Sharjah is the capital of the emirate of the same name, which is part of the commonwealth of seven Middle Eastern states, known collectively as the United Arab Emirates. Spread along the coastline of the Arabian Gulf, Sharjah lies between the humble Ajman and the glittering Dubai, which lies literally on its doorstep.
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Sharjah is a quiet, well-kept and comfortable city with lush gardens and shady parks. Unlike its neighbor Dubai, Sharjah’s architectural identity is made up less by futuristic skyscrapers and shopping malls and more by elegant modern buildings in traditional Arabian style, hundreds of mosques with minarets piercing the blue sky, dozens of museums and cultural centers. Among Muslims, Sharjah is known for its zealous reverence for Shariah law, its own history and traditions, which earned it the honorary title of the cultural capital of the Arab world in 2014.
Carefully guarding its past, the city hospitably opens its doors to the trends of the new time without being overly conservative. Its comfortable modern hotels, often designed like chambers of oriental rulers, offer their guests high service, recreation on the magnificent beaches with soft white sand and the opportunity to engage in various sports – from the traditionally popular here cricket to surfing and diving. Restaurants in the hotels offer both traditional and international cuisine, but unlike in other emirates, you won’t be able to accompany alcoholic drinks with your meal in Sharjah.
Sharjah’s shopping malls are no less fascinating than Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Sharjah’s Blue Market has long been renowned as the best place in the country for original gold and silver jewelry, exclusive handicrafts and weavings from the Middle East.
History of Sharjah
The few archaeological remains suggest that Sharjah was inhabited in the Stone Age. The Bronze Age is the most distinctive period: 50 km to the east of the Emirate’s capital, archaeologists found the tombs of the Umm Al-Nar culture, which flourished in the country during the 3rd-2nd millennia BC. By the first century BC the era of the flourishing Umm-an-Nar civilization had ended, presumably due to a drastic deterioration in the climate.
Sharjah in 1960
The region was long neglected in the annals of history until the Greek geographer Ptolemy mapped it as Sarkoa in the 2nd century AD. At the time he reported that the area was inhabited by nomadic tribesmen who fished and raised camels.
It is also known that by the 7th century, when the Arab Caliphate was established there was a large settlement in what is now Sharjah, which developed into a commercial port and one of the wealthiest towns in the region. It thrived on the pearl trade, piracy and the slave trade. In the 1920s the Al Qasimi clan became firmly established on the throne of Sharjah, which continues to reign today. This tribal family had a long claim to the territory, and reclaimed it thanks to their navy, the most powerful in the Arabian Gulf.
At the end of the 18th century, the British declared war on the al-Qasimi pirate fleet, and in 1808 most of it was destroyed. In 1820, under the threat of Ottoman expansion, the emir of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, was forced to conclude a protectorate treaty with Great Britain. He managed to keep his title of ruler nominally, but found himself totally dependent on the British. The slave trade and piracy were forgotten but, according to a British sailor who visited Sharjah in 1830, the Emir was not poor: the pearl trade brought him about three tons of silver during the fishing season, which lasts from May to August in the Persian Gulf.
On 2 December 1971, Sheikh Khalid III bin Mohammed Al Qasimi signed the agreement for Sharjah to be part of the newly formed state, the UAE. Two palace coups (1972 and 1987) rocked Sharjah in the new era. Since 1972, the reign of Sheikh Sultan III Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. This highly educated member of the dynasty, an eminent scholar, historian, PhD, defines the basis of all spheres of life in the Emirate, the essence of which is adherence to the fundamental traditions of Islam.
Manners and Laws
Tourists cannot ignore the local laws in Sharjah. They are stricter than in other emirates and the observance of the law is particularly strict. Alcohol can only be bought in the duty free zone at the city’s airport, but outside this area the possession and even more so the drinking of alcohol is prohibited. Tourists often indulge in this pleasure in hotel rooms, where they do not make remarks as long as they behave modestly. If they don’t, the management can call the police, who will probably fine you up to 600 dirhams to start with. Public drunkenness can result in a pretty hefty jail sentence.
