The third largest of the seven emirates, Sharjah is a place that too many visitors to the UAE either miss or pass through quickly. It has some of the most interesting architecture in the country, the largest mosque in the UAE, an interesting archaeological museum, a pocket-sized Disneyland, plenty of watchtowers, a natural history museum that's the slickest in the entire Gulf, souks to rival Dubai, and an old souk that offers a window on an older way of life that has now all but disappeared.
It's also a great place to purchase Persian carpets. Though Sharjah has long been seen as Dubai's poorer cousin, in the 1980s it took the lead in the development of the country's tourist development and became the main point of entry for people arriving in the UAE on package tours. Sharjah is on the northern coast, adjacent to Dubai.
Sharjah, which shares its southern border with Dubai, is ruled by the Al Qasimi family. It is approximately 2,600 square kilometres and is the only emirate to have coastlines on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. In the nineteenth century the town of Sharjah was the leading port in the lower Gulf. Produce from the interior of Oman, India and Persia arrived there. Sharjah's salt mines meant that salt constituted an important part of its export business, along with pearls.
In the 1930s when the pearling industry declined and trade decreased due to the creek silting up, Imperial Airways' flying boats set up a staging post for flights en route to India, which benefited the residents of Sharjah. Today, under the leadership of Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Sharjah is the cultural and educational centre of the UAE and takes pride in preserving the country's cultural heritage as well as promoting Arab culture and traditions. Sharjah Hotels
Sharjah Heritage Area
The Sharjah Heritage is situated near the Corniche. Several historic buildings have been reconstructed here using traditional materials and techniques. The Al Hisn Fort, Literature Square with House of Poetry, Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, Sharjah Heritage Museum and Souq al-Arsa are worth seeing in the Sharjah heritage area. Most sites in the Heritage Area have opening times set aside solely for women. Visitors of both genders should make certain of these on arrival in the city.
Al Hisn Fort, Al-Hosn Avenue, ☎ 5685500. Sat to Thur 8am to 2pm, Fri:closed. The Sharjah Fort Museum dominates the Heritage District. The fort itself has been lovingly restored by the present Sheikh and the museum provides something of a glimpse at social history of the Emirate. Many exhibit signs, however, are solely in Arabic, with those in English often being rife with errors. Adult:AED 5, Family:AED 10, Children:Free.
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, ☎ 5655455, . Sat to Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 4-8 pm only. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is a fascinating place for any visitors with an interest in the faith, as there are handwritten Qur'ans, letters from the Prophet Muhammad to other leaders and various artifacts from Mecca itself. Also a comprehensive display of Arab handicrafts. Adult: AED 5, Family: AED 10, Children: Free.
Bait al-Naboodah, Heritage Area, ☎ 5685500. Sat to Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 4-8 pm
only. Adult: AED 5, Family: AED 10, Children: Free.
Souq al-Arsah, Heritage Area. Sat to Thu 9am-1pm, 4 -9 pm, Fri 4-9 pm only. Another souq worth a visit. It is considered to be the oldest souq in the country. Stop at the traditional coffehouse for a mint tea and a plate of dates.
Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, (Heritage Area), ☎ 5694561. Sat to Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 4-8 pm only. A small museum with magnificients calligraphic works of art by Persian, Arabic and Tukish artist with a workshop where students are trained in the art of calligraphy Adult: AED 5, Family: AED 10, Children: Free.
Art Area - Includes Sharjah's Art Museum which covers regional and international art exhibits, with the oriental collection being its highlights. The Arts Area is situated opposite the Heritage Area on the other side of Burj Avenue.
Sharjah Art Museum, ☎ 5688222. Sat to Thur 8am-8pm, Fri 4-8 pm only. The Sharjah Art Museum shows contemporary art by local and foreign artists. It is also the home of the Sharjah International Art Biennale"http://www.sharjahart.org/biennial/sharjah-biennial-10/welcome", a bi-yearly exhibition of international contemporary art and performance. Free Admission.
Sharjah Archeology Museum, Sheikh Rashid bin Saqr alQassimi Road, ☎ 5665466, . Sat to Thu 9am-1am, 5-8pm, Fri 5-8pm, Sunday: Closed. The museum explore the changing environments experienced by the region's inhabitants from the Stone Age to the present day through displays of artefacts, coins, jewellery, pottery and ancient weapons. Investigate a dig in progress, explore models of burials, houses and tombs and see the first forms of writing in this area. . Adult:AED 5, Family:AED 10, Children:Free.
Blue Souq (Souq Al Markazi or Central Souq) - An interesting, if slightly chaotic, shopping centre hosting around 600 shops in two wings. The ground floor shops tend to stock gold and expensive designer clothes, with the upper level containing shops stocking carpets and curios from as far afield as Afghanistan and Tibet. Haggling over prices in the upper-level shops will frequently attract massive discounts. A great place to buy gifts and traditional goods. Considered superior to Dubai for carpets by Western expatriates.
Sharjah Desert Park, (28 km from Sharjah on the road to Al Dhaid. 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.). Sunday to Thursday 9 am – 5.30 pm, Friday 2 pm - 5.30 pm, Saturday 11 am – 5.30 pm, Tuesday: Closed. The park covers an area of one square kilometer. It attracts about 300.00 visitors per year. Adult: AED 15, Children (12 – 16 years): AED 5, Children (under 12): Free.
Fish Market, Corniche Road (opposite Blue Suq). daily 5am to 1pm.
King Faisal Mosque, Al-Ittahid Square. This magnificient mosque was a gift of
the Saudi Arabian King Faisal. It was opened in 1987 and has space for 15.000
people. There are separate prayer rooms for men and women and the mosque has an
Islamic library with more than 7.000 books. Admission for muslims only.
Al-Qasba and Eye of the Emirates, Al-Taiwoon Road, Al-Chan Lagoon, ☎ 5560777, . Sat to Thu 10am to 11pm, Fr 4pm to 11 pm. At Al Qasba,you can enjoy culture, entertainment and leisure attractions representing the very best from the Arab world and beyond.
Al-Mahattah-Museum, Estiqlal Square, ☎ 5733079. Sat to Thu 8am to 8pm, Fri 4pm to 8pm. Al Mahatta was the first airport in the Gulf region. It was opened in 1932 as a staging post for commercial flights from Britain to India. There is an interesting film about the daily life at the airport and Sharjah town in the 1930s and four original propeller planes stand in the hangar. Adult:AED 5, Family:AED 10, Children:Free.