Dubai: The voice of Expo 2020, Safia Mohammed Alshehi


The moment you enter Expo 2020 Dubai, you are greeted by an automated voice saying ‘Hayakkum’.

The voice belongs to Safia Safia Mohammed Alshehi, a household name for Emirati and Arab residents in the UAE and Gulf region. Before lending her voice to the world’s greatest show, Alshehi began her career in 2013 as a voice-over artist for documentaries and commercial ads.

Today, she is a well-known media personality, who has worked as a TV presenter, radio jockey, voice-over artist, author, columnist and more.

“Before I start, I am grateful, honoured and thank Almighty Allah every day for blessing me to be the part of Expo 2020 Dubai. It was not just a part of my work, but a responsibility to present my country,” Alshehi told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

Alshehi had done a marketing campaign for the world’s greatest fair in 2019. “But my feet was swept off the ground when I was told that my voice will be used to welcome people. That is the voice you enter with and exit with,” she said.

The training began in 2019, and initially, Alshehi said she found it difficult, as she was practising for a smaller version of Expo 2020 Dubai.

“I put all my emotional energy into the way a word is pronounced, the tone, the perfect pitch for a particular word. I wanted to create and deliver an emotional bond with the visitors, which took me sometime as I am not a native English speaker,” she said.

Alshehi trained for hours with a vocal master to perfect her voice. “The Expo team is very supportive and we spent hours in perfection. I still undergo weekly training for right tone and voice modulation,” she said.

Her voice can be heard throughout Expo 2020 Dubai and the promotional videos. But one might sound slightly different than the other.

“Outdoor surroundings at the Expo 2020 require a high-pitched voice and the commercial ones and marketing campaign require a calm one,” she said.

Still, her family and friends who visit Expo 2020 always manage to recognise her, something that continues to surprise her. “They always come up with ‘we heard you’. And it takes me a few seconds to understand that they were at the Expo. I get messages from them daily,” she said.

Expo 2020 might be Alshehi’s biggest project to date, but international media took note of her in 2019, when she introduced Pope Francis during his visit to the UAE.

“I got a chance to present my beautiful country on an international platform. I must say hundreds of channels focused on and aired my introduction. The highlight was I introduced in Arabic,” she said.

Explaining the significance of the word ‘Hayakkum’, Alshehi said it is a significant part of her culture and means ‘we embrace you with all our heart’.

“’Hayyakum’ is my favourite word that I have used at Expo. It a very beautiful word that they have chosen to welcome the world,” she said.


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Alshehi is a Dubai resident, who completed her schooling at Aysha School and Zabeel High School. She later pursued her bachelor’s and master’s degree in media from Sharjah University.

Even as a child, Alshehi knew she wanted to become a voice-over artist. “I realised I am gifted with a melodious voice at a very early age,” she said. “A microphone has always been a friend of mine right from my schooldays. I was the host for my school and college events.”

Alshehi, who has a son and daughter, said both her kids also believe they are gifted with great voices.

“They do not disturb me and leave me alone when I am recording,” she said. “I have become very famous among students and all thanks to my children for that.”

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