The streets of Sharjah should be no show of emotion and the malls, markets, museums, shorts and see-through attire are no place to be seen. You will not be fined, but you may be reprimanded and asked to change immediately. Stubborn and scandalous tourists can be taken to the police station.
Ladies better not try to sunbathe topless, even on the beaches of hotels, and the city beach is desirable to flaunt in a closed swimsuit.
Cultural Sights in Sharjah
Sharjah is often referred to as a museum and cultural treasure of the UAE. There are nearly two dozen museums, equipped with the latest technology and located in beautiful modern buildings built in the traditional Arab style or restored historical buildings.
The city has about 600 mosques and its main square is adorned, as a symbol of faith, by a grandiose Koran monument. Nearby is the magnificent King Faisal Mosque, one of the largest in the Middle East, a gift from the King of Saudi Arabia to Sharjah. If you dress appropriately so as not to draw attention to yourself, you can go inside and see its majestically laconic decorations and feel the genuine spirit of faith that reigns here. The Al Nour Mosque on Sharjah’s waterfront is the only mosque in the city that is officially open for tourists at certain hours. It is similar to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, but with just two minarets. It is surrounded by a beautiful park where locals love to stroll in the evenings. During these hours the mosque is spectacularly illuminated and looks especially attractive.
The doors of the city’s many museums are open to visitors every day, some museums are off – Friday, others – Monday. One of the most interesting collections is in the Museum of Islamic Civilization. You can visit it any day of the week, except Friday. Here you can see models of ancient structures, including astronomical observatories, curious interactive models of irrigation systems and a rich collection of spiritual literature. The most interesting expositions are located on the second floor of the museum. Four halls display ancient exhibits that reflect the life of the inhabitants of the East in the best possible way: traditional clothing, weapons and jewelry. Here you can admire Moroccan daggers, Afghan bracelets, copper crockery made by Iranian smiths, exquisite ancient candlesticks, skillfully made gold and silverware, handmade carpets and ancient coins. A visit to the museum costs Dhs 10 for an adult and Dhs 5 for children.
In the old area of the city is Al-Hish Fort. The fort was built of stone, coral and adobe in 1820 by Sheikh Sultan Bin Sakr Al Qasimi, the Sharjah ruler at the time. In 1972 Sheikh Khalid, from another branch of the al-Qasimi dynasty, decided to destroy his rival’s legacy and had the structure dismantled. His brother, the current ruler of Sharjah, did not succeed in stopping his eager relative until much of the fort had already been destroyed. Once in power, Sheikh Sultan III ordered the collection of information about the original appearance of the fort and the preservation of all that had survived the destruction, right down to the doors and windows. The fort was not fully restored until the end of the last century during the restoration of the port area of the Old City, known as the “Heart of Sharjah”. Today there is a museum here, where you can learn about the history and contemporary life of Sharjah and its most notable citizens. There are interiors of apartments of Emir, the rich library of Al Qasimi family, wonderful samples of ancient arms, jewelry. Entrance fee is 10 dirhams.
Also of interest is the Sharjah Archaeological Museum, which displays the history of the region since prehistoric times, when the region was inhabited by primitive tribes. For lovers of fine arts, the Sharjah Museum of Art is one of the richest art galleries in the Middle East region. Enjoy a superb collection of Orientalist paintings from the 18th century, the property of the Emir of Sharjah.
A favorite stroll among locals and visitors to Sharjah is Al Qasba Amusement Park, located in the pedestrian zone on the Khalid Lagoon promenade. It is a landmark of the city. In this laid-back area you can take a leisurely stroll in one of the many colourful Arabic restaurants and cafés along the bay and enjoy the fountain shows with the iridescent colors of the rainbow playing melodies.
