The UAE pavilion in Expo Milan 2015 has attracted a large number of visitors, sending a message that aligns with the theme of the international exhibition.
The theme chosen for the 2015 Milan Universal Exposition is ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life'. This embraces technology, innovation, culture, traditions and creativity, and how they relate to food and diet. The Expo 2015 will further develop themes introduced in earlier Expos for all the world's inhabitants.
The exhibition aims at sending a strong message to governments and individuals to pursue policies on protecting the environment.
The UAE pavilion is illustrating the image of a country which has successfully built friendly relations and cooperation with other nations and people, demolishing geographical, cultural and economic barriers to create peace and harmony.
The UAE pavilion has been set up at a strategic location — the main hall — where queues of people are common. Most of the visitors are taking a keen interest in technology displayed at the pavilion. They are also watching the ‘Family Tree' movie and a promotional film on Dubai Expo 2020.
In the first 10 days of opening, the pavilion has welcomed more than 43,000 visitors. A well-trained group of 450 Emirati volunteers, wearing national dresses, welcome visitors at the gate. They even speak Italian in a courteous gesture.
The visitors are amazed as they watch the soul of the desert life, with its deep-rooted traditions, the life of Bedouins and the integration of modern architectural trends.
The pavilion entrance consists of two big gates separated by a 12-metre-high wall. Roads have been shaped like curves to resemble sand dunes and they stretch 140 metres.
Visitors are given insights of how harsh life was in the UAE, with scarcity of water, the importance of date palm trees and other ways of life.
The pavilion also displays the concept of building clean energy, preservation of UAE environmental resources for future generations and efforts to reach the target of sustainable environment.
A hall screens an eight-minute-long mini feature ‘Family Tree' and accommodates 145 spectators. The movie shows historical life in the UAE, specifically 1963. It also sheds light on the palm tree, which forms a major part of the exhibition as it is considered to be the backbone of life in the country. The movie is in Italian with English subtitles.
The pavilion also includes a section where different varieties of palm trees and dates are displayed. Another hall showcases the latest technology for energy production.
The participants include Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa), Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Small and Medium-size Enterprises and etisalat.
The exhibition will continue for six months. The UAE pavilion, run by the National Media Council, was built in China will be moved to Abu Dhabi's Masdar City after the Expo.
Ambassador Shorouq Al Baloushi stands at the entrance of the UAE pavilion to welcome guests. She was chosen to volunteer at the Milan Expo by the Takatof volunteer programme. She was given a month's leave from her duty to participate in the Expo.
Ambassador Marwa Al Baloushi, a graduate of Zayed University, who is also a permanent volunteer at the Takatof programme, was happy when the National Media Council asked her to take part in Expo Milan and represent her country.
Ambassador Afraa Al Shaiba, also a graduate of Zayed University, says she comes to the Expo centre at 10am and leaves at 9pm, or works a dual shift.
On the first day of the Expo, the Emirati ambassadors were updated on the UAE pavilion so that they could pass on accurate information to guests.
Al Shaiba said they were trained by the NMC on protocol, the language and culture of Italy so that they could better deal with guests. They were also trained on how to answer questions raised by guests visiting the pavilion.
"I'm a volunteer and this is the first time for me. We are Emiratis and represent our country. It is a duty we have to fulfil,” says ambassador Al Shaiba.
Meanwhile, ambassador Saleh Al Raessi, who works for the Emirates Identity Authority and also a member of Takatof volunteer programme, says the Milan Expo is his fourth volunteering initiative.
Volunteers speak to visitors about the challenges faced by the UAE, in particular water scarcity.
They explain to visitors that annual rain in the UAE is estimated at 100 millimetres as compared to 944 millimetres in Milan city. The UAE uses desalinated water and treated sewage water to meet the country's daily needs.
The shortage of rain in the UAE is common knowledge. The country experiences no more than 120 millimetres of rain per year. A country like Thailand, for instance, experiences 20 times more rainfall annually than the UAE.
The volunteers explain to visitors that except for some valleys in mountains, the UAE has no other sources of fresh water.
"It lacks lakes, rivers and streams. The scarcity of fresh surface water had prompted us to extract water from the underground. We use desalinated water and treated sewage water to meet most of our needs in the UAE,” an ambassador explains.
"Our current production capacity of such water is 1.504 million cubic metres per annum. This accounts for about 36 per cent of our needs for local water consumption. We need approximately 4.180 million of cubic metres every year,” he informs a group of visitors.
Water shortage in the UAE is an age-old issue. According to a UAE citizen, who has been following the history of water scarcity in the country, water vendors in the past brought fresh water from remote distances, carrying the bags on animal backs and proceeding to cities to sell it. They dominated the fresh water industry for long. This trend was rampant till the early 1960s.
The UAE, formerly called Trucial States, started receiving aid and relief materials from other Gulf countries before the discovery of oil deposits in the country. The UAE first spotted oil in 1966.
In 1961, some GCC states contributed to establishing a small firm to extend oil pipelines from Al Aweer area that was under the chairmanship of the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum and was managed by a British engineer called Tulk.
By then, the prevalence of diseases had reduced because of the availability of drinking water in homes.
However, mobile water vendors continued to monopolise the industry and staged a demonstration at the company in Naif neighbourhood.
Source: Khaleej Times