Sharjah, otherwise called the cultural capital of the UAE, is a neighboring emirate of Dubai. And also one of the major economic centers in the country. Despite its proximity to Dubai, Sharjah has its own distinctive culture and heritage.
With its many numbers of museums and opportunities for educational as well as fun trips, Sharjah has a top place in tourism radar. Here is a list of places to cover in your next visit here.
Al Noor Island
Opened in 2015, this oasis island in Khalid lagoon is a more recent attraction in Sharjah.
This park is an amalgamation of many tastes in the middle of the water. A pedestrian bridge connects the island to the mainland. The Island is decorated with lights that change colors to suit the time of the day. During dusk and dawn, everything becomes more exuberant.
Butterfly house, the biggest attraction in the island, is home to 500 butterflies from 20 different species. The climate-controlled encasement helps these insects to thrive and is also an architectural marvel. Entry here is not covered in the ticket fee to the island, though.
Besides all the natural elements, modern sculptures and artworks are spread all over the island.
Literature pavilion is for the souls who want to escape from the noisy city and go into the luscious world of words. The whimsical pavilion has soft cushions and pleasant sound of the fountain for you to curl up and read a book or jot some metered lines.
You might even like to spend the whole day here, strolling around and chugging something from the Noor Cafe when you are hungry.
Heart of Sharjah
Heart of Sharjah gives a complete picture of the forgotten era that was decades ago. To date, this is the largest heritage site in Sharjah. Currently in its first phase of development, the place is a love letter to history and traditions. The development is set to complete by the end of 2025.
Meticulous care has been taken to preserve the details and aura of mid 90s. The vision of the project is to preserve the cultural legacy for future generations. It is also conveniently located near to the main centers in the city.
Heart of Sharjah will encompass the existing museums and galleries once the project is complete. In 2014, UNESCO added Heart of Sharjah to its list of World Heritage sites.
Al Bait Hotel in Heart of Sharjah is an illustration of how to integrate tradition with modernity. The hotel is a modern adaptation of traditional architecture and construction. From the timber ceilings to wall finishing and alcoves, the hotel is an honest representation of the 50s
Though surrounded by Fujairah on one side and the sea on the other, Khor Fakkan is technically a part of the emirate of Sharjah. It is a solid one and a half-an-hour drive away from the main city of Sharjah.
Khorfakkan has one of the largest ports in the country. You will probably see entire armadas of cruise and container ships docked on the harbor. A little off the cost is Shark Island, which is the spot for snorkeling and diving. There are countless options for adventure sports and fun in the Khor Fakkan beach as well.
Hugged by Hajar mountains and blessed with lush natural landscapes and stunning beaches, this place has every ingredient to steal your heart.
Al Badayer Oasis
A palace in the middle of sands is literally what Al Badayer is. This oasis with coral-colored sand is a center for desert exploration in Sharjah.
Experience the Bedouin lifestyle and cuisine with the adrenaline rush of dune bashing.
But it’s not just a desert camp. In fact, this resort is bathed in luxury with swimming pools and business suites.
Sharjah Classic Cars Museum
Located near Sharjah International airport, Classic cars museum is a part of Sharjah Classic Car Club. The museum displays cars even from the early 1900s. The oldest car in the lineup — a Dodge — dates back to 1915.
Apart from the classic cars and vintage trucks, there is an old Mercedes Limousine that belongs to the ruler of Sharjah. Depending on the history and stages of development, the museum is divided into different sections.
Motorheads and classic car lovers should never miss this place. Having said that, this spot is easy to overlook because not many people know about it.
Al Montazah Parks
This is another tourist attraction in Khalid Lagoon. The Montazah Park, previously called Al Jazeera Park, recently underwent a massive makeover. The park has two sections: a waterpark called Pearls Kingdom and the Island of Legends which is an open-air adventure park.
The Eye of Emirates giant wheel which was originally in Al Qasba was moved here inside the Island of Legends in 2018. That itself is the most important attraction in the park. There are also many other rides that are mostly suitable for children. But the Volcano Tower is for a little more intrepid lads.
The Pearls Kingdom is the only water-themed park in Sharjah. This is yet another recent addition to Al Montazah park. The park was designed with keeping safety first in mind.
Mlieha Archeological Center
A proof of human civilization in the deserts of Sharjah that dates back to tens of thousands of years ago. That’s the apt way to describe Mleiha. It’s interesting to witness the evidence of social life once thrived in these desolate deserts because we usually think of the UAE post its oil discovery.
Mlieha is an archeological site located 60 km away from central Sharjah. If you drive, it will take you around 45 minutes. Several objects have been unearthed here that are at least 120,000 years old including stone and bronze weapons, pottery, and burial tombs.
It even has enough to satiate the thrill-seekers. Dune bashing near the fossil rocks in a 4×4 is something worth trying.
Mlieha has become the center for sustainable tourism in Sharjah, given the importance of the area and what lies beneath it. But choose winters when you go because you will be spending a lot of time outdoors.
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation
Located on corniche street is the vault that houses the gems from Islamic history. The structure itself is remarkable. Originally meant as a marketplace near the Central Souq, this large embodiment of the emirate’s heritage stands high on the bank of Sharjah Creek. The huge dome with intricate detailing itself is an exemplary work of Islamic architecture.
The collection includes religious manuscripts, handwritten copies of the Quran, calligraphy, beautifully painted pottery and glass, and 5000 more artifacts dating back to the 7th century all the way up to the 13th century AD. There are also handicrafts made of silver, gold, and brass.
Apart from the Abbasids and Umayyad eras, antique items from Mughal and Ottoman periods are housed here. The collection of astrolabes in Ibn Al-Haytham Gallery of Science and Technology and coinage probes the curious to dig deep into the Islamic golden age.
