people from different cultures, different ways.”
The expo offered volunteers the chance to show visitors what Emirati dress is like, according to Latifa bin Ahmed, a policy analyst with Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority. "It's amazing. It's going crazy here, so crowded. It's huge,” said the 25-year-old of the expo site, which covers about 110 hectares.
The volunteers, all between the ages of 20 to 35, have undergone etiquette training as well as cultural training centred on the history of the UAE. They have also been taught about Dubai 2020, and had six hours of Italian lessons to help them with the basics.
Loujan Mourad, a senior project manager with Takatof, said the number of young Emiratis who were keen to take part was several times larger than the number of places available. Takatof offers young Emiratis the opportunity to volunteer for many causes.
Ms Mourad described the level of interest from potential volunteers as "overwhelming”.
"It's very unfortunate for us we can't take everyone. We go through an intensive programme of recruitment. There's a lot of people we have to turn away because there are limited numbers,” she said.
Recruitment sessions were held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but Ms Mourad said volunteers were taken from all seven emirates.
"They get to represent the country positively and diplomatically. It's a big responsibility for them,” she said.
"[It's a chance] to see other cultures not in their home situation. For them to be foreigners, it's very rewarding.”
As well as the Emirati volunteers, the pavilion also features a number of Italian hostesses who help to show visitors around.
Emirati volunteer Mohammed Yousefi is a business counsellor with the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development.
The 32-year-old from Abu Dhabi said his expo experience would benefit him in many ways.
"I can get some experience for the coming Expo 2020 in Dubai, and we have started to know other cultures,” he said.
"I have attended a lot of events, but it's the first expo I've participated in. And I like Italy a lot.”
Source: The National