Expo 2020 Dubai surprises a superfan with a welcome birthday

An Expo 2020 Dubai super fan received a surprise birthday message when she returned to the World Expo on Sunday. Hannah Shah, who uses a wheelchair due to rare medical conditions, had asked her family to take her to Expo 2020 for her 23rd birthday, her third visit to the attraction.

Upon her arrival, she was greeted with a “Happy Birthday” message broadcast on screens mounted on the Rove Expo 2020, which flanks Al Wasl Plaza, the centerpiece of the fair.

“Hannah was overwhelmed by the special welcome,” her mother Fatma Shah said. Fatma, along with her husband and Hannah’s three sisters, one of whom flew in from the UK especially for the occasion, accompanied her on the visit.

Hannah was diagnosed with two rare conditions six years ago: Nutcracker syndrome, a venous compression disorder and spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), which affected her gut, kidneys and heart. These diseases prevent him from digesting food well and cause him a lot of pain. As a result, she consumes less than 300 calories per day and weighs 38 kg.

“Hannah has been through a lot in the past two years. [Doctors] having had to put a J-tube in his stomach; they had to put a nasal tube in her nose, and currently she has a central line going into her heart – and that’s how we feed her,” Fatma said.

Hannah had been to Expo 2020 twice before and “absolutely loves it,” her mother said.

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“She’s a selfless human being who loves different nationalities. She loves the diversity of different cultures. It’s very educational for her, and Hannah’s character – she always likes to look at humanity, [at] unity and it’s a place where she feels all that unity.

Hannah, whose family is from the UK but has lived in Dubai for eight years, now needs specialist surgery in Florida which doctors say would cost her family more than Dh530,000.

Fatma, who gave up her job to be Hannah’s full-time carer, is now trying to raise money for the trip to the United States and will soon set up a fund for donations.

Sunday, however, was the day for celebrating Hannah.

“She likes people dancing and having fun, and pavilions. She is very interested in the [cultural] the richness that different countries have to offer that we are not aware of… She likes to know how other parts of the world like to live. It’s really important to her,” Fatma said.

Alif – The mobility pavilion is his favorite.

On Saturday, Expo 2020 Dubai reached the milestone of 20 million visits with 70% of visitors coming from the United Arab Emirates.

“When we started this journey in 2013, and even before that when preparing the bid for Expo 2020 Dubai, we dreamed of welcoming the world to Dubai and the United Arab Emirates for an unprecedented global gathering that would live long in hearts and minds,” said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed, Chairman of the Higher Expo Committee.

“There’s no doubt that we’ve achieved this dream, but reaching such a high number of visits is a true testament to how the world has responded to what we’ve worked so long and hard for.”

Since opening its doors to travelers from around the world on October 1, the Expo has offered cultural, educational and entertainment experiences, including 192 country pavilions that showcase the best of what their nations have to offer.

There have been around 32,000 events and attractions so far that have involved world leaders, great innovations, sports heroes, Grammy-winning artists, revolutionary architecture and Arab superstars.

Expo 2020 Dubai is open until March 31.

Updated: March 21, 2022, 11:42 a.m.

James C. Tibbs