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Who Says Desert Climates Can’t Rock Agriculture? Check Out the Gulf Nations at EXPO 2015

Expo Milan 2015 is the universal exhibition that Milan, Italy, is hosting from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The opening ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. Photograph by Marco Aprile. Copyright: Demotix

Expo Milan 2015 is the universal exhibition that Milan, Italy, is hosting from May 1 to October 31, 2015. The opening ceremony was attended by the Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. Photograph by Marco Aprile. Copyright: Demotix

The chaos of Milan's multi-billion-euro EXPO 2015 didn't stop some Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries from showcasing their best food culture and innovative ideas.

The festival's motto this year is “Feeding The Planet, Energy For Life”. The official website says it's an event of

184 unique days of culture and science, innovation and tradition, sustainability and solidarity where visitors can find over one hundred national cuisines each with their own tastes, aromas, and colors.

The six-month event, which kicked off on May 1, provides a platform for different countries to exchange innovative ideas to promote a sustainable future by guaranteeing healthy and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the planet and its equilibrium.

The exposition will feature projects from 145 countries in the form of pavilions, from nations including Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), while Saudi Arabia is absent this year. Each pavilion will represent a country, showcasing the local cuisine and food culture, and ways of using different natural products.

An article in newspaper The National UAE described the diversity among pavilions representing countries from the Gulf:

While the UAE’s sand dune design focuses on landscape, the sails surrounding Kuwait’s building represent the region’s seagoing traditions, while Oman’s fort-style pavilion and Qatar’s souq find their inspiration in traditional architecture.

Taking a different approach entirely, Bahrain’s pavilion appears modest from the outside, but hidden inside is a series of gardens that has entranced visitors.

Official videos give a glimpse on some of the projects, including Kuwait's and UAE's pavilions.

The participating GCC countries share in common that they're all desert areas, with a climate that makes water scarce and providing food sometimes difficult. Innovative water management schemes being a keystone for agriculture in the Gulf, the GCC states designed their initiatives to overcome these challenges.


The Qatari Pavilion takes on the theme “Seeding Sustainability Innovative Solutions for Food Security”. The overall look of the pavilion represents an old traditional market, a “Souq”, consisting of a central space that is designed to look like a traditional food basket, a “Jefeer”, and a rooftop garden with interactive technology features.

From the official Twitter account of Qatar Pavilion:

One visitor came away impressed:

The piano bar in the Qatar Pavilion is terrific.

Part of the whole Qatari experience is to listen and watch traditional performances by Qatari singers and dancers.

You can sure hear this pavilion!

Around the world: the Qatari pavilion.

Milan air doesn't change: yesterday the pollution, today Qatar. Still it's all respiratory disease.


“Challenge of Nature” is the theme of Kuwait's pavilion. It refers to the country's three main sustainability challenges: water, agriculture, and energy. Kuwait took steps to address these challenges, which are presented in the country's pavilion, designed to be a small fortress made of glass sails.

Kuwait's Pavilion at night:

Kuwait TV‘s Twitter account shared pictures from the exhibition:

Scenes from the exhibition in Kuwait at EXPO Milan 2015


The small Gulf island of Bahrain went big with its pavilion, living up to the name previously given to Bahrain, “The Land of the Million Palm Trees”. The Bahraini pavilion consists of ten distinct fruit gardens representing its agrarian heritage and culture dating back to the ancient civilization of Dilmun.

Photographs of a scale model of the Bahraini Pavilion have appeared on Twitter:

Archaeology of green. The Bahrain of Expo 2015 is going to be a big fruit garden.

At the end of festival, the Bahraini pavilion will be repatriated, rebuilt, and serve as a botanical garden.


The sun, sand, and sea are the three natural elements that make up the Omani pavilion, built on a theme of “The Heritage in Harvest”. Oman emphasized the importance of water for its agriculture across time. The pavilion is split into two parts: the western part (a fortress where visitors can watch multimedia shows about Oman's landscape), and the eastern part (where a castle stands, drawing in visitors to experience an atmosphere of the Arabian Nights).

Pictures from the Omani Pavilion:

United Arab Emirates

The Emirati sand dune pavilion is set to show how the UAE benefits from its desert climate under the theme “Food for Thought—Shaping and Sharing the Future”. The exhibit features a “state-of-the-art auditorium” that screens a short film about the life of a palm tree. Visitors can learn more about the UAE through various high-tech interactive installations.

Like Bahrain, the UAE is planning to rebuild and move its pavilion to Masdar City, on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi at the end of the fair.

Masood Al Awar has high expectations for the future of UAE:

A short video from the inside of the pavilion:

Visitors were impressed:

This is the corridor toward the future

Swiss architect Jacques Herzog feels quite differently about the Expo, calling it a “vanity fair” and waste of money.

In an article written on De Zeen Magazine, Herzog said:

“Such events will increasingly take place in countries where democratic systems are not so well developed and such shows serve as propaganda for the political regime.”

Herzog was originally asked to developed the master plan for this year's Expo, along with other architects, and eventually left the project because organizers were not open to his ideas and preferred sticking to “the same kind of vanity fair that we've seen in the past”, he says.

Dubai will host the global fair next in 2020 with a new theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. UAE's pavilion has dedicated an exhibition to celebrate Dubai's win and offers a glance into the next Expo. It's estimated that Dubai will invest more than DHS 30 billion (around $8 billion) in new infrastructure. The UAE also promises (like Italy did) that the event will create more than 200,000 jobs between 2013 and 2021.

There are not yet any available official data on how much the GCC countries spent on their pavilions for Milan EXPO 2015.

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