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31 August 2015

My Trip to Expo Milano 2015

Last week I had the great pleasure of going to Milan to see the event everyone’s talking about in 2015: the Universal Exposition or Expo.

I decided to go for one day as I was lucky enough to get free tickets from a family member. I would say it probably gets two to three days to see everything properly, but one is definitely enough to see the pavilions you’re most interested in, especially if you pre-plan where to go and make a good use of the free shuttles that drop you around the various pavilions.
Getting to the Expo itself was fairly easy: we left our car at the main Expo parking lot and got a shuttle there. During this short trip we could see the extra motorway track that was laid out on purpose for Expo, which looked super modern and neat. As we got there, we started queuing and passed from the metal detector to check our bags. From the beginning, you get a strong feeling of security, which is great considering the amount of people inside the pavilions and the whole structure.
We had a quick walk in the main boulevard, the ‘decumanus’, and took some pictures. 

We immediately headed to UAE pavilion as it was the first stop in our list. UAE, Germany and Japan probably had the longest queues, which is why we decided to start off with one of them to avoid the great crowd.


Me while queuing :)
The digital boxes

The UAE pavilion is constructed beautifully, representing the dunes of the Emirati desert and focusing on the themes of the past and present of the country and its future challenges. After an initial basic explanation through a set of digital boxes, we were brought to a 360° cinema theatre. There, we watched a short film on an Emirati girl, Sara, who witnessed the past of the natural resources of the UAE and its future commitments. The film ended in another room where it became a hologram, a sort of 3D video which felt super real. 
To end the track, there was an area dedicated to Expo 2020 in Dubai and the future business of the UAE. I loved this pavilion, it was definitely one of my favourites. The special effects are superb and the general feel of modernity reflects the cutting-edge atmosphere in the streets of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
We then headed to Pavilion Zero, the one that introduced to the general topic of the Expo: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life. We should have done this first, but we didn’t know that it was an introduction to Expo. If you want to understand the topic well before visiting the pavilions then this is where you should start from. After a beautiful wooden wall that reproduced an old library, there is a big room where a film is being projected (it’s not a cinema though). Later, you enter a sort of food gallery with fake grains, plants and statues of animals to show the types of meat humans consume.
I didn’t really like this pavilion to be honest. In my opinion, the long queue in front of it wasn’t worth it and it was overrated.


Next stop: South Korean pavilion! This was definitely an interesting one, even if it wasn’t my favourite. This was a technological, white & black themed pavilion. The queue didn’t last long and we were quickly introduced to the future concepts of Korean food (Hansik), mainly balance, conservation and fermentation. The main show was a game of special effects on two screens; the show continued in a dark hallway with vases onto which pictures of Korean food were projected. The whole pavilion smelled of Asian food and we felt so hungry! At the end there were also a restaurant (must have been so yummy…) and a souvenir shop.





The screens with amazing special effects!

Our next stop was the best one! The Nepal pavilion was fantastic. It was basically a wooden temple which had been carved by hand, with two golden Buddhas and a light blue pool that ran around it; besides, the whole building was decorated with colourful little flags. What I loved about this one was the peace it conveyed. I could have easily sat down there to do meditation or yoga. We were very tempted to have lunch there as well, but didn’t in the end.







Me loving life in the temple :D
After Nepal, we decided to go for a shorter queue and went for Bahrain, which felt very neat and fresh. This was a small pavilion made of a white corridor surrounded by the trees and plants of the country, such as Papaya, Fig tree, Olive tree, and others.


We kept staying on the Arab side of things and visited Palestine and Jordan. These were located in small stalls called clasters. I have to say Jordan wasn’t great, as the only products displayed were the typical glass bottles containing colourful sand that one can buy at the local markets.

On the other hand, Palestine was lovely and really conveyed the feeling and atmosphere of its beautiful land. There was an olive tree with a kefia on it, products from the Dead Sea like scrubs and body salts and the typical glass and wooden goods from the markets of Jerusalem (which my house is full of!). There was also a small cafĂ© that sold typical food and a TV showing a documentary on the natural resources and food of the land. I really appreciated the free posters and guides on Palestine which could give a clear picture of it to those who didn’t know it.

