A Complete Guide to Morocco’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

A Complete Guide to Morocco’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai

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Moroccan culture, heritage and national identity showcased through architecture at World Expo event in Dubai.

Morocco will be among the many countries gathering at Expo 2020 to celebrate and reflect upon global achievements, discovery, and collaboration.

Expo 2020 will be hosted in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, spanning from October 1 2021 to 31 March 2022. 

Held under the motto “Connecting Minds and Creating the Future,” Expo 2020 Dubai is an international showcase of sustainability, mobility, and opportunity: a crucible for innovation. 

The long-awaited World Expo, is named as such because it was originally scheduled for October 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stretching over 4.38 square kilometers, the Dubai Expo is a new district within the “City of Gold,” sprawling outwards from a central plaza. 

The Expo is set to be a site of unbridled discovery featuring unique pavilions for 191 countries as well as a host of signature pavilions. The Dubai Expo 2020 will mark the first time in World Expo history that every participating country will have its own pavilion.

Morocco, as ever, will play an impressive role in the success of Expo 2020. 

April 2020 saw a Moroccan delegation, including the Minister of Tourism, Handicraft, Air Transport, and Social Economy, Nadia Fattah Alaoui, visit the Dubai Expo 2020. During the visit Alaoui expressed a commitment to the success of the Expo and to strengthening relations between Morocco and the UAE. 

Morocco’s main spectacle at the Expo will be its Pavilion, a “Kingdom of Inspiration” weaving a story of Moroccan culture, heritage, and national identity through architecture.

The Moroccan Pavilion

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The striking Morocco Pavilion located in the Expo’s Opportunity District. Photo: Metrochrome

Simply put, the Morocco Pavilion is an artful insight into the duality of tradition and modernity of the Moroccan experience. 

Plucked from ancestral Moroccan architecture, the rammed earth construction technique gives the pavilion a facade that merges the classic and the contemporary. 

Paris and Casablanca based architecture studio Oualalou + Choi has designed the Morocco Pavilion as a “‘vertical earthen village”’ of 22 stacked volumes. These volumes are inspired by vernacular rammed earth villages throughout Morocco, such as those in the Draa valley or world heritage sites, Ait Ben Haddou, and Telouet. At a striking 33 metres high, it is the largest rammed earth facade of its kind. 

Moroccan architect Tarik Oualalou is the designer of the magnificent structure. According to his studio, the Pavillion aims to show “how traditional Moroccan design and construction techniques can find new relevance in contemporary design and urban development efforts.”

A winding “inner street” will guide visitors between fourteen sequential exhibition spaces, gradually descending from the building's uppermost floor. 

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The innovative structure is framed around a winding “inner street.” Image: Oualalou / Choi studio

Visitors to the Pavilion are ushered along a revealing path, with the carefully ordered exhibition spaces narrating a story of Moroccan culture. A traditional Moroccan restaurant, a tea room, a modern street food area, a shop, an event space, an office space, and a lounge combine to create a striking showcase of different regions and aspects of modern Moroccan life. 

The all-encompassing visitor experience is arranged around an inner courtyard, an important spatial element of traditional Moroccan architecture. Traditionally a courtyard maintains the central focus of many structures across the Arab world, simultaneously guarding the privacy of inhabitants and using the open sky as a transportive experience. 

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Gazing upwards from the ornate central courtyard. Image: Oualalou / Choi studio

“The Pavilion aims to push the technical and creative limits of Morocco's traditional building materials to new heights, while paying tribute to the country's rich and varied culture and landscape” reports Oualalou + Choi. 

Paying Tribute To A Proud Heritage

The remarkable pavilion does not shy away from its ties to Moroccan culture, the walls and foundations of the building themselves illustrating traditional building techniques. 

Rammed earth building doesn’t only serve a symbolic purpose. This ancient building technique allows the facade to passively regulate indoor conditions in hot and arid places. Architects report that it is “a material at once traditional and innovative, offering an example of how such building methods can serve to inspire more sustainable models of urban development.”

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Ksar Aït Benhaddou in Morocco, a fortified village and UNESCO World Heritage Site, an ancient and beautiful example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture. The earthen colour and unique structure of the Expo Pavilion have so clearly drawn from classic motifs. Photo: Archeyes 

The continuous “inner street” recalls the winding streets of the Moroccan medinas: visitors are immersed in a detailed microcosm of Morocco without ever stepping foot out of Dubai. The structure of the Pavillion transports Expo-goers to a world of enthralling Arabic architecture and history.

