Sharjah, or the ‘rising sun’, dates back more than 6,000 years and appears as early as the 2nd century AD in a map drawn by the Greek geographer Ptolemy, which indicates the settlement of Sarcoa, where Sharjah can now be found. In 1490 AD, Sharjah was mentioned in records written by the famous Arab navigator, Ahmad Ibn Majid, as he navigated the Gulf’s waters.
The first evidence of human life in the UAE was discovered on Jebel Fayah in Sharjah Emirate and dates back to around 85,000 BC. Over 6,000 years ago the milder climate and increased rainfall transformed the barren desert into fertile plains on which the nomadic fishing, hunting and herding communities thrived. Little was known about the prehistory of this region until archaeological excavations began in the 1950s in the UAE. Some of the most significant discoveries were made at sites in Sharjah including Mleiha, Kalba, Tell Abraq, Dibba and Jebel al-Bhuhais. Many of the items unearthed in the Emirate date back to the Stone Age or later, and are on display at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum.
Historically, Sharjah was one of the wealthiest towns in the region. It was the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf from the time of the early trading with the East into the first half of the 19th century. Alongside fishing and trading, pearling was a primary income generating industry that lasted into the late 1940s. The first international airport on this coast was established in Sharjah in1932. The Federation of the UAE was formed in 1971.
Since the discovery of oil in 1972, Sharjah has developed from small palm-frond ‘arish’ houses hugging the creeks, to a contemporary city that extends all the way to the UAE’s east coast. Modern development took off in the early 1970’s resulting in the rapid expansion of the town and Emirate as a whole.
The third largest in the United Arab Emirates, and the only emirate to have land on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Sharjah has kept the spirit of its history alive by innovatively incorporating tradition into every aspect of contemporary development. With an area that covers 2,600 km², equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the UAE’s total area, excluding the islands, this vibrant, modern Emirate looks forward to a bright future as it looks back respectfully to its history. The successful combination of the values of the past with the advantages of modern technology has created a special ethos for Sharjah.
Comprising cities like Sharjah city, Al Dhaid, Khorfakkan, KalbaandDibba Al Hisn,the emirate is built on foundations rich in history and Islamic traditions: Arabian heritage is still recognized with pride and ancient customs are still practiced in everyday life.
For most, traveling to the United Arab Emirates means visiting the playgrounds of Dubai or Abu Dhabi. If you prefer to experience a different side of the Emirates, head to Sharjah City, located less than 20 minutes from Dubai International Airport. Visiting Sharjah allows you to immerse yourself in the conservative and traditional elements of the United Arab Emirates while escaping the hustle and bustle of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Sharjah is the third largest city in the UAE. Sharjah is next to Dubai and effectively its suburb, with daily traffic streaming to and from creating long traffic jams at rush hours. It was one of the wealthiest towns in the UAE. Sharjah is an exciting, lively city with interesting artifacts in every corner. This cultural square is famous for its combination of restored houses in traditional style.
The city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Persian Gulf, has a population of 519,000 (2003 census estimate). Sharjah contains many commercial centers and several museums. The Emirate of Sharjah is popular for its rich and cultural, so it is also known to be the Cultural Capital of the UAE.
The beauty of the emirates is lies in the northern side of UAE. Sharjah is an exciting, lively city with interesting artifacts in every corner. This cultural square is famous for its combination of restored houses in traditional style.
The Capital of Arab Tourism Award for 2015 is a testimony to Sharjah’s unique tourism product that has been growing in reputation at a local, regional and international level over the last decade. This award is even more significant considering the Emirate is just closing the curtain on this year’s award as Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 presented by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
The award recognises Sharjah as a prime example for embracing its rich traditions and using its strong cultural heritage as a platform through which to weave its modern tourism industry. The award is given to the emirate for its diversity in terms of leisure and shopping as well as its skill in hosting world class festivals throughout the year.
What To See
- Sharjah Heritage Area
This area offers the chance to explore authentic Bedouin village homes. Neatly restored, visitors are invited to roam around the village and investigate as invasively as they wish, as long as it is done in a respectful manner. The historic buildings on site include the Al Midfa house, a property with its own large wind tower. However, guests aren’t expected to figure out the historic facts for themselves: there is plenty of information about the houses and the previous inhabitants on offer, too.
- Arts Museum
The largest Arts Museum in the United Arab Emirates, this state-of-the-art facility opened in 1997 and features a permanent collection as well as a program of temporary exhibits. The permanent collection includes valuable artwork from the collections of HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, the Ruler of Sharjah. There are 72 galleries spread over three floors, with a focus on works by artists who painted the Arab world.
