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Discovering Sharjah: A Unique Blend of Tradition and Modernity


Sharjah, UAE
Sharjah, UAE

Just a short drive from Dubai, Sharjah might seem like an extension of its bustling neighbor, but it has its own distinct vibe and spirit. Think of Sharjah as a more intimate and human-scaled version of a modern city. It’s a place that deeply values its rich heritage while simultaneously shaping a unique contemporary cultural identity.

As the sun sets, the skyline of Sharjah, dotted with skyscrapers, stands tall against a vibrant orange sky. In the foreground, you'll see Al Noor Island, a lush green space featuring some stunning architecture at its heart. This visual contrast perfectly encapsulates the essence of Sharjah – a city that seamlessly blends natural beauty with urban sophistication.


1. Immerse Yourself in the Thriving Art Scene

While some emirates chase cultural prestige with high-profile projects, Sharjah has quietly built a strong, community-focused art scene. The Sharjah Art Foundation is a key player here, organizing cutting-edge exhibits and the prestigious Sharjah Biennial art expo. If you’re into Middle Eastern art, the Sharjah Art Museum is a must-visit. Opened in 1997 as the UAE's first art museum, it showcases classic and modern works, including a new wing dedicated to Arab Modernist pieces. For a journey through 1300 years of regional arts and crafts, visit the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, housed in a beautifully converted souk topped with a golden dome.


2. Experience the Magic of the Rain Room

In a place where rain is a rare occurrence, the Rain Room offers a unique experience. Created by Random International, this art installation makes it rain continuously indoors. But don’t worry about getting wet – motion sensors detect your presence and stop the rain wherever you step. After successful runs in London, New York, and Los Angeles, the Rain Room now has a permanent home in Sharjah, thanks to the Sharjah Art Foundation.


3. Enjoy Family Fun in Sharjah’s Entertainment Zones

Sharjah isn’t just about culture; it’s also a fantastic place for family fun. Al Qasba, located along a scenic canal, offers a lively mix of cafes, carousels, boat rides, and shops. On the southern edge of Khalid Lagoon, Al Majaz Waterfront is famous for its stunning dancing fountain that lights up the night. Al Noor Island, also in the lagoon, provides a peaceful escape with its extensive gardens, a huge playground, and a beautiful Butterfly House.


4. Shop Till You Drop in Traditional Souqs

Shopping in Sharjah is a treat, especially in its traditional souqs. The Central Souq, with its 600 stores spread across two beautifully decorated buildings, offers everything from clothing and jewelry to carpets and antiques. Souq Al Arsah, the oldest bazaar in Sharjah, is a labyrinth filled with pashminas, Bedouin jewelry, and other treasures. For a modern twist on traditional shopping, visit Souq Al Shanasiyah, which features high-end local brands and unique finds.


5. Dive into Sharjah’s Ancient History

For over 40 years, archaeologists have been uncovering Sharjah’s ancient past. The Mleiha Archaeological Centre showcases some of the most spectacular finds, including artifacts and skeletal remains dating back to the Paleolithic era. This stunning sandstone-and-copper building also serves as a launchpad for desert adventures, offering 4WD tours, cycling, horseback riding, and hiking.


6. Explore the Untamed Beauty of Kalba

Kalba, a Sharjah exclave on the border with Oman, is a haven for nature lovers. Its serene lagoons, mangroves, and coastal areas attract numerous bird species, including rare ones like the white-collared kingfisher. As an emerging eco-tourism destination, Kalba offers activities such as kayaking through mangroves, bird watching, and staying at the luxurious Kingfisher Lodge.


7. Drive Through the Epic Hajar Mountains

Sharjah’s east coast exclave, Khor Fakkan, is a bustling city with a beautiful sandy beach and palm-lined promenade. Thanks to a new highway that took 14 years to build, you can now travel from Sharjah to Khor Fakkan in under an hour. This scenic road winds through the rugged Hajar Mountains, passing through five tunnels and offering breathtaking views, especially at the Al Rafisah Dam rest area.


8. Discover Dibba’s Rich History

Dibba Al Hisn, Sharjah’s northernmost exclave on the east coast, sits at the foot of the Hajar Mountains and along a sweeping bay. Historically significant, Dibba was the site of a major battle during the Ridda Wars in 632 AD. Today, it’s a peaceful place where you can see fishermen at work and visit a cemetery that commemorates this pivotal moment in Islamic history.

Sharjah, with its unique blend of tradition and modernity, offers a diverse range of experiences that cater to all kinds of travelers. Whether you're an art enthusiast, a history buff, or a nature lover, Sharjah has something special to offer.


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