From the Middle East we switched back to Europe and entered the Austrian area. It didn’t really feel like a pavilion as it was open air: it was basically a wood with trees and small taps that let fresh vapour out and blackboards with drawings linked to air and how our planet (and we) breathe.



Pushed by curiosity we went into Spain, even if we hadn’t heard great things about it. The pavilion was actually quite bad as it didn’t have a theme but only displayed videos and key words of food (not even Spanish, just food in general). I felt disappointed, as I love Spain! :(



The UK Pavilion wasn’t great either. It did look amazing, with a massive reproduction of a hive which looked impressive. I was a bit surprised by the emphasis on honey and bees as for what I’ve learnt from living in the UK for two years, honey isn’t its biggest product.


We then had a look at some clasters as a break from the queues. We looked at Vanuatu Islands, Afghanistan, Zanzibar, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka.


Argentina’s motto was Argentina te alimenta, a great one if you ask me. The restaurant was perhaps the best bit of the pavilion as the interior was very unclear. Some videos of pampas, Argentina’s fields were projected on walls without any explanation.

Time for Germany! After the whole day we finally got to one of the most awaited for pavilions. We spent around two hours queuing – no, I’m not joking. We must have taken a hundred selfies during that time! It was worth it, even if I think it’s best to face Germany in the morning as it requires a good deal of attention and it’s a long track to follow.
After having been introduced to around five German characters who dealt with food and resources in various ways, we were told how to use the square cardboard that we’d been given each at the entrance. In the main room, we watched more videos with our cardboards and took part in various activities. At the end, there was a show with two guys playing and singing which asked the audience to make animal sounds *cringy*.


The best part was the terrace of the building, which overlooked the Tree of Life and the decumanus. I would have loved to have a drink there, but then time was running out and we had to leave.



The view from the top :)

We then entered Qatar, which didn’t only had a fifteen minute-long queue. This was a very straightforward pavilion showing the local food and the way it’s harvested. It had a sort of spiral staircase with a pyramid in the middle with really cool special effects, but the pictures obviously can’t show them properly.

Our last stop was the US pavilion. The entry and main room explained the American way of eating and plans for the future. The terrace on top was almost better than the German one. The view was stunning and it felt like a setting of a James Bond movie!



The beautiful view :)

Before going to watch the show of the Tree of Life we stopped to take away kofta (fried balls with cauliflower) with herbal sauces and Arabic salad at the Qatari restaurant.

The show at the Tree of Life was fantastic. The last time I saw something similar was in Dubai, opposite Burj Khalifa. The game of water was beautifully planned, with the Tree changing lights and colours constantly and music in the background. We had dinner while watching that and loved it. 


This was, overall, a wonderful experience. I watched a dossier on TV where people were asked to score the event out of 10, and most replied 8, 9 or 10. My answer would have been 10. Expo in Milan is truly an amazing creation worth seeing. I will be writing a post with the top 5 pavilions to see in the next few days :)

5 comments:

  1. I wonder about that "American way of eating." It seems we Americans usually go out to eat Italian or Mexican or French or sushi ... except in my own city of New Orleans, of course, where we have out own unique cajun/creole cuisine :)

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    1. Yeah, I probably should have been clearer on that point. It was basically an explanation on the type of food eaten in schools, home today and what the aims are for tomorrow. Most people in Italy have a very unhealthy idea of American food, so I guess the pavilion tried to get across the idea that 'healthy' in America is trying to spread. I'm sure cuisine in New Orleans is great! :)

      Assia | www.assiashahin.com

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  2. I love the look of South Korean and Nepalese pavalions. I kinda like the German one too :)
    By the way - "kofta" is a very Indian thing to eat and I'm surprised that it's available in other countries as well.
    Nice blog BTW

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    1. That's really interesting considering I have always had kofta in Arabic countries. I didn't know it was such a popular meal! It's probably like baklava which are popular in all the Mediterranean. I'm glad you like my blog, thanks for passing by <3

      Assia | www.assiashahin.com

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