Eye of the Emirates Ferris Wheel
The only extreme attraction here is the Ferris wheel called the Eye of the Emirates. From its 60-meter height offers a magnificent view over the city and the azure waters of the Persian Gulf. The ticket for the ride costs 30 dirhams for an adult, 15 dirhams for a child.
On the coast, near the border with Dubai, at the beginning of the Al Khan tourist area is the Sharjah Aquarium. The original design of the aquarium gives visitors the feeling of being on the ocean floor surrounded by coral reefs. You can admire the variegated exotic fish, tiny sea creatures and giant tiger sharks, sea urchins and giant crabs. In all, the aquarium exhibits about 250 species of underwater fauna of the Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. There is a souvenir store, as well as a cafe where you can eat, drink tea, coffee or soft drinks. Admission is Dhs 20 for adults, Dhs 10 for children aged 6 to 15 and free for kids.
Situated 25 km from Sharjah’s Central Region and opposite the Hilton Hotel the Arabian Wildlife Centre provides a relaxing and enjoyable experience for children and adults alike. A small but welcoming and well-kept zoo, animals live under near-natural conditions. As you enter the glass corridor, you can observe the animals’ behavior in the wild. Here you will see leopards, cheetahs, wolves, and monkeys. There is also a botanical garden and a children’s farm, where cows, goats and donkeys live. Tickets cost Dhs 15, admission is free for kids under the age of 12.
The most popular beaches in Sharjah are Al Corniche and Al Khan.
“Al Corniche is a lovely sandy beach close to the center of town and popular with locals and tourists alike. It is always crowded, even on weekdays, but this is not a problem, as the beach is very spacious and has enough room for everyone. From other beaches it differs favorably with a dense line of palm trees, which, like a natural boundary, protect the coastal area from urban noise and pollution. They offer shelter from the scorching Arabian sun in their shade. Umbrellas and sun loungers are always clean and there are stores and cafes for hire. Entrance to the beach is free, and parking is free of charge, although it can be a bit difficult to find a free spot.
Public beach “Al Khan” stretches a long spit on the coast of the lagoon of the same name. Here everything is provided for a comfortable holiday: playgrounds for children, restaurants, cafes, working points, where you can rent beach equipment, as well as the center, where you can rent a jet ski. Ride on this noisy form of water transport is allowed only at a considerable distance from the shore, behind a special fence.
The beach season in Sharjah lasts all year round, but it is most comfortable to relax here from October to April, when the air temperature does not exceed + 30 ° C. Keep in mind: although there are not many dangerous marine creatures in the local waters, you should be careful when swimming in September and October and avoid contact with colored jellyfish and stingrays.
Sharjah’s main shopping street, Al Wahda, stretches for 2 km. Here you’ll find a host of stylish clothes, perfume and electronics stores under the most famous brand names. There are also less prestigious salons, where the youth fashion is presented.
An interesting shopping experience is the enormous Sahara Centre, which resembles a Bedouin tent. It has around two hundred stores of international and local brands selling all kinds of goods. There is a family entertainment complex with rides, children’s train, carousels, restaurants and a cinema.
Be sure to visit the Blue Market in Sharjah, notable for its architectural appearance. Russian tourists call it “wagons”, and locals call it the “golden market”. All three names are justified: it is a stylish structure with about 600 benches, really, reminiscent of the railway train. Its facade is decorated with round mosaic of sky-blue color, traditional for Muslim art, and yellowish glow of the building walls in the slanting sunrays, and indeed, gets a golden hue. Here you can buy luxurious handmade oriental silk carpets, clothes, perfume, original silver and gold jewelry at a more attractive price than in Dubai.
For a real Oriental market experience visit the Fish Market, where you can buy the freshest produce including the famous honeydew dates.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan Sharjah holds a shopping festival. During this time you can buy all sorts of goods at a 70% discount.
