Our Analytics 11 january — 15:53

Journey to 2050: Robots, drones and Azerbaijan (Our special report)

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BY EYNULLA FATULLAYEV, DUBAI

Contrary to the conclusions of the sceptics, who predicted the inevitable collapse of the financial pearl of the Persian Gulf in the immemorial 2000s, Dubai is rapidly turning into the new technological capital of the Arab East.

In a comfortable Dubai taxi, we rush along the smooth asphalt of the majestic highways, under the overpasses of the monumental elevated metro in the direction of oil-rich Abu Dhabi. High-tech city -- Dubai is expanding every day along the endless sandy Rub' al Khali desert... And the World Expo 2020 taking place in Dubai these days has turned this unique metropolis into an innovative platform for the Greater Middle East. Dubai is no longer the gateway to the desert, we are approaching the gateway to the fourth industrial revolution.

'Look around, look at the rapid construction,' I address my counterpart, former journalist and current adviser to the head of the State Agency for Tourism Development Kenan Guluzadeh. 'Empty apartments, but they continue to build. Since 2006 I have been hearing about the bubble -- the real estate segment in Dubai. There is no demand, but they keep building. The best argument against the arguments of Azerbaijani officials refuting the old, like the Muslim East, axiom: construction is the locomotive of the economy.'

Kenan Guluzadeh enthusiastically talks in a comfortable Dubai taxi about the new challenges of the Azerbaijani tourism industry

Kenan looks around. But he returns to the main event of the day -- from January 9, at the site of the World EXPO -- an event that is unnatural and unprecedented in its historical significance and innovative breakthrough -- there begins the show of Azerbaijani tourism industry.

Kenan speaks with passion and emotion about the future plans for the development of tourism in the post-pandemic period. What can we say about a ghostly post-pandemic milestone, if the Azerbaijani government, in a desperate struggle against the scourge, began to fight for every tourist.

Kenan said so: 'We will fight for every tourist.' I understand that the State Agency for Tourism Development cherishes the hope for a great return of the Arabs to Azerbaijan. 'After all, this allowed the tourism industry to break out into the main source of income for the country's budget after the oil industry!' states K. Guluzadeh.

But on the horizon, the burning lights of a big city loom. In almost seven years, the UAE government has managed to build a new metropolis within the framework of the Expo. Exactly seven years ago, the Emirates received the right to host a historical traditional exhibition, and today, on an area of ​​438 hectares of desert, the city of the future stretches, the metropolis of tomorrow.

Dubai is not a symbol of oil or even a desert, but the gateway to the fourth industrial revolution

I wonder: what futuristic scene and surreal composition will be inherited by humanity and future generations after the Emirates exhibition? After all, 167 years of the history of the exhibition gave humanity the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the surreal Atomium in Brussels, the Space Needle observation deck in Seattle...

I walk into the gates of the capital of the fourth industrial revolution. The philosophical approach to the ontological nature of time is immediately striking. In this three-dimensional space -- an oasis of industrial technology, there is no objective passage of time. The future has already arrived, and the present is intertwined with the past.

Curving walkways and paths lead to gardens that remind people of the eternal nature that fell victim to the scientific revolution and the century of technological progress. And the pavilion of Azerbaijan, the roof of which is built in the form of a leaf, and the landscape is decorated with exotic Shusha flowers Kharybulbul and exterminated gazelles, symbolises inspiration by nature.

And Azerbaijan proposes to change the world and the human being

And our pavilion harmoniously merges with the building built by the South Koreans, reminiscent of the onset of decarbonisation -- the new low-carbon economy. The Azerbaijani leaf takes energy from the Sun and tries to survive. And it will certainly survive only thanks to solar energy, which is identified by another high-tech country -- South Korea...

From afar, the work of the genius of modern architecture, the author of the aesthetic appearance of Valencia and Barcelona, ​​Santiago Calatrava, who built the pavilion of the Emirates in the form of falcon wings, is striking. Yes, this falcon proudly raised its wings over the entire world, 'uniting minds and creating the future.' It is this slogan that expresses the power of the new Al-Wasla -- the ancient name of Dubai, which means 'connection' in Arabic. And the Al-Wasl Square in the centre of the exhibition is an amazing architectural work that will undoubtedly become a symbolic sign of the technological revolution in the East.

What does Dubai offer in its attempt to change the world and people?

On the territory of the exhibition there are more than 150 robots anticipating the onset of the era of automation and the complete withdrawal of a person from the control of the technical process. And the pandemic, which once again reminded of the attack on civilisation by microorganisms wandering around us, hastened not only the development, but also the implementation of multisensory programs. We were pleasantly surprised by the universal introduction of multi-touch screens with the support of 5G in the Azerbaijani corner.

Mehriban Aliyeva's team in the city of tomorrow

Dubai also showed the world the Hyperloop capsule. This is not a futuristic project, but a reality, and in 10 years the passengers of this new millennium train will travel from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes, reaching speeds of up to 1200 kilometres per hour!

Watching this capsule, for some reason I thought of the Soviet rails on the Baku-Sumgayit road, along which modern Swiss trains now travel...