The theme of Morocco’s Pavillion, “Legacies for the future – from inspiring origins to sustainable progress,” resonates with the efforts to capture Moroccoan scenography in a way that is indicative of the nation’s innovative future.  

Medina of Marrakech: Marrakech’s old city is steeped in history, a buzzing hub of food markets, shopping, and music home to the famous Jemaa el Fna square.

The beautiful 33-metre high salute to the Kingdom of Morocco will not close its doors in March when the Expo concludes. Architects plan to convert the Pavillion into a housing complex: existing facilities will be adapted to make possible the installation of apartments, an 80-metre squared swimming pool, a fitness club, and a shared lounge. Some of Dubai’s most modern accommodation will pay homage to Moroccan antiquity and culture. 

In this way, the architectural feat will continue to stand as a remarkable tribute to the nation, injecting Dubai’s future with a long-lasting taste of Morocco’s past. 

From Inspiring Origins to Sustainable Futures

The Morocco Pavilion promises to show the nation's commitment to a sustainable future for the planet. 

Even amidst the uncertainty of the last two years, infrastructure and industry have been booming in the North African economic hub. Minister of Tourism Nadia Fettah Alaoui says that “it is time to show the world” the colossal progress that Morocco has made. 

Expo 2020 will be an eye-opening chance for the global community to see the innovation and tourism potential that Morocco can offer. 

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Expo 2020 Dubai’s sprawling petal-shaped districts: welcoming innovators of the world to the UAE. The three districts are titled Sustainability, Mobility and Opportunity, with the latter being host to the Morocco Pavilion.   

This will be an opportunity for international businesses to forge connections with unlikely trade partners, especially given that this is the first World Expo ever to be held in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. Regions, businesses, and leaders who haven’t previously embarked upon economic or touristic relations with Morocco may now be encouraged to do so. 

“Morocco’s participation will highlight the image of a modern country, a country in motion, committed and working on behalf of future generations, and will also strengthen the economic, commercial, and touristic appeal of our country,” Fettah Alaoui said.

Sustainability, and sustainable development in particular, are spearheading Morocco’s participation in Expo 2020. The design of the Pavilion includes wooden interior facades which double as sunscreens, and the rammed earth facade allows the Pavilion to answer fully to the demanding ecological standards of LEED.

Morocco is dutifully participating in the essential objective of the Expo: showcase solutions to humanity’s most critical challenges, and inspire sustainable development going forward. 

Endless Exploration at Expo 2020 Dubai

The Morocco Pavilion is just one of the ways that the nation will be participating in the success of Expo 2020 Dubai. 

Dar Si Hmad is a groundbreaking Moroccan project that will be spotlighted at the Expo. In reaction to the lack of water in the Moroccan desert, this company has proved that fog can be a reliable and valid water-resource with their state-of-the art project. 

Dar Si Hmad is a "Global Innovator" for Expo Live: Expo Live is Expo 2020’s global innovation and partnership programme. It was launched in order to fund, accelerate and promote creative solutions to pressing challenges around the world. This uniquely Moroccan advancement highlights the creative progress being made by the nation in the water and technology sectors. 

The company impressively built the largest fog-collection installation in the world, with 1700 square metres of moisture capturing netting, which supplies potable water to 16 villages of the Anti-Atlas, Southwest Morocco. The villages impacted are now enjoying a better quality of life, especially as local women, the traditional water gatherers, have regained the 3.5 hours typically spent fetching water each day. 

Zelij Invent is the second notable Moroccan "Global Innovator" being showcased at Expo 2020. Again demonstrating Morocco’s commitment to sustainable development, Zelij Invent is a green tech solution that transforms plastic waste into sustainable paving blocks and traditional floor tiles. 

From the Global Best Practice Programme highlighting impactful projects from around the world to the promotion of open, international dialogues at World Majlis, Expo 2020 will be host to endless possibilities. Visitors will discover the beauty and potential of individual nations while surrounded by a cross-cultural network of shared innovation.

For many, the pandemic has marked a time of isolation and stagnation. Now, it is perhaps more necessary than ever that the innovators of the world be assembled in one place to showcase cooperation, unity, and togetherness. Morocco’s pavilion uniquely shares in the global appetite for progress, casting an eye towards an exciting future while staying grounded in its rich heritage.