ZARAGOZA, Spain, December 5, 2006 "“ This forward-looking city in the Spanish region of Aragon will host the 2008 World Expo under the theme: "Water and Sustainable Development." From June 14 through September 14, 2008, Spain's fifth largest city is expected to draw six million visitors, create 9,500 jobs and bring in over $1.2 billion in tourism revenues. The expo will be structured around five themed pavilions and eight large eco-geographical areas comprising the 63 participating countries. More are expected to sign up along with private companies and non-government organizations. Cirque de Soleil is lending its creative talents for "Archipelago of the Desert," the daily parade through the Expo's grounds.

Founded by the Romans at the confluence of three main rivers: the Ebro, Gállego and Huerva, Zaragoza looks down over a fertile flood plain marked by the course of the Ebro, Spain's longest river. The region of Aragon has consistently struggled against desertification and the capital is home to the first integral body of river management in the world, the Ebro Hydrographic Office.

With an eye to attracting visitors long after the world's fair ends, officials have plans to beautify Zaragoza by adding gardens, pools and waterfalls, increasing green spaces and creating leisure and sports areas on the river banks. Designed to evoke a drop of water, the exhibition's most emblematic feature will be the 196-foot transparent Water Tower by Enrique de Teresa Trilla. A 296-acre Metropolitan Water Park will include Los Sotos National Park along the Ebro, a wetlands area and a Botanical Garden.

In keeping with the Expo's theme of sustainability, city officials intend to increase green spaces by 20 percent, expand renewable energy resources and create a larger network of bicycle lanes. The Zaragoza City Hall is planning several major infrastructure projects including the Third Millennium Bridge which will connect both banks of the Ebro, a suburban rail network and light railway. The Aragon Government will participate in infrastructure projects, such as the Goya Venue, metropolitan and urban transport and the construction of a Conference Centre. Plans are underway to reclaim the banks of rivers, adding gardens, landscaping and beach areas. Leisure and sports facilities will include a white water channel, rowing lanes, a spa, an "open-air museum" with 25 works and art installations spread along nine miles of the Ebro, and the Rivers Aquarium "“ the largest in the world "“ taking visitors on a trip down some of the planet's great rivers: the Ebro, Nile, St. Lawrence, Amazon and Mekong. In fact, 80 percent of the Expo's structures will remain after September 2008.

Zaragoza still has vestiges of the Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Christian communities that once lived here. The city's Roman past can be seen in the Caesaraugusta Theatre Museum, the city walls, the Forum and the Public Baths. Ajafería Palace is said to be the most important 11th century civil construction in the Islamic West with stunning patios and an impressive Throne Room. Along the Ebro River are three of the city's emblematic buildings including the grandiose Nuestra Señora del Pilar basilica, a Baroque gem completed in 1711. With its 11 brightly-colored tile cupolas it stands out among the other impressive historic buildings off the Plaza del Pilar. La Lonja Palace is the region's most important example of 16th century civil architecture. Visitors will find medieval art mixing with Renaissance and Baroque styles at San Salvador Cathedral ("La Seo"), Aragon's most significant monument. The exterior of the Parroquieta Chapel, on one side of the Cathedral, represents the pinnacle of Zaragoza's Mudéjar architecture. The Museum of Zaragoza's collection ranges from archaeological finds from prehistory and fine art through the Moorish period. Fans of Francisco de Goya "“ who served his apprenticeship here "“ can head to either the 16th century Renaissance Palace de los Pardos that now houses the Museo Ibercaja Camón Aznar, the Patio de la Infanta Museo or the basilica, to see some of his works.

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