If the ambition of Saadiyat Island's museums complex is yet to be fully realised - the forthcoming Louvre Abu Dhabi is due for completion in 2015, while the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will open in 2016 and 2017 respectively - then the UAE Pavilion, the Cultural District's current shining light, represents the meeting point between the ingenuity of today and the promise of tomorrow.
The Norman Foster-designed building hoves into view as soon as one leaves Abu Dhabi island and crests the Sheikh Khalifa Bridge, its twin sand dune-shaped peaks announcing the fledgling Cultural District's imminent arrival.
The award-winning structure, which showcased the UAE at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai (where it was voted the most popular pavilion at the event) and returned "home" shortly afterwards, is an exercise both in sustainable design and reusable technology. It has established itself as a worthy addition to the Saadiyat skyline and is, to some degree, the shape of exciting days ahead.
The pavilion also stands as a permanent reminder of what a World Expo (colloquially known as the World's Fair) can and does bring to a host nation: great buildings, sharp thinking, engagement with an international audience and memories that refuse to fade. As Microsoft chairman and philanthropist Bill Gates has remarked, an Expo "brings people together, it gets us dreaming".
The National has given over a great deal of space this week to Dubai's 2020 dream and to the visit by representatives of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) to the emirate and, indeed, to the likely shape of its world expo bid.
The stopover was part of a series of missions BIE delegates are making to Brazil, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and the UAE to evaluate the plans of the five candidate cities vying for the right to host this prestigious event.
Gates, who as a child went to see the Century 21 Exposition in 1962 (commonly referred to as Seattle World's Fair), remembers it as a place where visitors were encouraged to think about how innovation and technology were going to change everyday life, a spirit that is to be found in Dubai's 21st century bid, which uses the theme of "connecting minds, creating the future".
Nearly as important as the visitor experience to a world's fair and arguably more instructive in the bidding process is the legacy an expo leaves. There are the physical remains (such as improved infrastructure and those interesting pieces of architecture) and the imponderable effects (who knows, for instance, the full impact the Seattle World's Fair had on Gates?).
Should Dubai win the right to stage Expo 2020, the Jebel Ali site will be eventually be redeveloped as a university, museum and conference centre - all three uses selling directly to the nation's long-term commitment to developing a knowledge-based economy.
The last World's Fair, Shanghai 2010, also delivered an occasionally blistering cultural programme, including the Art for the World sculpture project which yielded several permanent landmarks around the city.
One could anticipate the same in Dubai, but more importantly, one could expect a greater influx of arts, film, literature and music festivals in the years after Expo 2020, as well as further engagement with the creative community, increased funding for arts programmes and, in all probability, a huge spike in cultural production. There is, in short, much at stake here.
In support of the potential impact of staging a World's Fair in this country, Reem Al Hashimy, the Minister of State and the managing director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo, has previously said that "the 438-hectare site will be one of the largest ever used for a World Expo and will ensure an unforgettable experience for the event's 25 million visitors … and will enhance further the UAE's long-term appeal as a premier destination for high-profile global events."
Now, that really is connecting minds and creating the future.
* Nick March