Discreet toasts at the Dubai Expo, the first in a Muslim country

This content was published on October 18, 2021 – 08:55

Inigo Alvarez

Dubai, Sep 18 (EFE).- Drinking a cold beer while visiting the pavilions of the Dubai Expo, where temperatures hover around 40 degrees, or trying the typical concoctions of the guest countries is possible in the first universal exhibition which took place place in a Muslim country. Of course, very discreetly and at a high price.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has not halted the sale of alcohol at the Expo2020 site, but as is the case in the rest of the country, its sale and consumption must be kept under control. prying eyes and pavilions have placed their bars and restaurants in corners that are not in public view.

A HIGH PRICE

The Chile restaurant, which occupies the rear of the pavilion and is separate from the main exhibition space, offers its flagship wine Casillero del Diablo, among others from lesser-known cellars which include white and sparkling wines, with prices ranging between 150 and 400 Emirati dirhams a bottle (between 40 and 110 dollars).

“Alcohol taxes are high. Between imports and sales, they exceed 100%,” Chilean chef Francisco Araya, who has lived in the UAE for years, told Efe.

However, his clientele is mostly foreign and at the moment “the response from the public is good. Customers are repeating,” he says.

Meanwhile, in the Spanish pavilion, the restaurant is located at the exit of the course and has a terrace protected by flower pots with plants that provide some privacy, while the bar is inside.

“Our sangria is very successful, rumor has already spread at the Expo” that it is served in the Spanish pavilion, the restaurant’s bartender, Efe Joan Valera, told a row of pitchers.

The most typical drink in Spain is sold at 310 dirhams per liter (84 dollars or 73 euros) and reaches 460 dirhams (125 dollars or 108 euros) when made with cava. The menu also includes draft beer, over 17 varieties of wine – including sherry and cavas – and a wide range of cocktails and mixed drinks.

Valera admits that “the local population generally does not consume alcohol and foreigners are the ones who ask for it the most”.

NOT JUST DRINKS

The Spanish pavilion, managed by Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) −the public company responsible for Spain’s presence at Expos−, plans to open a gastronomic restaurant with a more selective gastronomic offer, at one of the upper floors of the enclosure.

Gastronomy is an important aspect of this Expo2020, under the slogan “Connecting minds, creating the future”, which was inaugurated on October 1 a year late due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The restaurant in the pavilion of Peru, which will open at the end of October, will count on the presence of a dozen chefs who will offer cooking demonstrations and a “pisco bar” where you can taste this popular liqueur.

“Obtaining a license to sell alcohol is not a problem, if all the conditions are met”, explains to Efe Sofia Sanguinetti, spokesperson for the Peruvian pavilion. “In our case, we received full support from Expo,” he says, pointing out that the process is streamlined when the organization’s official vendors are used.

Other pavilions that serve alcohol are those in France, Portugal or Belgium, with premises located on the upper floors, in a discreet location. Meanwhile, others like Uruguay have opted out of selling alcoholic beverages, but the South American country is offering free wine tasting at set times.

LEISURE FOR ALL

One of the liveliest places is the Irish Village, a large open-air terrace in a fenced area next to the Irish Pavilion, where every evening there is folk music and a constant coming and going of waiters. with trays with mugs of the iconic Guinness Beer.

“We work at an intense pace,” admits Karl O’Hara, manager of the room with a capacity of 300 people and more than 40 employees, who serve the public daily until 11:30 p.m. local time (7:30 p.m. GMT) except Thursdays and Fridays, weekday weekends in the UAE, when hours are extended until 01:30 (21:30 GMT).

Leisure is intended on many occasions not only for visitors but also for Expo workers – more than 30,000 and many of them foreigners -, who reside in the nearby Villa Expo and will do so until March 31, date of the great international event.

The Expo will end at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in April 2022, a time when more restrictions are imposed on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, and during which worshipers must refrain from drinking even water during the day. . EFE

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