Vibrant Sharjah

about sharjah

An Inside Look at the Vibrant UAE Emirate

Nestled along the glittering shores of the Persian Gulf, Sharjah has a rich history that stretches back over 5000 years. Known as the cultural capital of the UAE, this dynamic emirate balances modern amenities with traditional Arabic architecture, blending the old and new into a destination unlike anywhere else in the country. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in Islamic art and heritage or simply enjoy world-class attractions, Sharjah has something for every traveler.

about sharjah

A Strategic Location Rooted in History

Sharjah’s strategic location has made it an important port and trade hub for millennia. Sitting along the Gulf coast with access to the Indian Ocean, Sharjah was a natural transit point between Europe and India. Merchant ships laden with spices and silks would dock in its harbors as far back as the Iron Age.

Local Bedouin tribes dominated the inland areas, before the Qawasim clan rose to prominence in the early 1700s. They built a prosperous economy around pearling and maritime trade, turning Sharjah into a leading port in the lower Gulf. Britain took an interest shortly after and signed a historic treaty to bring Sharjah under its protection in 1820.

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, the emirate thrived on fishing and pearling. Then, in 1972, vast oil reserves were discovered offshore, ushering in a new era of rapid development. Yet through it all, Sharjah has proudly preserved its cultural identity.

An Eclectic Patchwork of Cities and Landscapes

Though most people equate Sharjah with its modern city, the emirate stretches across 2,590 square kilometers of diverse landscapes. Its terrain encompasses sandy beaches, craggy mountains, and rolling dunes dotted with oasis towns. Along the Indian Ocean coast, you’ll find the bustling port of Khorfakkan set against the rugged Hajar Mountains. Inland lies thick acacia forests surrounding the desert city of Al Dhaid.

Sharjah City forms the beating heart of the emirate as its administrative and economic center. Its glittering skyline overlooks the Gulf waters, seamlessly blending modern towers with heritage architecture. Just south lies Dubai, while Ajman sits along the northern border – together forming a sprawling metropolis. Yet each emirate still retains its own unique charms.

Blending Cutting-Edge Infrastructure with Cultural Riches

As you wander the labyrinthine streets of Sharjah’s old town, it’s easy to forget you’re in one of the most developed emirates in the UAE. Windtowers built from coral grace the skyline, hinting at a bygone era. Yet peer closer and you’ll spot metaphorical winds of change: museums showcasing Islamic art and science exhibitions revealing Sharjah’s innovation.

The city’s airports buzz with travelers heading to state-of-the-art attractions like Al Noor Island’s glowing “Torus” sculpture. Students pore over books at the American University campus or debate ideas at cozy cafes surrounding the University of Sharjah. While Sharjah gives a glimpse into history, it also races confidently towards the future.

The UAE’s Capital of Culture

Ask locals or expats why they love Sharjah and many will point towards the thriving arts scene. As early as 1998, UNESCO named the city the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World” – and Sharjah has only grown into the title since.

Crowds flock each year to the Sharjah Biennial contemporary art festival, while the Sharjah Art Foundation is breathing new creative life into aging buildings across the city. Book lovers lose whole afternoons wandering the mammoth Sharjah International Book Fair each fall.

Beyond visual arts, Sharjah nurtures local talents in theater, photography, cinema, music and more through world-class academies. Visit in spring to experience annual festivals celebrating Arabic calligraphy and Middle Eastern film.

Simply walking Sharjah’s streets allows you to feel the vibrant creative spirit as public artworks grab your eye around every corner. The emirate now houses over 25 museums spanning Islamic design, archaeology, science, heritage preservation and modern art.

Experiencing an Authentic Taste of Arabia

Many Gulf travelers choose Sharjah specifically seeking authentic local culture. As the only “dry” emirate in the UAE, alcohol is prohibited region-wide, creating a family-friendly atmosphere. Sharjah also adheres to conservative rules of conduct, like modest dress and gender segregation in public. Friday remains a sacred day of rest when businesses close in observance of Holy Day prayers.

