If there’s one thing that will strike you the moment you land in Sharjah, it’s the fact that they are doing everything they can to preserve their history, culture and traditions in the most organised fashion. Be it the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization or the Rain Room by the Sharjah Art Foundation — the meticulousness in the way they preserve and present art and culture and, of course, history is unmissable.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Islamic world, Sharjah might actually be a good place to be introduced to its many layers. And after you are done soaking in history, head out on a safari. Yes, you read that right. The Sharjah Safari is one of their newest attractions, and while it’s a constant work in progress, it can be a whole lot of fun.
So, whether you spend a weekend there or a whole week, you’ll always find something to do in Sharjah, and that does not even include a trip to the Sharjah Cricket Stadium, although it does come highly recommended if cricket is your thing. Here’s a quick ready reckoner to help you get started:
1. Heart of Sharjah
Perhaps one of the biggest projects undertaken by the tourism board, Sharjah Heritage Area, or rather the Heart of Sharjah, is a stellar example of the city’s attempt to preserve traditional Emirati architecture. It gives visitors a lovely glimpse of their life from decades ago, a life that is often forgotten under the pressures of modernisation. The area includes several museums such as the Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, the Bait al-Naboodah Museum, Hisn Fort Museum, the Sharjah Heritage Museum along with Souk Al Arsah — all of which are worth a visit.
The Sharjah Heritage Museum is dedicated to the research, preservation and presentation of the traditions, customs and culture of Sharjah. The Bait al-Naboodah Museum, which was originally the home of the famous pearl merchant Al Naboodah, is quite interesting as well. Not only does it give a peek into the life of the merchant, but it also showcases how their architecture was often influenced by other cultures, including India. Across the Bait al-Naboodah is Souk Al Arsah, one of the oldest marketplaces in Sharjah, where you can find old-school coffee houses still.
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2. The Rain Room
Ever imagined walking in the rain and not quite getting soaked? The Rain Room is an absolute marvel — a project by the London and Berlin-based art group, Random International. This permanent installation uses about 2,500 litres of self-cleaning recycled water, which is controlled through a system of networked 3D tracking cameras.
The work explores how humankind's relationships with one another and with nature are increasingly mediated through intangible technologies. You walk into a fairly dark room and into a demarcated area. Slowly, the sensors feel you and the water pours like rain all around you. You have to be a bit slow; if you rush, you get drenched. But a slow dance in the rain is something you must put on your list, not to mention the gorgeous photos you can click.
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3. The Sharjah Art Museum
Not many end up here, especially tourists, but the Sharjah Art Museum is where you’ll find a wide range of artworks by local as well as international artists. The art museum is not only home to at least 500 works of art but across its three storeys, it also contains about 4,000 titles in Arabic, English and other languages in the Art Library section. It’s a paradise for art lovers and bibliophiles.
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4. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is home to over 5,000 artefacts from the Islamic world — from manuscripts to pottery and ceramics. And their interactive exhibits tell visitors a lot about Islamic astronomy, medicine and so on.
The Islamic Museum was first inaugurated in the Heritage Area in November 1996 and then moved to its current venue in June 2008. This stunning building has seven galleries spread across its spacious area, focusing on Islamic art, science exhibits and coins display. It also houses a temporary exhibition area for shows where art from across the world is displayed.
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It’s difficult to tear oneself away from Al-Qasaba, the canal-side development where you can find cafes, shops, restaurants and lots of chatter. The vibe itself is addictive, whether you are alone or with friends/family. Al-Qasba has stunning places to just sit, indulge in a big meal or nibble on snacks and watch time pass you by.
From Arabic food and sushi to coffee and even donuts — this place is where you have to be seen. But whatever you do, don’t forget a boat ride, where you can just sit back and enjoy the evening breeze as the dazzling lights of Sharjah dot the banks of the canal.
6. The Sharjah Safari
If you’re a wild child or rather one that loves a spot of the wilderness, you must check out the safari at Sharjah. A brand-new tourist destination, th Sharjah Safari was inaugurated only in February 2022. And what’s interesting is that they have actually tried to recreate what you might find on an African safari. So, from lions and elephants to giraffes and crocodiles, this safari is as thrilling as it can get, closer to home.
This conservation is home to more than 120 species of animals, so you have quite a lot to spot. And the entire region has been split into 12 environments, each inspired by African terrains. And while a large part of the safari is by car, you also get to experience some of the flora and fauna while on a guided walking tour.
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7. Dune riding in the desert
If you like your heart and your kidneys to be lodged in your throat because hey, adventure comes first, do not miss a desert safari in Sharjah. It’s an experience that will make your toes curl, your brain whirr and your heart skip several beats. A trained dune driver is assigned to you — they have to be licenced — and he packs you into a jeep and goes into the desert, chasing dunes.
The experience, in one word, is mental. But it ends on a good note if you can catch the sunset. That ball of flaming sun as it dips below the horizon, and your evening ending over a traditional Emirati meal, your organs will settle and your nerves will be calm. You can also take camel rides into the desert in case a speeding jeep is not your thing.
8. The grand old mosques
The grandeur of Islamic architecture is undeniable. Be it a traditional structure or something modern, their attention to detail is quite hard to ignore. For instance, the mosques in Sharjah. The two that you must definitely check out are the Sharjah Mosque and the Al Noor Mosque.
Stunning designs with intricate detailing — these two landmarks have got to be on your list of things to see. The Al Noor Mosque welcomes visitors from all faiths, and its detailed blue and gold mosaic patterns and the tall minarets make it a great spot to photograph. However, be sure to be dressed appropriately and cover your head before you enter the mosque.
9. The souks of Sharjah
If you’ve never seen gold dripping from glass showcases, you have to visit the Central Souk in Sharjah. It’s a sight to behold, and while you might not buy anything apart from ice cream — soft serves are quite popular here — the dazzle of jewellery, from the tiniest of pieces to ornate ones, will mesmerise you. You also get traditional Arab clothing and spices and textiles here, but it’s the gold that everyone wants.