DUBAI, TGO: Thousands flocked to Expo 2020 Dubai on Friday for the start of a bumper weekend of activities as the mega event enters its final weeks.
Mothers pushed toddlers in strollers and young children ran around barefoot in shaded pathways on the vast world’s fair site.
By evening, the grounds were filled with music fans who streamed in to listen to their favorite groups from Indian rap to K-Pop bands.
Throughout the day, rows of strollers were stacked at the entrances of pavilions as parents with young children shepherded them in to soak up new cultures and revel in the carnival atmosphere.
Children splashed in the ankle-deep water as their parents swung in hammocks at the Brazil pavilion.
Others walked around the Spanish pavilion with its knee-high chess pawns and learnt of the eastern origins of the game that Arabs introduced to the country in the 8th century.
Many were drawn to the pavilion’s eco-friendly architecture with more than a dozen cones made from reusable material.
It was the third Expo visit for French tourist Sabrina Obert, mother of four, who is visiting the city for 10 days.
Visually rich pavilions that used photographs to tell stories worked best for the Obert children, aged 3 to 8.
“A lot of people in France told me it was the biggest thing to see in Dubai,” she said.
“We didn’t know it was about the future and how to make the future better. It is good for the children because pictures can show them how to do it because they don’t understand the language.
“There is a lot in the pavilions they can understand like the connection between the rain, the sea, food and fish.”
The family also enjoyed their visits to the Singapore, Netherlands, Italy, Mozambique and New Zealand pavilions.
At the Family Place, a new venue that opened last week next to Al Forsan Park, children learn how to make toy cars from recycled wooden blocks with metal wheels.
They decorate the mini cars with colourful plastic stickers and feathers and can test-race the final product on a curved wooden track.
Shouts of “Five, four, three, two, one” rang out from attendants who place the cars on the test track.
Italian tourist Emanuel Dalazze watched as his sons, aged 6 and 3, prepared their recycled creations.
“This is a beautiful place with a lot of thought going into it,” he said.
“It is very interesting for children to learn to make things with their hands and to reuse. They will have many more ideas when they see this.”
Several concerts were lined up for the weekend, including a performance by Amritpal Singh Dhillon, who will sing Punjabi hits at the Dubai Exhibition Centre venue later on Friday.
After his March 12 concert was sold out in 90 minutes, the Indian rapper and songwriter popularly known as AP Dhillon will perform an extra night on Friday.
Excitement was building for fans of South Korean music boy group Megamax, who also perform on Friday night. Their song Painted Love was a YouTube hit last year.
Crowds came in to hear classic hits from 1980s pop star Chris De Burgh and the contemporary Malayalam film songs of Project Malabaricus, fronted by Sithara, a singer from southern India’s Kerala state.
Highlights for the weekend include a food festival at the Philippines pavilion with local restaurants promising to whip up favourite Filipino dishes.
Popular English reggae band UB40 will perform at the Earth Plaza on Saturday night.
On Sunday, lively bands from Europe and Bangladesh are set to take the stage.
Expo 2020 Dubai runs until March 31, with visitor numbers soaring in recent weeks as the countdown continues.
On Tuesday, organisers said total visits had hit 17.4 million after a “phenomenal increase” of 1.4 million visits in a single week.