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Emirate of Museums
The former is an ode to the maritime history of the gulf region, particularly showcasing the various ships, their designs and how this marine culture affected culture on land in these parts. Special emphasis has been placed on showing oyster catching & pearl diving techniques.
The latter showcases Islamic culture & civilization across the Islamic & non-Islamic worlds. Replicas & pictographs of mosques from across the world are on display. Also of particular interest in this museum is the section on science & technology which displays the various scientific tools & machines which were used by Arabs in earlier times in warfare, industry & agriculture. Particular emphasis has been placed on water drawing techniques in the arid Arab lands.
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Getting to Sharjah
Transit time: 4hrs from major cities
Cost ₹6,000 per person
Sharjah is the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It is the most populous city among the three, and contributes around 7.5% of the GDP of UAE. Considered the cultural capital of the UAE, Sharjah was named as the capital of Islamic culture in 2014.
Sharjah is one of the wealthiest province in the UAE and has been in existence for over five thousand years. The third largest among the seven UAE provinces, Sharjah established itself as an independent emirate under the rule of the Al Qawassim family in the early eighteenth century.
Sharjah faced many turbulent times in the sixteenth century, with the Portuguese taking command of the eastern coast to establish its control over the spice trade. The Portuguese rule lasted for over a century until the Dutch gained control of the province.
The British arrived in the seventeenth century and started trading with the Qawassim family, the fore-fathers of today’s rulers. By the turn of the century, the relations between the British and the Qawassim family deteriorated, resulting in the first major land attack in 1809, followed by the signing of a major peace treaty between the two parties.
Why You Should Visit
The city of Sharjah is the cultural capital of the UAE, and has preserved its Islamic identity even in changing modern times. The city offers an interesting assortment of reasons as to why people come here so often.
Sharjah is an ideal family destination with a variety of enjoyment avenues for the younger and the older generation.
Located on the Arabian Gulf, Sharjah offers a variety of private and public beaches on its coast. In addition to public beaches including the Al Khan and Khor Fakkan beach, Sharjah has the best of water lagoons, rich creeks, and water sports.
Sharjah is the cultural capital of the Arab world, and hosts a variety of historic museums and exhibitions, displaying its rich heritage and artwork.
Sharjah is also known for its multi-cuisine restaurants, thus making it a popular destination for tourists from all around the world.
Sharjah offers plenty of sightseeing locations including top attractions such as the Eye of the Emirates, the Al Majaz waterfront, the Sharjah Aquarium, and the Sharjah Desert Park.
Sharjah is filled with gold jewelry shops and markets, where you can buy the best of Middle Eastern ornaments and accessories.
The city of Sharjah is filled with tourist attractions and sites.
The Sharjah Arts Museum is the largest arts museum in the UAE. Operating since 1997, this arts museum is a must visit for arts enthusiasts, with collections from Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, the ruler of Sharjah, and eighteenth century artwork from painters. With over seventy-two galleries, the art collection is spread over three floors.
A ride on the Eye of the Emirates offers a spectacular aerial view of Sharjah and even parts of Dubai. Located in the Al Qasba suburb, this giant Ferris wheel has over forty-two air-conditioned cabins and rises 60 meters above the ground.
The Al-Noor mosque is located on the Khaled lagoon at the Buhaira Corniche. One of the few mosques that is open to the general public, this endearing mosque features an architecture that is inspired from the Turkish Ottoman era.
For a pleasant and fun-filled evening with your family, do not miss the Al Majaz waterfront. This attractive waterfront features a variety of family attractions including the Family train, the Sharjah fountain, the Maraya Art Park, along with laser shows and fireworks.
Among all the beaches in Sharjah, the Khor Fakkan beach, located on Sharjah’s Indian Ocean coast is easily the best. It is located on the quaint Khor Fakkan bay, and is a paradise for deep-sea divers and swimmers. Popular spots in this beach is the Shark island, the Rifaisa Dam, and the Al Wurrayah falls.
Experience the peace of village life in the quaint fishing village of Kalba, located on the southern side of Sharjah. Popular for its fresh produce of fish, the highlight of Kalba is the Khor Kalba creek and amazing sand beaches. To the south of this village, you can visit the Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve, which is a paradise for bird watchers and contains some mangrove forests.
The Central Market of Sharjah is another tourist landmark in the city. Nicknamed as the “Blue Souk” for the blue tile work on its exteriors, the market consists of over 600 shops in its vicinity, including gold and jewelry shops. The market has an aura of a traditional Arabian bazaar and is located in the Khaled lagoon.
If you are interested in the natural flora and fauna of the Arabian desert, a must visit is the Natural History museum and the Desert park, where you can learn about Arabian desert habitats and farm animals.
Favourite Local Foods
The United Arab Emirates offers a variety of traditional cuisines, available all over the country, including Sharjah. The traditional food of UAE is unique in taste, and contains loads of spices, just like Indian food. Besides rice, Arab dishes is based on fish and meat as the main ingredients.
Listed below are some local foods that one must taste when in Sharjah:
A must-eat for meat lovers is the Stuffed Camel, with ingredients comprising of a whole camel, lamb, chicken, boiled eggs, fish, and rice. The camel is roasted and is stuffed with major ingredients for an amazing taste.
