The Harlem Globetrotters wowed Expo audiences with their basketball tricks and entertaining skills during a cultural performance representing U.S. talent and diversity. Photo courtesy of the USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai
By Nadia Ziyadeh
The USA Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai welcomed more than 1.25 million visitors between October 1, 2021, and March 31, 2022, sharing the story of ongoing American innovation. Despite a delayed opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai became the first World’s Fair held in the Middle East. This Expo continued the long tradition of World Expos bringing people from every corner of the globe together to collaborate and share innovations. A total of 192 participating nations illustrated the Expo’s theme, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” through their pavilion exhibitions, cultural programs, speakers, and visiting delegations.
The USA Pavilion’s exhibition, “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of the Future” celebrated the American people, ideas, and contributions that have changed and improved lives in the United States and worldwide. Working closely with the U.S. Mission to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the team welcomed more than 6,100 visitors daily to the pavilion using the platform to advance economic growth, promote mutual understanding, and demonstrate the power of democracy to inspire innovation, ingenuity, and development. The mission reached global audiences from the Middle East, South Asia, the United States, and Europe. The USA Pavilion was also prominently featured in the Expo School Visits program, which welcomed students from around the world to learn about U.S. history and space innovation.
The USA Pavilion’s 75 youth ambassadors—hailing from 37 states and U.S. territories—served as greeters and exhibit guides, and were the “Faces of America” for the USA Pavilion. More than 250 cultural performers represented U.S. talent and diversity through 65 cultural performances, including the Harlem Globetrotters and the Tulane University Marching Band.
For some visitors, the USA Pavilion served as their first encounter with the United States, creating a unique opportunity to learn more about the nation. Visitors at the USA Pavilion journeyed through eight exhibits: Lady Liberty’s Torch, a media show of the sun rising on a half-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty’s iconic torch exhibited at Philadelphia’s Centennial Expo in 1876, the first World’s Fair in the United States; President Thomas Jefferson’s Quran, the first time this national historic treasure left its home in the Library of Congress; American Innovation, a display highlighting some of America’s most iconic innovators and their inventions including Nikolas Tesla, Henry Ford, Alexander Graham Bell, and Steve Jobs; The Innovation Generation, an exhibit featuring personal interviews from modern American inventors highlighting the impact new technologies will have on the world; The Sky is No Longer the Limit, an exhibit featuring an eight-minute immersive media show exploring the future of America’s technological innovations, from the democratization of space to quantum computing to sustainable energy; Explore the USA, where guests explored America’s National Parks through the grand works of American photographer QT Luong; Lunar Sample, a 3.75-billion-year-old lunar sample brought back to Earth in 1972 by the Apollo 17 mission; and SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket, which served as the grand finale of the USA Pavilion, an awe-inspiring replica of the partially reusable medium-lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured by SpaceX that towered over the pavilion. In the exhibit Lunar Sample, visitors were able to touch the Moon, which quickly became one of the most popular attractions at the Expo.
Expo 2020 Dubai, one of the largest events of its kind ever to be held in the Middle East, drew an international audience and provided a unique opportunity to strengthen U.S. economic and agricultural ties with regional countries. During Expo’s Food, Agriculture, and Livelihoods week, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack led the United States Department of Agriculture Agribusiness Trade Mission and the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate Ministerial at the Expo, promoting the quality, reliability, and safety of U.S. food and agricultural products. Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo led the TradeWinds trade mission that connected more than 100 American companies with Middle Eastern and international partners and addressed economic inclusion issues for women in business.
The USA Pavilion hosted over 200 representatives from more than 50 American companies during the Dubai Air Show to promote the U.S. aerospace industry. Several U.S. states also convened trade delegations at the USA Pavilion to promote agricultural and commercial exports, facilitating U.S. businesses to develop their networks of partners and clients in the UAE. In addition, American corporations, such as GE, Citigroup, and Marriott utilized the USA Pavilion as a meeting point for client events, product launches, and networking opportunities.
The Minnesota Bid Commission also visited Expo 2020 Dubai to advance the U.S. proposal to bring the World’s Fair back to America for the first time in 40 years. Minnesota Expo USA 2027, themed “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” would be the first-ever expo focused on health and wellness. The Department of State is working with the state of Minnesota to support the U.S. bid.
U.S. pavilions at World’s Fairs improve international perceptions of the United States and create a platform to engage foreign audiences about the country, its history, culture, and vision for the future. The Expo also gives the U.S. mission in the country where it is hosted the ability to strengthen bilateral trade relations and promote investment, travel, and education in the United States.
“U.S. participation at Expo 2020 Dubai is our largest public diplomacy event this year,” said former-Senior Official for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Jennifer Hall Godfrey. “World’s Fairs are the perfect opportunity to present American culture, values, and our people to the world. It was a true honor to be part of this experience and I’m confident the next USA Pavilion in Osaka 2025 will be just as successful as Dubai.” The USA Pavilion experience continues, available to the public, through a virtual interactive tour.
Nadia Ziyadeh is the programming and communications manager for the Expo Unit at the U.S. Consulate in Dubai.