Restaurants and Cafés
There is a wide variety of ethnic restaurants offering inventive, hearty and delicious food in Sharjah. The lamb is cooked to perfection. Particularly good is tender lamb roasted with herbs, spices and vegetables, temptingly wrapped in a fragrant baked flatbread. Away from the tourist-infested streets, you’ll find dozens of little places that are traditionally popular with the locals. You can get a delicious kebab or Arabic shawarma for about 10-15 dirhams. Meals that include lamb sausages and chicken kebabs are a little more expensive. The portions are always huge.
Seafood lovers in Sharjah should head for the seafront where the fish restaurants crowd in. There are often set menus that include seafood soup, a couple of lobsters, a dozen plump prawns and rice on the side. The price for such a treat is about 250 dirhams. If you want juice, baklava or pie with sweet cheese for dessert, get ready to pay extra 100 dirhams.
Everywhere, of course, they serve the national Arabic drink, coffee. The beans are usually roasted with cardamom, which gives the drink an enchanting aftertaste. Traditionally served in bowls, coffee costs around 10 dirhams.
Hotels in Sharjah
In Sharjah, about seven dozen hotels are open for tourists. The vast majority of them are located on the coastline and have their own beaches. Hotels that do not have this advantage, provide tourists with shuttle service to the public city beaches.
There are only six five-star hotels. The most luxurious of them are Royal Tulip, Radisson Blu, Sheraton, Hilton. Accommodation in hotels in Sharjah will cost you much cheaper than in similar hotels of neighboring Dubai. For example, a room at the Sheraton Shariah Beach can be booked for around $150 a night.
Most hotels in Sharjah are three and four-star. The cost of daily accommodation varies from $50 to $100 per day.
How to get there
Sharjah is one of the largest airports in the United Arab Emirates, where direct regular and charter flights are available from Russian cities. If the price of your tour does not include a transfer, you will have to take a cab to the hotel, as there is no public transport in the city. A cab to the center costs from 8 to 10 dirhams.
If your flight lands in the neighboring Dubai, you can take a cab (20-30 dirhams depending on the time of the day) or a shuttle bus (10 dirhams). The latter option is not very convenient, as from the airport you will first need to take the metro to Dubai Rashidiy station, from where buses leave every hour.
Sharjah, UAE – Capital of the Emirate of Sharjah
Sharjah, the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates by population, is located on the coast of the Persian Gulf. The area where it is located was inhabited 5000 years ago. Today it is the home of many national and international companies and was declared the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998. The city spreads around three lagoons forming a beautiful lake in the center of the city. This is where thousands of tourists come to relax. Lagoons Khalid and Al Khan are connected by an artificial canal, so they are sometimes compared to the Italian Venice. The surrounding lagoons are as picturesque as they are. Attractive paths and beautiful promenades create intricate mazes.
Sharjah, UAE – Capital of the Emirate of the same name
Sharjah owns about 16 kilometers of coastline that stretches far inland. It also includes the three small islands of Al Kalba, Khor Fakkan and Dibba Al Hisn on the east coast of the Gulf of Oman. With an area of around two and a half thousand square kilometers, it covers only 3.3 percent of the UAE. Nevertheless, it is the third largest emirate in terms of area and population. Since 1972, it has been ruled by Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, who is also Minister of Culture of the United Arab Emirates. The settlement of Sharjah is estimated at six thousand years old.
An important part of international exports is the export of pearls, as well as the extraction of salt in the local salt mines. Sharjah is a cultural center with many museums housing works by artists from all over the world, numerous art galleries and a large number of exhibitions. However, at the same time it is also a place where Islamic traditions are very strictly observed. It is the only emirate that does not allow shopping and drinking alcohol outside the hotel complex without exception.
Compliance with local rules
Men’s and women’s clothing is also very strictly monitored. A law determining what is acceptable and what is not was issued in 2001, and since then it has been strictly enforced. This applies not only to locals, as some may think, but also to visitors and tourists. In a public place with bare knees or shoulders is not recommended, because it can even be put in jail. At best it can result in a rather large fine. It is also forbidden to wear clothes that are too revealing.