Beyond faith, Sharjah proudly celebrates its Emirati heritage. Camel racing draws cheering crowds in winter months. Sadu weavers demonstrate their Nomadic craft of turning goat hair into decorative blankets. Falconry remains a cherished traditional sport passed through generations.

Throughout the year, festivals shine a spotlight on Bedouin culture through dance, music, food and handicrafts. Getting lost in Heritage District’s rustic workshops allows you to fully inhabit this traditional world – before emerging to Sharjah’s glitzy modern malls.

The scent of oud wood perfume and ras al hanout spice mix will follow you through atmospheric souks as you shop for handmade wool carpets or embroidered leather sandals. When hunger strikes, tuck into machboos lamb baked in a clay pot or velvety Fijiri gahwa Arabic coffee served from ornate brass pots.

Gateway to the UAE’s Allure

Whether you spend lazy days lounging on Khorfakkan Beach, haggling for bargains inside Sharjah’s Blue Souk or absorbing age-old history at archaeological sites – Sharjah offers an authentic peek into what shapes the UAE’s foundations.

As one of the country’s most affordable emirates, Sharjah also makes for an attractive base to explore neighboring Dubai, Abu Dhabi and beyond. Its international airport buzzes as a leading cargo hub with easy links across the region and most global hubs beyond. Road tripping north reveals the wonders of Ras Al Khaimah’s epic mountain terrain, while driving south unveils Abu Dhabi’s modern architectural marvels.

Ultimately, choosing to linger in Sharjah is choosing to experience the rich cultural soul of Arabia: one which skillfully balances deep-rooted traditions with an eagerness to innovate. Through world-famous museums, soaring skyscrapers and glittering beaches, the emirate proves itself a microcosm of all the UAE offers.

So pack your bags and get ready to discover an eclectic blend of past and future drawn together on sun-baked sands. Sharjah eagerly awaits to share its vibrant spirit!


FAQs About Sharjah

Q1: What is Sharjah and why is it important?

A1: Sharjah is the third-largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) known for its rich culture and heritage. It’s important due to its strategic location and historical significance, ruled by the Al Qasimi dynasty since the 1700s.

Q2: What is the history of Sharjah and its origins?

A2: Sharjah has a history dating back over 5,000 years, with the Qawasim tribe gaining dominance in the 1700s. Treaty relations with Britain were established in the 1820s, and pearling and trade played a crucial role in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Q3: What is the geography of Sharjah and its important locations?

A3: Sharjah is located on both the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman and boasts diverse terrain, including coastline, beaches, desert, and mountains. Important cities within Sharjah include Sharjah City, Khorfakkan, Kalba, and more.

Q4: What is the economy of Sharjah like?

A4: Sharjah’s economy is diversified, with oil and gas reserves, a thriving manufacturing sector, and logistics hubs. It is home to ports, free trade zones, and encourages foreign investment.

Q5: How is Sharjah governed politically?

A5: Sharjah is an absolute monarchy led by an Emir. It has governing bodies and local rule to manage its affairs.

Q6: What can you tell me about the demographics and culture of Sharjah?

A6: Sharjah has a diverse population with a conservative Islamic culture and laws. It also has vibrant multicultural expat communities.

Q7: What are the tourism attractions in Sharjah?

A7: Sharjah offers a wide range of attractions, including museums, galleries, cultural events, UNESCO-designated sites, and landmarks like the Heart of Sharjah and Al Qasba.

Q8: How is transportation and infrastructure in Sharjah?

A8: Sharjah has well-developed transportation infrastructure, including airports, seaports, and highways. It also has a public transportation system for easy commuting.

Q9: Can you provide a summary of key facts about Sharjah?

A9: Sharjah is a culturally rich emirate with a diverse economy, a history dating back millennia, and a strategic location along the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman. It offers a mix of tradition and modernity, making it a unique destination in the UAE.

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