Not as popular as nearby Dubai, Sharjah is the third largest city in the UAE. Declared Arab Capital of Culture by Unesco, the city features a scenic old quarter, a series of museums dedicated in local heritage and a growing and thriving art scene. If not for the stricter Islamic law, Sharjah could have outshined its dazzling neighbours. However, no alcohol is served here and visitors of both sexes should be cautious about revealing clothing.
Sharjah is served by nine frequent bus routes, while a couple of express buses link the city centre to the airport. However, taxi is still the most preferred way of transportation among visitors. Taxi cabs are easy to find on the street, but you can also book a ride if you like. Rides to and from the airport and Dubai are charged with an extra fee.
Things to see and do in Sharjah
Dive into the city’s rich history by paying a visit to Sharjah Archaeological Museum. Exhibiting artefacts from the Stone Age up to 6th century, the museum’s collections include anything from ancient ceramics and jewellery to restored tombs and Roman coins. For better understanding the area’s Islamic past, head to Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization. From Arabic discoveries in the field of astronomy to Islamic manuscripts to local crafts, everything you need to know about Islamic culture is on display in this museum.
Sharjah Heritage Museum is an excellent ethnographic museum, which houses fascinating displays on all aspects of domestic lifestyle. The building’s five galleries feature exhibits that present all kinds of local rituals and activities from traditional wedding ceremonies to living in the desert. If you appreciate folk displays also try the city’s Calligraphy Museum.
If you enjoyed the Heritage Museum, don’t miss Heritage Area. Resembling an open air museum, the Heritage area consists of two old neighbourhoods (Al Maraija and Al Sheyoukh) which feature beautifully restored traditional houses and picturesque lanes. No typical Arab parish is complete without a traditional souq (bazaar). Heritage Area includes Souq Al Arsah, one of the UAE’s oldest markets. Mostly tourist oriented nowadays, the souq features dozens of stores selling spice, jewellery and souvenirs.
From traditional to modern Sharjah, take a long stroll around the city’s well-developed waterfront. Locals come here with their families to enjoy the laser and music shows of Sharjah Fountain, dine in one of the many waterside eateries or have some fun at Al Majaz Minigolf. Close to the waterfront stands Sharjah Aquarium. Not the largest or most impressive of its kind, the aquarium still features a satisfying variety of marine creatures, from notorious sharks to translucent jellyfish.
Al Qasba is a nice alternative to Sharjah’s waterfront. Spreading around a short canal, the area is filled with cafes and restaurants. Here you will find Eye of the Emirates, a Ferris wheel similar to the one in London (London Eye). Take a ride to enjoy some fascinating panoramic views of the city. Those who appreciate contemporary art should also visit nearby Maraya Art Centre. Sister project of Maraya Art Cantre, Maraya Art Park is an open-air art gallery which presents contemporary sculptures and other artistic installations.
Art enthusiasts should not miss Sharjah Art Museum. Surrounded by other art-related facilities, such as studios and lovely galleries, the museum features an excellent collection of artworks by local artists and oriental-associated international pieces. Arab contemporary art is mixed with 19th-century European masterpieces, establishing this museum as a must-see when in Sharjah.