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July 30, 2009

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Desert oasis from 'Arabian Nights' in Saudi Pavilion

EXPO visitors will take a virtual flying carpet ride through mythical and modern Saudi Arabia as they tour the gigantic "moon boat" Saudi Pavilion moored along the Huangpu River.

The metallic, crescent-shaped moon boat from the "Arabian Nights" will feature date palms in a roof oasis, art and culture and modern urban living financed by the kingdom's vast oil revenue.

The Saudi exhibition is themed "Vitality of Life" and will feature the building of a prosperous country in a harsh desert environment on the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. The World Expo 2010 theme is "Better City, Better Life."

The mysterious and modernistic "moon boat" pavilion lies in the center of the Expo site and points toward the city of Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.

The design of the boat's hull is based on a traditional Chinese treasure bowl representing the prosperity, affluence and good luck of the Saudi people, says Mohammed Alissan Al-Ghamdi, executive director of the Saudi commission for Shanghai World Expo.

The idea is that the pavilion also represents a bowl of treasures from the kingdom.

"The boat is full of date palms, treasures as well as the beautiful blessing from Saudi Arabia to China," Al-Ghamdi says.

Around 150 Saudi date palms will be planted on the roof of the pavilion, creating on oasis. Traditional dances and songs will be performed, laban (yogurt drink), dates and other treats will be served.

The design and exhibits also remind people of the trade between China and Arabia through the Silk Road in ancient times.

The pavilion will cover 6,100 square meters, the second largest after the China Pavilion (20,000 square meters).

It may also be the most expensive pavilion at the event.

So far, 200 million yuan (US$29 million) has been spent on the pavilion, which is 20 percent complete, and the total cost may exceed 1 billion yuan as the country said it has no budget limit.

The boat pavilion has three floors and its "hull" is supported by pillars so it appears to hang 20 meters above the ground. In this shaded area, a "happy garden," visitors wait to enter the pavilion. Performances on a nearby stage will feature traditional songs and dance.

Visitors enter through two double spirals that pass through the pavilion from top to bottom, representing the balanced development of economy and culture.

On the first floor, visitors are presented with the prosperous and modern Saudi Arabia. The exhibition has five themes - water, oil, knowledge, solidarity and the future.

Water is vital and where there is water there are cities. Rich oil resources provide education and knowledge as well as a high standard of living. Additionally, solidarity among the people has made the country prosperous.

The second floor will be highlighted by a 360-degree 1,600-square-meter cinema screen, said to be the largest 3D IMAX theater in the world. The screen will cover the area of two football fields.

The theater, called the "Wow Space," will take visitors to the country's oases, deserts, villages, seas and cities with their modern architecture as well as traditional bazaars.

Audiences can stroll about and visit Bedouin nomads on their camels, as well as scholars, artists and other urbanites.

Visitors then can ascend to the roof garden oasis, the centerpiece of the pavilion.

Then they can walk down the descending spiral slope to the lobby where the souvenir shops and restaurant are located.

Elevators are provided for physically challenged people and VIPs.

After visiting the happy garden on Earth and enjoying prosperous and modern Saudi Arabia, visitors enter the tranquillity of the oasis, a garden in the air.

The garden will be a place of harmony, water and the shade of date palms and awnings.

Standing on the roof visitors can survey the charming landscape, Expo site and Shanghai cityscapes.

In a separate prayer area, Muslims can kneel and pray toward Mecca in the direction of the moon boat's bow.

Date palms are the country's name card and trees need 60 to 80 years to grow only 3-4 meters in height.

Thus, trees from Saudi Arabia have not been transplanted. The Saudi Expo team and Chinese partners from the Chinese Academy of Sciences spent a year locating a very similar species in Guangdong Province.

After the six-month Expo ends, the trees will be transplanted to various provinces.

The "moon boat" pavilion is scheduled to be completed by the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls on February 14, 2010. Moon Boat Highlight: A roof garden, planted with date palms, will replicate a desert oasis. Arabian dances and songs will be performed and treats will be served.Theme: Vitality of Life What to see?

The pavilion will be a huge silvery "moon boat" featured in Arabian mythology. Boats are shaped like crescent moons with curved bow and stern. Around 150 date palms from the Saudi desert will be planted on the roof in an oasis.

What to eat?

Visitors can enjoy famous Saudi dates and traditional dishes and delicacies. They include flat breads, tabbouleh (bulgar wheat salad), rices, spices, hummus, laban (yogurt drink) and Arabic coffee.

Handicrafts will be sold. Small souvenirs will be given to departing visitors.

Want to have fun?

The pavilion's second floor will feature a 360-degree 1,600-square-meter cinema screen, said to be the world's largest 3D IMAX theater. It's large as two football fields and will surround strolling visitors with the country's oases, desert, seas and cities.1 billion yuan (US$146 million)

Expected minimum cost of the pavilion. Officials say there's no cap on construction cost.6,100 sq m

The pavilion will cover 6,100 square meters, the second largest after the China Pavilion.


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