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DUBAI: It took over 200,000 workers and 240 million combined man-hours to bring the expansive site of Expo 2020 Dubai to life.

Now, to thank the workforce, a 38-column colonnade has been set up at the Jubilee Park site, with the names of the workers carved in stone.

Reem Al-Hashimi, Managing Director of Expo 2020 Dubai, came up with the idea for the Workers’ Monument and commissioned London architect Asif Khan to design the project.

“It’s such a powerful form of recognition, positive energy and kindness. It’s a very human statement and a reminder that human beings are at the heart of what has been accomplished, ”Khan told Arab News.

The monument is located at Jubilee Park at Expo 2020 Dubai. (Provided)

“In general, the people who build all these projects that transform the world and our culture are rarely thanked or, if they are, it is in an impersonal, general way,” he said.

“What we forget when people work on projects is that their family and friends are part of the process. They make sacrifices.

Khan, who also designed the massive Expo entrance gates, has met many workers on site over the past five years.

“They come from all over the world, especially South Asia, and they all got along,” he recalled.

However, detailing the tribute was no easy task, with spreadsheets listing hundreds of names – a challenge Khan saw as a “fascinating anthropological study.”

Duplicate names, alternate spellings, and names between one and five words were all honored in the final structure. Each two-meter-high circular column, made of Omani limestone, is like “a book in a library”, where every worker can find his name.

“When I first visited the site, it was desert. Thanks to the work of these people – brick by brick, inch by inch – this site has been transformed, ”said Khan.

“They are like magicians who changed the state of matter.”

Dubai’s festive tribute is considered the first of its kind, with similar monuments traditionally associated with solemnity and loss.

“It is a monument to the living. In our research, we couldn’t find any monument on this scale that names each worker individually, ”Khan said. “I hope this is the start of being grateful, on a global scale.”

The exhibit may only last six months, but the entire site and the monument to the workers are here to stay, according to Khan, “making sure future generations know who made it.”

About Wesley V. Finley

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