Discover Sharjah, the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates

Discover Sharjah is to travel to the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates. Formerly it was the most important city in the area, while Dubai and Abu Dhabi were practically large villages. However, the frenetic development of Dubai in recent decades has relegated Sharjah to an apparent secondary role. Currently, Sharjah is a kind of neighboring emirate, adjoining and in the shadow of Dubai.

What to expect from Sharjah

However, Sharjah is also one of the main economic centers of the country. It has a very Dubai-like skyline with skyscrapers everywhere, where many of Dubai’s workers live. In Sharjah everything is cheaper, rents mainly. You can park on the lots to build and the options for tourists are more affordable.

Sharjah has its own culture and traditions, being the most conservative Emirate of all. However, you will not feel half as controlled as in Abu Dhabi in public spaces, where you have to be very careful with your behavior in public and strictly follow the rules of conduct.

In the shadow of Dubai, Sharjah has sought its own identity through culture. With its many museums and well-preserved historical heritage, Sharjah ranks high in the country’s tourism in its own right. Many travelers pass by after a brief visit to Dubai or, at most, Abu Dhabi. Some have not even heard of Sharjah and yet this Emirate is the one that best transmits the spirit of the area and the one that has done more and better for the dissemination of its ancestral culture.

Sharjah bucket list

The Blue Souk

Al-Markazi Souk, the Central Market or Souk, has the Blue Souk nickname for locals and expats. This is a very nice blueish building which is actually the main shopping hub and one of the most impressive landmarks of Sharjah. You can buy there jewelry, gold, clothing and if you cross the main road you will find vegetables, dates and all the products you may need. It is possible to park paying a small fee at the parameters of the area. Don’t miss it, this is a real must-do on our Discover Sharjah.

Sharjah Fort Al Hisn

Sharjah’s Al Hisn Fort dates back to around 1820 and served as the residence of Sharjah’s ruling family and seat of government. Except for the tower on the south side, everything else at the fort was demolished in 1970. The fort was first restored in 1997, making it look more like a modern building. It became a museum that same year, although it was not until 2015 that the Sharjah government restored it to its current appearance. As a museum it is not worth much and as a fort you will have the opportunity to see other much more impressive forts in the United Arab Emirates.

Islamic Civilization Museum

The building is on Corniche street and was originally a market near the central souk. In my opinion it is probably the best museum in the world to understand the Islamic civilization. Admission is cheap and the collection of objects and works of art is well worth it.

The collection includes religious manuscripts, handwritten copies of the Qur’an, calligraphy, beautifully painted pottery and glass, and 5,000 more artifacts from the 7th to the 13th centuries AD. The dome of the museum itself is a remarkable example of Islamic architecture. Objects from the Abbasid, Umayyad, Mughal and Ottoman periods are preserved. The collection of astrolabes in the Ibn Al-Haytham Gallery of Science and Technology takes us back to the golden age of the Islamic world’s travellers, scientists and discoverers. It can take at least a couple of hours to visit.

Al Khan Beach

Beautiful and relaxed beach in one of the areas that are going to become fashionable in Sharjah. There is an entrance fee and it is purposely hidden from the view of passers-by. The sand is white and the water perfect for swimming. It is quite visited by foreigners so the dress code is quite similar to what we consider normal. There are no bars on the beach.

Sharjah Art Museum

Surprising collection of art for its disposition to be admired by the public as well as for its quality. Coming from Europe or America, you may not know most of the artists who exhibit their works here, but they are well worth discovering.

You can park for free and the price of admission is more than offset by the price of the visit.

Bujaira Corniche

It’s a lovely walk with the Ottoman-style Al Noor Mosque in front of the skyscrapers. The promenade overlooks Al Noor Island, just as the best views of the corniche are from the island. The promenade has numerous restaurants to taste all kinds of international cuisine at good prices.

Al Noor Island

It is the newest tourist attraction in Sharjah, although it is honestly worth more for the views of the city from it than for the island itself. It was inaugurated in 2015, as an oasis island in the Khalid lagoon. A pedestrian bridge connects the island with the city and to access it you have to pay an entrance fee. The island is small and the entrance is expensive.

On the island there is a somewhat strange park with artistic elements of questionable taste scattered throughout it. The island has light performing decorations that change color depending on the time of day and there are art light installations. There is also a trampoline that you inexplicably can’t jump on but has great views of the city.

The butterfly house is the biggest attraction on the island and is home to some 500 butterflies of 20 different species. The price of admission becomes more expensive if you want to enter it. The pavilion of literature is a building in which a rather impossible calmness is called for because of the presence of the many visitors who come to see this strange place.

Al Huda Mosque

This is an example of a very popular mosque. It won’t appear on any of the tourist list but it means the odd of a great visit to a real and beautiful mosque. It can be very crowded on popular festivities and special religious days. Nevertheless, it is in a very good location, in the Al Khan neighborhood. It has a very big parking lot and there are many restaurants around. 

Sharjah Cultural Square

It is just a roundabout for cars. Otherwise it could have been a very nice spot to walk surrounded by cultural buildings. Around this fake square there are some very meaningful buildings for culture in Sharjah. Such as the extraordinary Sharjah Public Library, the Cultural Palace and the Ahmad Ibn Hanbal Mosque.

Mleiha Archaeological Site

In Mleiha you will be able to explore and discover Sharjah’s ancient past through its heritage and tombs. You can visit the area for free on your own or you can contact the visitor center in advance to check your chances of getting an organized tour. There is an exhibition at Mleiha Archaeological Center based on the history and archaeology of the areas surrounding the village of Mleiha. If you are not an expert, can be a good idea to just visit the tombs and save the ticket money.

Khor Fakkan

Khor Fakkan is a city and enclave of the Emirate of Sharjah, located on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), facing the Gulf of Oman, and geographically surrounded by the Emirate of Fujairah. It has a beautiful old market, a fort museum that can be visited and some exclusive cafes where wealthy locals gather to drink coffee and juice at incomprehensibly expensive prices. Strolling through the streets of Khor Fakkan and approaching the sea can be a pleasant experience. It seems to be a good place to live in the United Arab Emirates, if one can tolerate the heat and the limitations of the local rules of conduct.

How to get to Sharjah

You can get to Sharjah in different ways:

  • Taxi. You can book a taxi for half a day or a whole day. The price of a taxi for 6 hours is about 500 dirhams. It is a very convenient option in groups of more than two people.
  • Rent a car: It can be done from many places from Dubai or Abu Dhabi. The most convenient option is from the airports. Our experience says that it is not expensive, although the level of professionals that you will find is surely low. Stay with the simplest rental they can offer you.
  • Bus: There are buses from various stations in Dubai every few minutes and at an affordable price. It is the cheapest option and the buses will take you to the city center. In the United Arab Emirates, all public transport routes are safe and reliable.

Where to sleep in Sharjah

Sharjah has a good network of hotels at very competitive prices. The vast majority of them have very appropriate standards and the competition with Dubai forces Sharjah to moderate prices. You will not find in Sharjah, however, accommodations with bars or other entertainment like in Dubai if one is willing to pay for it.

  • TIME Express Hotel Al Khan: Excellent location in Al Khan and good value for money. The restaurant is quite fair in terms of quality and they only prepare breakfast. The pool could use a renovation. The staff is really nice, professional and friendly.

Enjoy our discounts in Sharjah

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5 Replies to “Discover Sharjah, the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates”

  1. I’ve really enjoyed your posts on the Middle East, and have learnt a lot about the region. I’m planning a trip for either 2023 or 2024 and these have been so helpful 🙂

  2. Great information and beautiful photos. I would love to see the mosques and the beaches someday.

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