In addition, there is almost no nightlife. Except for hotel entertainment, there are no discos and bars. Undoubtedly, perhaps the biggest advantage of this emirate is that it borders all six other emirates. You can take a cab and in half an hour be in Dubai, for example, where such bans do not exist. You just need to dress more moderately here.
Compliance with local rules.
The beaches here are beautiful and well maintained, with white sand and really clean sea. Tourists are strongly advised to go to the beaches of hotels, where you can sunbathe in bikinis without restrictions. City beaches are reserved for locals, women must have their legs, shoulders and body covered, even in the sea. For men, swimwear must be long enough not to expose the knees.
Sharjah is characterized by lavish markets offering a wide variety of handicrafts, from handmade rugs and gold and gemstone jewelry to antiques. Despite relatively strict restrictions on visitors from non-Muslim countries the Emirate of Sharjah is still visited by millions of tourists attracted by its magnificent palm tree lined coastline and luxurious hotels offering the best in service.
The Blue Market can be classified as one of the most popular tourist attractions. It is an ultra-modern, air-conditioned shopping mall where you can buy literally anything you can think of. This building has become a symbol of Sharjah . It is built in a typical Islamic style and consists of two wings with a convex roof, connected by several tunnels. At each entrance there are fountains where you can relax and unwind.
Although it’s more likely to pull you inside, into the air-conditioned rooms. You can buy electronics or gold in one wing and beautiful exotic fabrics in the other. The multitude of merchandise, gold headbands and necklaces, earrings, gemstones, will all dazzle so much that the eyes will be scattered. Interestingly, in no small measure, there are items in a combination of three-color gold, which is rare for us.
At the Blue Market, the style of jewelry sold is close to Europe. The second part of the building has beautiful fabrics, veils, and tapestries. This shopping center also has a beautiful view of the city, which is crossed by Khor Khalid Bay. The eastern side offers a view of the most interesting of all the city. For example, within sight of the Blue Bazaar is the largest mosque in the city, the King Faisal Mosque. It can accommodate up to three thousand worshippers at a time . There are hotels on the west side, and you can also see the port.
In addition to the Blue Market, there are several other modern shopping centers in the city, as well as a large number of markets. For example, there are regular fruit, vegetable and fish markets. One of the oldest markets is Al Majara, where in small stores you can buy a variety of products, from traditional jewelry to shoes, cosmetics and classic tourist souvenirs. This market has the lowest prices of all the emirates, they are even lower than the markets of Dubai.
The city pays great attention to the protection and restoration of monuments of traditional Arab architecture. In addition, a lot of new modern buildings are also being erected here. This is where you have a unique opportunity to see with your own eyes how skyscrapers are built. You can also visit Al Hish Sharjah Fort, which was built in 1820 and was the seat of the Al Qassimi ruling family. It is now a museum that shows the development of the city.
One of the residences of the ruler of the emirate, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, is also very popular with tourists. However, Sharjah is not just declared the cultural capital of the Arab world. There is of course a great number of museums, the most visited of which is probably the Sharjah Heritage Museum, which offers a glimpse into the daily life of a wealthy Arab family. Here you can see how things work in such a family and what they have in the house.
The Sharjah Art Museum has the largest collection of Arab art on the Arabian Gulf. Opened in 1997 it boasts the Sheikh Sultan’s personal collection of paintings and maps. It is often called the best museum in the Emirates. The local Archaeological Museum displays a variety of finds and excavations from around the Emirate. The oldest artifacts date back to 5000 BC.
On interactive screens you can watch documentaries about the individual exhibits. The Museum of Islam has an extensive collection of coins from all over the world, and the ancient handwritten copies of the Koran are also valuable. The Beit Al-Nabud building, which is used for public meetings, will probably not be accessible because tourists are not allowed here. The main square and the main thoroughfare of the city is Sharjah Square . There is also a monument in the form of an open Koran, which is the symbol of the emirate.