The museum has six galleries spread over two floors. It will take you a few hours to walk around and see all the relics. This is also an excellent place to get an insight into the fundamentals of Islamic faith and traditions.
Other good things about the museum are its proximity to major attractions in Sharjah and the nominal ticket price. It is a place where you can visit in a lazy afternoon with your kids.
Al Mahatta Fort – Sharjah Aviation Museum
In the early ages of air travel, planes were not ready to fly long routes without stopping. They had to stop and refuel before resuming the journey. Often this meant a staycation at the place of stopover. In 1932, The imperial airways airplanes needed an overnight stopover somewhere in the area in the Arabian peninsula that was controlled by various sheikdoms.
All the rulers rejected the request for an airstrip except for the then ruler of Sharjah — Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi II, who ruled Sharjah from 1924 to 1951. He built the airstrip in 1932 and a fort for protection against Bedouin raids. In return, the aviation company agreed to pay rent, and the ruler secured the right to reroute the British ships through Sharjah ports, thus improving the economy of Sharjah.
This was the birth of the first airport in the whole region. After unification, Al Mahatta fort became the first airport in the UAE. It functioned as an airport until 1977 until the building of the Sharjah International airport.
◉ The Aviation Museum
Today the fort houses the Sharjah aviation museum. The museum curates the history of flying and air travel in the UAE. It was opened in 1998, after decades of disrepair, by the present ruler of Sharjah Sultan Mohammed al Qasimi.
It also has a collection of old airplane models and flight equipment. The first plane to land in Mahatta airstrip named the Hanno is on display in the museum.
The museum is on King Abdul Aziz Street and it resembles the traditional buildings of the old days and was constructed using the same techniques.
Interestingly, the first movie house in the Arabian Gulf was set up in the Mahatta fort. This cinema, tiny compared to modern-day multiplexes, is an interesting part of the display. Chairs here are empty kerosene cans half-filled with sand. Travelers who stayed in the fort for the stop over watched short movies and documentaries on this screen.
Sharjah Fort – Al Hisn al Sharjah Museum
The fort was built by Sultan al Saqr al Qasimi. But not the same person who built the Mahatta fort. This one is a century older than the Mahatta fort. Hisn al Sharjah was built sometime around 1820.
At the time of its construction, it was the largest and most significant building in Sharjah. In its lifetime as a fort, it served as the residence of the Sharjah ruling family and the headquarters of the government.
Although it was converted to a museum in 1997, it wasn’t until 2015 when the Sharjah government renovated it into its present form as part of the Heart of Sharjah project.
When compared to Al Fahidi fort in Dubai, Sharjah fort looks a lot modern. This is because, except for the tower that stands on the southern side, everything else was demolished in 1970. The fort was first restored in 1997.
Fort was built using coral stones and was covered with light brown plaster. Coral stones were a popular building material in those times. It is in the middle of the Rolla city in Sharjah. Amidst tall concrete structures, the fort looks a bit out of place. But the whole area will take on a similar outlook with the Heart of the Sharjah project nears its completion.
The fort served as a center of defense to protect the city from the bedouin attack and also the attack neighboring sheikdoms. Notable artifacts in the museum include the royal bed, several cannons, and a Quran stand that belonged to the ruler Sheikh Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi.
The Buried Village
Although not of any historical significance or nothing particular about its modernity, this place in Sharjah is notable for the mystery that it holds. The buried village is literally a village lost in the sands of the desert. The village, or it once was, just outside the town of Madam in Sharjah.
According to the locals, the houses, that are half-buried in the sand, belonged to the people of Kutbi tribe. The mysterious part is nobody knows why they left or what happened to them. It is strange that it lies near a well-populated township in the emirate.
The village consists of two rows of blue and red houses on either side of a street with a mosque at one end of it. They were all built in the 70s. The wind has done the job of burying them in the sand. A few of the houses have sand covering the top of their roofs while others, including the mosque, have their interiors filled to the knee height in the sand.
There is no public transport to the area. Also, the village is in the middle of the desert. So you will need a four-wheel-drive to take you there. There are some nice sand dunes near the village so you can double the visit to an offroading trip as well.
Maraya Arts Center
Sharjah is known as the cultural capital of the UAE. It has a slew of centers and events that promote arts and culture. Maraya arts center is one such establishment. And a remarkable one indeed.
The arts center was established back in 2006. And since then, it saw continuous development improving and keeping up with the modern trends in the art world. The center provides a stage for budding artists to promote their works.
Art galleries in Maraya speak of the heritage and history of Sharjah using modern art. They also help the artists through workshops and lectures by internationally acknowledged experts in each field.
Maraya arts center has different, including Maraya arts gallery, 1971 Design Space, Maraya Art Park, Maraya Residencies, Jedariya, and Maraya Project Space. The Jedariya project in which several beautiful buildings became canvases for artists like el Seed was an initiative by Maraya center.
The center has been a great help for the local artists to polish and develop their skills by learning from different well-known artists from different parts of the world.
This is a must-visit spot in Sharjah if you are an art lover. The Maraya arts center is located in Qasba, a busy and beautiful neighborhood in Sharjah, and also a famous tourist location.
Located near al khan corniche street, Al Qasba is a prominent tourist attraction in Sharjah. It is also a waterfront town similar to, but not to the scale of, Dubai Marina. The famous Ferris wheel stood here along the waterway before it being moved to the Montazah water theme park.
Along the Qasba canal is the largest entertainment district in Sharjah. There are various places like art houses, theatres, and numerous kids play zone. The canal offers rides on the traditional boats. If you want to row your own boat, then rent a water cart on an hourly basis. There is another track on the bank for Byky karts. Unlike the water kart, which is only allowed for adults, the Byky kart is for everyone, including children.