Expo 2020 Dubai: Czechs harness sun to make water from desert air (but beer is also on tap)

Czech pavilion at Expo 2020

World Expos, which take place every five years, are something like the Olympics Games of business, technology and culture. This year’s host is Dubai, the biggest city in the United Arab Emirates. The Czech Republic is among the 192 countries taking part in Expo 2020 – which was delayed for a year due to the pandemic. The Czech national pavilion is already creating a buzz ahead of Friday’s official opening.

Expo 2020 is the first-ever International Registered Exhibition, as they are known officially, to be held in an Arab country. The Czech Republic is among the 60 countries to have built its own pavilion, housing a range of exhibits.

At the core of the pavilion, dubbed the “Czech Spring”, is some ground-breaking technology of particular interest to arid countries such as the United Arab Emirates, which have an abundance of sun and a scarcity of fresh water.

The Czech-invented technological system is known by the acronym SAWER, which stands for “Solar Air Water Earth Resource”. The ingenious contraption uses the sun – i.e., solar energy – to create water out of the air, which in turn cultivates desert land.

The Czech Republic Pavilion – including a 12-metre organic structure encasing it – is itself a distinctive exhibit, from an architectural standpoint, and in appearance: an overhead cluster of pipes is a self-supporting structure, made of fiberglass capillaries.

Czech Radio's middle east correspondent spoke to sculptor Honza Dostál, who has an expertise in steel configurations, as he put the finishing touches on the national pavilion’s network of pipes.

SAWER system | Photo: CZEXPO

“The main idea of ​​the pavilion is the SAWER system, which can create water from desert air. That water then flows through this fountain. It will show what the system can produce, and how lifegiving the water is.

“It is about 44 degrees Celsius in the shade. So, the idea is also to have a shielding structure. When Expo 2020 opens, there will be long queues, and people will be waiting in direct sunlight. Under the structure, it is 10 to 15 degrees cooler. It’s an amazing difference.”

Inside the Czech pavilion are dozens of other installations and high-tech exhibits, such as one titled “Under the Wings of the Phoenix”, which features a model of a nuclear mini-reactor, an energetically smart city, and a nanohologram refracting light.

There is also a rotating one exhibition that will highlight Czech culture, and a restaurant showcasing the nation’s cuisine. A few classics have been left out with respect for local Muslim Arab culture, chef Daniel Gorovoj told Czech Radio ahead of Friday’s opening.

“Since we are in an Arab country, we had to discard pork, lard or greaves. Otherwise, Czech cuisine has its basics, which we try to present, whether beef goulash or steak, of course chicken or veal, then potato soup.”

Czech pavilion at Expo 2020 | Photo: CZEXPO

While there won’t be any pork on the menu, there will be Czech beer on tap, says professional barman Roman Matula from České Budějovice – home to the original Budweiser.

“We will serve standard Czech pints, in half-litre glass mugs with ears, but also in small glasses. But we want to emphasize that Czechs tap their beer with a lot of foam. We pull it in one go, and under the foam is a full half-litre, which is not typical in the world.”

There will be plenty of time to sample Czech beer at Expo 2020 in Dubai – a full six months. The closing ceremony for the “Olympics Games of business” takes place on 31 March 2022.

Czech pavilion at Expo 2020 | Photo: CZEXPO