How the flying Dutch surprised us, when they offered modern humanity, which is increasingly unable to cope with the problem of drought, a technology for extracting water from the air. And even in the desert! Built on renewable energy, the technology can extract 800 litres of water from the air!

New smart city projects are also on display here. The ones we are going to build in Karabakh. Even smart mirrors have been developed! Imagine, in 2050, people will be able to purchase smart mirrors. By installing them at home, people will be able to diagnose health conditions without doctors. Smart home appliances are everywhere... Neon lights, next-generation drones, giant LCD screens.

Soon a new reality will burst into our lives -- a quantum computer

And the leading companies of the IT industry -- IBM, Microsoft, Google and Intel -- have begun developing special quantum computers that will solve the most complex problems in the field of chemistry, biology, and medicine in a split second.

198 countries of the world show not only their potential, but also talk about their national and cultural identity. And on this path, Azerbaijan appeared and succeeded no less than others. In the metropolis divided into three parts, Azerbaijan has taken a place in the sector of sustainable development. Baku is joining technologies that help the planet become cleaner.

A wonderful team of young guys has formed in the Azerbaijani pavilion, who in various languages ​​tell hundreds and thousands of tourists about the wonders of Azerbaijan. A large line of tourists lined up at the entrance. Everyone is in a hurry to knock on our door. Rovlan Aliyev, Nigar Rahimli, Leyla Mahmudova and many others reveal the potential of real Azerbaijan: here is our great victory in Shusha with the promising tourism opportunities of Karabakh and a kind of architectural eternalism, the connection of times, which we discussed at the very beginning, our origins are Old Baku and new greatness -- Aliyev's high-tech.

Baku meets the conceptual theme of sustainable development -- it is a garden city. But potential tourists have the full potential of Azerbaijan with its 11 climatic zones. Nakhchivan, Shirvan, Lankaran, Gusar. The gloss of first-class hotels, a tempting gastronomic tour, a ski resort, horseback riding, a car tour of liberated Karabakh, healing in Naftalan... Dubai opened its doors to all tourists and accepted the challenges of the pandemic threat, which one must learn to live with. Baku follows the example of Dubai, opening up opportunities for the main tourism potential -- the Arab world.

I turn my gaze towards another sector: Opportunity. 'What does this part of the future city symbolise in our world?' I ask Leyla Mahmudova, a 24-year-old employee of the State Tourism Agency. 'Opportunities are a huge spiral canopy-scroll, woven from a strong rope, the main idea of ​​the sector is a man and his attempts to change the world,' Leyla replies.

I just lifted the veil and showed you the year 2050...

Azerbaijan could find itself in this part of the megalopolis of the future as well. After all, Azerbaijan is that very country, a stubborn follower of the political philosophy of Non-Alignment, which wants to change the world. Is not it? Simply, thinking out loud.

'Would you like to try duschbere (national Azerbaijani dish -- EF)?' asks the manager of the pavilion Rovlan Aliyev, smiling. Rovlan's words are pleasing to the ear.

The past is making its way from the multi-touch screens -- exquisite mugham, patterns on Sarpush, drawings on the stones of Gobustan... Elements of Gobustan drawings were brought to Dubai. If the British fastened the new world to the past with the bonds of their medieval poetry, then Azerbaijan expressed the achievements of the times in the language of art. Another notable impression: many countries express themselves through monumentalism and spectacle. And Azerbaijan has a conceptual and thematic choice. I especially remembered the pavilion of Saudi Arabia, which, under the influence of MBS's westernisation, threw itself after the unsurpassed Emirates.

MBS urges Saudi high-tech -- Riyadh breathes down the neck of Dubai

Riyadh is dreaming of the next exhibition. But for all the scale and spectacularity, there is a lack of conceptual interconnection. Yes, a planet torn apart by contradictions and strife is represented in bright colours with various lighting effects. And the greatness of Islamic civilisation and the legacy of the renaissance of the Muslim early Middle Ages floats away somewhere. But the culmination ends in a dead end -- there are no ways to overcome it!

'Who is the author of the idea of ​​this wonderful corner of Azerbaijan in the big unknown world?' I ask the courteous guide Nigar Rahimli. 'I confess to you, Mehriban Aliyeva became the ideological inspirer and main organiser of the pavilion. She did her best for this,' young Nigar replies with pride. 'The main thing now is to convey in this virtual world the essence of our rich and beautiful country,' Kenan Guluzadeh adds, returning us to the main mission of introducing Azerbaijan to the innovative world.

And they seem to be doing well in their mission. How could it be otherwise, if Qatar, hosting the World Cup in the summer of 2022, offered tourists the best alternative for leisure time between matches -- a walk in Azerbaijan for a few days...

We return by the same winding paths to the giant gates of the impending industrial revolution. But the question of Azerbaijan's Qatari choice is still haunted. Why did Qatar choose us among so many prosperous Gulf countries? I answer to myself: Azerbaijan is the prototype of the Caucasian Jordan, which managed not only to escape from a large geopolitical fire, but also to convince others that we are not only the past and the interconnection of times, but also the country of tomorrow!

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