Many artworks are by 18th century by painters who visited the Middle East and became fascinated by the natural environment, architecture and culture. The Ali Darwish gallery contains his watercolours of Sharjah. The contemporary section consists of over 300 works by local, Arab and foreign artists. If you’re an art-lover on a weekend stopover in Dubai, don’t miss a trip here.
- Sharjah Desert Park
It has three components spread over one square kilometre: the Natural History Museum, Arabian Wildlife Centre and the Children’s Farm. The museum provides people of all ages with an opportunity to learn about the flora and fauna of the Arabian Desert and has five main exhibition halls: A Journey through Sharjah, Man and the Environment, A Journey through Time, The Living Desert and The Living Sea. The Arabian Wildlife Centre showcases the rich diversity of fauna in the Arabian Peninsula as well as teaching about species which have become, and are becoming, extinct. It contains more than 100 species of animals, and is divided into a reptile and insect house, aviary, nocturnal houses, viewing area and a section for large predators and monkeys. The children’s farm gives children a chance to come into close contact with farm animals, such as donkeys, goats, sheep and chickens.
- The Blue Souk
The souk consists of six spectacular buildings embellished in blue tiling, with more than 600 shops inside. Easily accessible, it’s located next to the pretty Khalid lagoon on the corniche. The Central Market, as the Blue Souk is otherwise known, is separated into two different sections connected through a tunnel; in one you’ll find a wide selection of electrical goods and modern necessities, such as kitchen utensils and the like, while the other trades traditional jewellery and gems sourced from the UAE. There’s also an interesting gallery full of Sharjah’s antique artefacts, including intricately designed Arabic carpets and Omani and Yemeni antique jewellery.
- Al Noor Mosque
Al Noor Mosque on Buhairah Corniche is famous for its architecture which resembles the ‘Blue Mosque’ in Turkey. It is bedecked with 34 elegant cascading domes in the exterior.
Sherifa Madgwick, manager of Communication and Development of the Sharjah Centre for Cultural Communication, says that Al Noor Mosque that stands beside the Khalid lagoon on Buhairah Corniche is the most famous. “It is hosting mosque visits every Monday at 10am for expatriates and tourists for them to know about UAE culture and religion.”
- Al Qasba
This major cultural hub offers all kinds of recreation and entertainment attractions suitable for the whole family. As well as having plenty of stalls, cafés and restaurants, there’s also a massive exhibition space — Al Maraya Art Centre —where local and international art shows take place. Al Qasba Theatre, meanwhile, hosts performances and concerts — visit Alqasba.ae to check what’s on.
Make time for a ride in one of Al Qasba’s traditional boats. They offer splendid views of the walkways, bridges and modern skyscrapers that make up the city’s skyline.
But the biggest highlight of all is Al Qasba’s Eye of the Emirates. Sharjah’s iconic observatory wheel stands 60 metres high with 42 fully air-conditioned gondolas that offer stunning panoramic views of the emirate. The best time to go on this ride is during the evening. Afterwards, you can while away the hours in one of Al Qasba’s many cafes.
Where To Eat
- Sharjah Dhow Restaurant
The Sharjah Dhow restaurant is situated on a beautiful dhow boat, permanently docked near the picturesque Sharjah Corniche. The traditional Arabic ambience of the restaurant matches the quality of the food, which includes a variety of tasty, well presented Middle Eastern delicacies. Try their seafood vegetarian or grilled dishes that are flavourful, reasonably priced as well as come in large portions.
Discover some of the fascinating kitchen secrets of the Royal Kitchens of India at Gazebo. The restaurant primarily explores the regions of Hyderabad, Lucknow and the North West Frontier to present a menu that is exceptionally rich, succulent and scrumptious. Try their Dum Biryani’s, by far the most popular Indian recipe around the world. The restaurant’s beautiful interior with dim lights and soft music, sets the perfect atmosphere for dining.
- El Manza
El Manza offers a traditional Moroccan dining experience complete with an elegant interior to match. The preparations cooked using traditional Moroccan methods, are an infusion of authentic tastes and flavours. Only the freshest and most aromatic spices, olive oil and Argan oil goes into the making of these culinary favourites. The restaurant is also popular because of its setting in Al Majaz Park with a few al fresco tables overlooking the Sharjah Fountain.
If your belly’s longing for the taste of Thailand, take it to Lemongrass’ soothing lime-coloured dining room for brightly flavoured cooking and solicitous service. Pad Thai is presented in an omelette wrapper – a nice touch – and curries have marvellous depth of flavour. If you like spicy, say so; the kitchen is shy with the heat. Good for vegetarians.