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Expo 2020 Dubai visitors praise Saudi Arabia’s pavilion on UAE National Day

Saudi Arabia’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai received an unprecedented number of visitors on Thursday as tens of thousands of residents and tourists flocked to the record-breaking site on the UAE’s 50th National Day.

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Pavilion organizers told Al Arabiya English that by 1 pm some 60,000 people had come to see the 13,059-square-meter structure, with crowds patiently thronging the queue lines throughout the day.

Second in size only to the UAE pavilion, the Kingdom’s pavilion has been one of the most popular at Expo since it opened on October 1.

Maha al-Fagir, one of the Saudi Arabia pavilion staff, said it had been “very, busy”, with the pavilion-which holds LEED Platinum certification, and is the second largest at Expo 2020 Dubai, proving popular among visitors.

“Everyone has been very happy,” she said. “They are very excited to be here on UAE National Day. Everyone is walking in saying ‘Happy UAE National Day!’. It has been an absolutely great atmosphere. A really good vibe.”

The visitors to the pavilion were greeted with a striking structure that soars five storeys high and is spread over an area roughly twice the size of two football fields.

Created to resemble a giant window, visitors are welcomed by a waterfall feature before taking on a journey of the past, present and future.

Among those visiting on Thursday was 12-year-old Dubai student Minha Fathima.

The Indian national told Al Arabiya English: “I am very happy to be here. I wanted to visit this pavilion as I think Saudi Arabia is a very, very impressive country. So this was the pavilion I wanted to see.”

Another visitor impressed by the pavilion was Saudi national Narges Qasem. She had traveled specially from Saudi Arabia to see the Expo site on the UAE’s National Day.

“It is very good, I really enjoyed it – although it was very busy!”

At the Saudi Pavilion visitors can encounter a 68 square-meter, curved LED screen greets visitors as they embark on a technology-enabled journey through five ecosystems, hinting at the Kingdom’s natural spaces, beautiful coasts, vast deserts, surrounding seas, and high mountains.

The journey enables visitors to walk through the flora of al-Bardani Valley in Asir Region to the mighty mountains of Tabuk, and from the dunes of the Empty Quarter in southeastern Saudi to the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea.

Navid Khan, a Dubai resident, said he was very impressed by the pavilion’s digital technology.

“It was really immersive,” he said. “It really took you back in time and the visuals were really impressive. This is my favorite pavilion at Expo.”

Visitors to the Saudi Pavilion can experience 14 cultural landmarks along an escalator ride. These include acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as At-Turaif District in Ad-Diriyah, Hegra Archaeological Site in AlUla, Historic Jeddah, Rock Art in the Hail Region, and al-Ahsa Oasis.

Through an audiovisual guide, guests can explore 23 other destinations, including world-leading giga-projects which are rewriting the possibilities of sustainable development such as Qiddiya, Diriyah Gate, and King Salman Park.

Following this, visitors enter ‘Vision,’ a one-of-a-kind art exhibition curated by celebrated Saudi artists. Highlights include a 30-meter floating virtual sphere and a bespoke interactive floor.

Finally, the pavilion takes visitors through the ‘Discovery Center’, where an innovative platform will connect leaders from around the world to forge exciting partnerships and discuss investment opportunities, visualized through an interactive digital map of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi Pavilion has been awarded the LEED Platinum certification by the US Green Building Council (USGBC), the highest internationally recognized sustainability rating in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.

In addition, the pavilion holds three Guinness World Records: the largest interactive lighting floor with around 8,000 LED lights, the longest interactive water feature at more than 32 meters, and the largest LED interactive digital mirror screen at 1302.5 square meters.

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North Korea defends close ties with Russia against South Korean criticism at UN

North Korea on Monday slammed South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for criticising its cooperation with Moscow following leader Kim Jong Un’s Russia visit, saying it is “natural” and “normal” for neighbors to keep close relations.

Yoon, speaking at the UN General Assembly last week, said that if Russia helped North Korea enhance its weapons programs in return for assistance for its war in Ukraine, it would be “a direct provocation.”

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In a piece carried by KCNA news agency, the North denounced Yoon for “malignantly” slandering its friendly cooperation with Russia, and said Yoon was serving as a “loudspeaker” for the United States.

“It is quite natural and normal for neighboring countries to keep close relations with each other, and there is no reason to call such practice to account,” it said.

Kim returned home last week from a week-long trip to Russia in which he and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to boost military and economic cooperation.

US and South Korean officials have expressed concern that Russia could be trying to acquire ammunition from the North to supplement its dwindling stocks for the war in Ukraine while Pyongyang seeks technological help for its nuclear and missile programs.

Any activities assisting North Korea’s weapons programs are banned under UN Security Council resolutions.

“The foreign policy of the DPRK … will not be tied to anything, and its friendly and cooperative relations with the close neighbors will continue to grow stronger,” the commentary said. DPRK is the initials of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

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Niger military leaders welcome news of French army withdrawal

Niger’s military rulers on Sunday welcomed the announcement that France will pull its troops out of the country by the end of the year as “a new step towards sovereignty.”

The statement came hours after French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would soon withdraw its ambassador from Niger, followed by its military contingent in the coming months.

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“This Sunday, we celebrate a new step towards the sovereignty of Niger,” said a statement from the country’s military rulers, who seized power in late July by overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

“The French troops and the ambassador of France will leave Nigerien soil by the end of the year.”

The statement, read out on national television, added: “This is a historic moment, which speaks to the determination and will of the Nigerien people.”

Earlier Sunday, before Macron’s announcement, the body regulating aviation safety in Africa (ASECNA), announced that Niger’s military rulers had banned “French aircraft” from flying over the country’s airspace.

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Russian air defense thwarts drone attack near Moscow’s Tula region

Russia’s air defense systems were engaged in repelling a drone attack over the Tula region that borders Moscow’s region to its north, Russia’s RIA news agency reported early Monday.

Citing the ministry of regional security, the agency reported that according to preliminary information, there was no damage or injuries as a result of the attack.

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Two of Moscow’s major airports, however, the Vnukovo and Domedovo, limited air traffic, directing flights to other airports, the TASS state news agency reported.

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