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.”