Tuesday / July 16.
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Child actor Mahra proud to be face of UAE at Milan Expo

DUBAI // Mahra Mustafa has been surprised and delighted by the reaction from visitors to the UAE Pavilion at the Milan Expo.

The Emirati actor, 9, who stars as Sara in The Family Tree – a short film on the UAE’s heritage being screened at the pavilion – has become an instantly recognisable face at the Expo.

“At first I was scared because I didn’t know if people would like the film,” Mahra said. “But then the audience was singing along with the song I sing at the end.

“The UAE Pavilion had the biggest queues in the Expo and I felt great to be part of it. People asked me about Dubai. They want to visit for our Expo and everyone wanted pictures with me. It was a lot of fun.”

About 6,500 people visit the pavilion daily, and the site has had a quarter of a million visits from its opening until June 12, organisers said.

Mahra’s mother, Yusra Al Hashimi, travelled with her to Milan and was equally pleased with the response to the film.

“People called her Sara and saw her everywhere. Wherever we went they wanted to get a picture with her,” said Ms Al Hashimi.

“You read about this recognition in magazines so it was very different to see it happening in front of us. As a parent, it was interesting to see the experience she gained talking to the audience, handling their questions and taking photos with them.”

The thousands of visitors queue for up to two hours to look behind the high, sand-rippled dune walls of the pavilion.

Once inside one of the expo’s most popular sites, visitors walk along narrow paths similar to those of old Emirati villages, learn about survival in a harsh desert environment and watch Mahra’s film, which takes them to the 1960s when resources were scarce.

Audiences are particularly impressed with the sand dune patterns, green oasis area, the importance of the date palm and how previous generations coped with limited food and water, Ms Al Hashimi said.

A palm exhibit and interactive displays help visitors to understand how challenges of land, energy, food and water are being tackled by harnessing solar power and biofuels. This ties in to the Expo’s theme of “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”.

“The architecture is very unique and people loved it,” Ms Al Hashimi said. For us it was a feeling like we were back in the UAE. People were waiting for two hours to get in.

“Whether young or old, audiences got the film’s message about how we can learn from the past.”

Mahra celebrated her 9th birthday in June at the pavilion’s launch. She was also chosen to act as a tour guide for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, when he visited last month.

Peter Vine, director of the UAE Pavilion Project in Milan, said projected visitor numbers were impressive.

“We expect the final number of visitors to reach one million over the six months,” Mr Vine said. “We have solid queues throughout the day.

“I am particularly proud of the integration of the overall project with architecture complimenting the exhibition, and the main shows resonating so strongly with our visitors.

“The pavilion successfully interprets a complex theme and is having a genuine impact on visitors.”

For more information, visit www.expo2015uae.com.

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(via The National)