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‘Together we walk’: Lebanon seeks economic revival via Expo 2020
Amid growing discontent at home, officials at Lebanon’s Expo 2020 pavilion in Dubai seek new opportunities.
A room with a view - swings and large screen offer visitors a chance to sit and embrace the whole experience and, looking at the screens from the front and back, makes them feel they are in the middle of it all, according to pavilion staff Antoine Char. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
By Faras Ghani
23 Nov 2021
Dubai, UAE – In the aftermath of the Beirut blast last year, Lebanon witnessed major political instability at home and a diplomatic rift with Gulf countries, as its economy went into free fall with spiralling poverty and increasing discontent.
According to a recent Al Jazeera report, three-quarters of Lebanon’s population is now living in poverty, the Lebanese pound has lost about 90 percent of its value against the US dollar. Much of public life has been paralysed because of power cuts, staggering food and fuel inflation, and medicine shortages.
While those problems exist at home, the mood inside the Lebanon pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 is one of hope, optimism and of clinging on to opportunities.
“Lebanon has gone through so much recently – from the blast to the economy, the revolution and then COVID. The presence of this pavilion is in itself really an achievement and measure of success,” pavilion staff Antoine Char told Al Jazeera.
“We decided to have this slogan ‘Together we walk’ here at the pavilion because whatever has happened and whatever will happen in Lebanon, we’re still standing. The diaspora is helping us. We’re responsible for our future and changing everything because we have to show the world that the past is past and now we’re going towards a change.”
As visitors enter the pavilion, they are greeted by big projector screens and loud music, depicting life in the “Switzerland of the Orient”, Char added.
A handicrafts and artefacts display is followed by more screens, where visitors can sit on swings and “embrace the whole experience” of being in the middle of Lebanon.
“Our aim is to show how Lebanon is rising again and trying to improve its economy,” Ludmilla Medawar, founder of lebanesesignature.com, told Al Jazeera.
“We formed the platform during COVID lockdown and now, as you can see from the products we have here at the Expo 2020, how people there moved forward and started creating their own Lebanese signature products.”
Antoine Char, the Lebanon pavilion official, added the presence of the pavilion itself was an achievement and measure of success given the political and economic turmoil in Lebanon. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
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The experience room features projector screens and loud music, introducing Lebanon’s 'talent' and showcasing the seasons the country experiences as well as places to visit for potential tourists that the pavilion is targeting. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
A red swing in the middle of the room signifies the fact that, in Lebanon, whatever happens, everybody comes and helps around, the official said. Civil society and volunteers were at the front of the rescue and aid missions in the aftermath of the Beirut blast that shocked the country last year, killing more than 200 people and destroying large parts of the capital. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
The pavilion is exhibiting Lebanese products including jewellery, art pieces, food and beverages while also giving space and exposure to brands that would not have been possible otherwise in Dubai, according to Char. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Feedback from the visitors, say Char (left) and Ludmilla Medawar, has been very encouraging and positive while some visitors have been surprised to see it snows in Lebanon. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
An outdoor seating area allows visitors to enjoy the culinary skills on show at the pavilion restaurant, offering authentic Lebanese food and locally produced wine. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
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A small display of local arts and crafts follows the experience room. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
Medawar, of lebanesesignature.com, hopes her startup, which lists more than 2,500 products, will allow more local creators to showcase their work, export their products and bring Lebanon’s economy back to stability. [Faras Ghani/Al Jazeera]
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