Emirate of Sharjah, the capital of Arab tourism for 2015
Historically, Sharjah was one of the wealthiest towns in this region with a settlement in existence for over 5000 years. In the early 18th century the Qawasim clan (Huwayla tribe) established itself in Sharjah, c.1727 declaring Sharjah independent.
On 8 January 1820 Sheikh Sultan I signed the General Maritime Treaty with Britain, accepting a protectorate to keep the Ottoman Turks out. Like four of its neighbours, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah and Umm al-Qaiwain, its position on the route to India made it important enough to be recognized as a salute state
Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, and is the only one to have land on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah is ruled by Sheikh Dr Sultan ibn Muhammad Al-Qasimi of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Sheikh of Sharjah.
In addition there are two enclaves belonging to Sharjah situated on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, and Dibba al-Husn. The emirate has a total area of 2,590 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the country's total area, excluding the islands. It contains the main administrative and commercial centers together with an especially impressive array of cultural and traditional projects, including several museums. Distinctive landmarks are the two major covered souqs, reflecting Islamic design; a number of recreational areas and public parks such as Al Jazeirah Fun Park and Al Buheirah Corniche. The city is also notable for its numerous elegant mosques. The Emirate of Sharjah is also known to be the Cultural Capital of the UAE. The Expo Centre of Sharjah is well known for the annual book fair that is famous all over the region. The Emir personally takes keen interest in this event which brings together hundreds of publishers from all over the world and thousands of titles. The Expo Centre was founded & built in 1976 by Frederick Pittera, an international producer of trade & public fairs. It was the most popular and the first mixed-use Exhibition, Conference & Entertainment Centre in the Middle East and the first to bring international Circuses, Ice Shows ,Boxing & Wrestling events, and foreign government exhibitions, together with their national orchestras, dance companies, arts etc. to the Gulf. In 1989 Pittera sold his interest in Expo Centre to his sponsor & partner Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Qasimi. Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is Dhaid where a wide range of vegetables and fruits is cultivated on its rich and fertile soil. Khor Fakkan provides Sharjah with a major east coast port. An offshore island of Sir Abu Nuáir belongs to Sharjah. Sharjah also claims the island of Abu Musa which Iran also claims.
Sharjah is a sister city to Dubai and Ajman on both its borders. The three urban areas have now merged into one. Sharjah is about 170 kilometres away from the capital city Abu Dhabi.
Located in the heart of Sharjah, this is a modern lively interactive archaeological museum tracing the history of Sharjah from ancient times. A gold halter, found with a ritually slaughtered horse in a grave near Mleiha is particularly beautiful.
The museum’s library houses a range of archaeological and historical books, magazines, periodicals and specialized reports.
Sharjah Arts Area
This area just off the Corniche and on the north side of Burj Avenue (Bank Road), the Souq Al Bahar, comprises five architecturally acclaimed heritage buildings and a mosque dating back to the end of the eighteenth century. Here you will find Sharjah Art Museum, Sharjah Art Centre, Sharjah Art Galleries, Emirates Fine Arts Society and the Very Special Art Centre.
The Sharjah Art Centre is housed in the beautifully renovated three-storey Bait Al Sarkal that used to be the house of the British Commissioner for the coast of Oman and was later turned into the missionary hospital, where many prominent Sharjah residents were born. Now the Art Centre offers classes for all ages and abilities, conducted by qualified art teachers.
The Sharjah Art Centre is the largest art museum in the Gulf. It has a total of 32 exhibition halls, of which eight are dedicated to the private collection of the Ruler who has donated them to the museum. This collection consists of eighteenth and nineteenth century oil paintings, watercolours and lithographs as well as modern paintings of local scenes. The museum has a very active programme of rotating exhibitions, covering every field of art, both local and international.
Sharjah Heritage Area
On the opposite side of Burj Avenue is the Heritage area, devoted to local markets, meeting places and small museums. This beautifully renovated district is a shining example of Sharjah’s commitment to heritage and culture that was instrumental in earning it the UNESCO title of cultural capital of the Arab World in 1998.
The Sharjah Heritage Museum
This museum is in Bait Al Naboodah. The architecturally interesting two-storey family house, built around a shaded courtyard, is dedicated to a reconstruction of family life long ago. The various rooms have displays of traditional furniture and household items as well as children’s games, jewellery and costumes.
Sharjah Science Museum
Situated in Halwan, the science museum has 50 excellent interactive exhibits covering physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy.
Located in Majaz near Sharjah bridge, the Planetarium specializes in astronomy and celestial navigation. Open for groups only by appointment. Admission is free.
Cultural capital of the UAE