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Things to do in Sharjah

By Lauren Jade Hill

With its flourishing heritage, arts, and both traditional and contemporary culture, Sharjah abounds with galleries, museums and historic sites. Combined, these hidden pockets of arts and culture give visitors an insight into this fascinating city’s unique identity, and are the reason behind it being considered the cultural capital of UAE. We take a look at the best things to do in Sharjah for a culturally rewarding stay.

The Local Heritage

Perhaps the best place to begin discovering Sharjah is in the city’s official Heritage Area, which encompasses the two connecting neighborhoods, Al Sheyoukh and Al Maraija, with a collection of museums within its vicinity. Here, Sharjah Heritage Museum showcases the distinct heritage and culture that has shaped this city over the past decades while emphasizing the value of the deep-rooted Arabic customs that are so evident here. With this in mind, the museum looks back at the way people once lived here and the traditions that define the local celebrations, hospitality and daily life.

Other pockets of heritage are then dotted throughout the city. The waterfront neighborhood of Al Shuwaihean is home to Al Hisn Fort, a double-story fortification made of rock, coral and adobe dating back to 1820; renovated and opened up as a museum in 1997, the fort is a reflection of Sharjah’s modern history. For further cultural exploration, it’s worth spending some time wandering through the Heritage Area’s other restored sites and museums.

Arts and Culture

Culturally rich and artistically vibrant, Sharjah flourishes with arts and cultural venues. It was during the third Sharjah International Arts Biennal – hosted by the Sharjah Art Foundation – that Sharjah Art Museum first opened its doors. Throughout the sprawling gallery space, permanent showcases and temporary exhibitions focus on local painters and Arab artists who have made a significant impression on the Arab art world. With more than 500 artworks spread across its three stories, this gallery boasts one of the largest art showcases in the Gulf region.

Providing a platform for cutting edge arts and design, 1971 Design Space then hosts exhibitions and programs that cover a diversity of design disciplines, from graphics and state-of-the-art technology to architecture and interiors. While in contrast, institutions such as Sharjah Archaeology Museum, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization go back to this part of the world’s most valuable roots, showing us the legacies that largely defined the city Sharjah has become.

The Great Outdoors

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With vast expanses of urban greenery, Sharjah presents plentiful opportunities to savor the great outdoors. Spread across 630,000 square meters of land, Sharjah National Park is the outdoor space that draws in the most people to gather, play and picnic amidst the park’s trees.  And more green space can be found at Al Majaz Park on the waterfront, where pristine lawns overlook the water, with fountains, cafes and restaurants adding to its vibrant atmosphere. Water-sports enthusiasts should make time for Al Khan Beach, too. While kayaking, kite-surfing and parasailing all entice people into the water, volleyball and beach tennis take place on the sandy shores, showing visitors another side to this energetic city. But before bidding farewell to Sharjah, set aside enough time to pay a trip to what is considered one of the city’s most iconic sites, the spectacular Eye of the Emirates, a 60-meter-high wheel affording views across this Persian Gulf city.

For more inspiration, take a look at our pick of the Best Restaurants in Sharjah.

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