The Al Harees is an exotic local dish made of meat and wheat. Generally served during Ramadan and Eid festivals, this dish comprises of a smooth paste, containing meat and wheat cooked with boiling water, and some spices.
The Shawarma has become popular in most Asian countries. Made using chicken or lamb, this kebab-like dish contains a variety of ingredients including garlic sauce, pickles, fries, and tomatoes, all of which are wrapped in Arabian roti.
Al Machboos is another traditional dish served in the UAE, comprising of ingredients such as rice, meat, onion, and dried lemon. All the ingredients are cooked in boiling water to make them tender.
There are a number of local restaurants in Sharjah that are a must for food lovers, including the following:
Milas restaurant, located in the Denim district, offers traditional Emirates home-cooked dishes and karak-spiced tea.
For the best seafood servings, hop into the Seashells restaurant in the Ahmed bin Dar-eish Square that serves fried (or grilled) shrimps, tuna fish, and hammour among other exotic dishes, all at very low prices.
Overlooking the Sharjah fountain in the Al Majaz park is the El Manza restaurant, popular for its serving of authentic Moroccan dishes prepared using the fresehst of aromatic spices.
Favourite Local Things to Buy
Sharjah is the hub of shopping centers and shopping markets, selling a variety of valuable items that you can carry back home. Here are some of the prominent shopping markets for tourist shopping:
The Blue Souq (Souq Al Markazi) is one of the largest souqs in Sharjah and is so named after its blue vaulted roof. There are over 600 shops in this market, where you can find the best of gold jewelry and gems, silver jewelry, antiques, rugs, Omani and Yemeni antique jewelry, as well as the latest electronic items.
For the best shopping bargains, you must not miss the Sharjah Central Souk, where you can buy colourful antique lamps from Morocco, Persia, and Turkey, as well as antique gift items (such as old compasses, telescopes, and clocks) all at the best discounted prices. Silk shawls and pashminas are a favourite buy in this souk.
The Sharjah City Centre on Al Wahda street is one of the largest shopping malls in Sharjah. It has a large collection of shops and restaurants, which makes it a must-go destination. Besides the latest fashion wear, this mall is good for buying jewelry and watches.
You can also get unique gifts in Sharjah including the Omani hodgari frankincense, the Khanjar blade worn by Bedouin tribe men, and the bukhoor incense stick.
Things to do in Sharjah
There is a wide array of activities that one can indulge in as a family while staying at Sharjah, including:
Spend the day in the Al Qasba suburb where you can go for an art exhibition, a concert, or for a ride in the Eye of the Emirates observation wheel. You can also wait till evening for the musical fountain show.
Tour the Desert Park containing the Arabian Wildlife Centre among other museums. Catch up with the Arabian leopard, Arabian wolf, caracals, and other animals found in the Arab peninsula.
Keep yourself and your family entertained with a fun-filled evening at the Al Majaz waterfront with a mix of golfing spots, splash parks, and restaurants. You can also treat yourself to the Sharjah Fountain with lights and music.
Interested in some adventure biking in the Sharjah deserts. Go for the 4-wheel dune bashing and quad biking in the sand dunes of the Arabian desert. There are several operators you can approach to book you for this experience.
Spend the day in the white sand-filled beaches around Sharjah, including the Al Corniche and the Al Khan beaches. Ensure that you are adequately protected from the harsh sun, and that you follow a strict dress code, as this is a conservative land.
For a lesson in Arab history, head to the recently-restored Al Hisn fort, home to the Sharjah Hisn museum, showcasing the 200 years of Sharjah history.
VISA and Travel
Tourists visiting the United Arab Emirates must have a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of entering the UAE. The duration of stay in the UAE is determined by the type of tourist visa.
UAE does not issue tourist visas on ordinary passports of Indian nationals. A tourist visa can only be obtained by a UAE-based sponsor, on booking a hotel in the UAE, or by booking tickets on international flights such as the Emirates or Air Arabia. Applicant with sponsors can submit their visa application form at the Dubai Visa application centers located in India.
Tourists, travelling by Emirates, can approach the VFS Global Services for processing their visa applications. As an Indian national, you can apply for different type of visas, including for single-entry short-term visits (96 hours, 14 days, 30 days, or 90 days), or for multiple-entry long-term visas (30 days or 90 days).
Note: AED or Emirati Dirham is the currency of UAE. The current exchange rate is 1AED = 18.52 INR.
The year 2014 recorded a 23% rise in the number of Indian tourists visiting Sharjah, with over 135,000 tourists in the year. The Sharjah Tourism board has conducted a number of road shows in Indian cities to woo travelers to their city.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Sharjah is its winter season between the months of October and April. During this period, the city experience a comfortable temperature of mid-twenty degrees centigrade with the mercury falling still further during the nights. The humidity is also low during this season, making it the peak tourist season in Sharjah.
Summer season in Sharjah occurs between May and September, when day-time temperatures can touch a hot forty degrees centigrade. Outdoor activities and intercity travel during this period becomes very uncomfortable.
The Ramadan festival is an important Islamic festival that is also celebrated in Sharjah. This month-long festival that usually comes in the months of July to September witnesses a rise of Muslim tourists and carries restrictions for tourist activities. Be sure to check the dates for this festival before travelling to the UAE.