We’ve discovered a hive of culture and activity – right next door!
The Blue Souk Why see it? This shopping mall is Sharjah’s most photographed building, according to local statistics: reason enough to find out why this stunning piece of architecture is so popular. We’d recommend a visit to see what’s housed inside.
The details: The souk consists of six spectacular buildings embellished in blue tiling, with more than 600 shops inside. Easily accessible, it’s located next to the pretty Khalid lagoon on the corniche. The Central Market, as the Blue Souk is otherwise known, is separated into two different sections connected through a tunnel; in one you’ll find a wide selection of electrical goods and modern necessities, such as kitchen utensils and the like, while the other trades traditional jewellery and gems sourced from the UAE. There’s also an interesting gallery full of Sharjah’s antique artefacts, including intricately designed Arabic carpets and Omani and Yemeni antique jewellery.
Located at Al Majaz, at the end of Corniche Road, close to Khalid Lagoon. Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, 4pm-11pm; Fri 9am-noon, 4pm-11pm. (06 562 3333), www.shjmun.gov.ae.
Arabian Wildlife Centre Why see it? This is the only place in the emirates where you can see Arabian wildlife that’s otherwise extinct in the region, kept in a pleasant environment.
The details: The breeding centre is split into three main areas; mammals (canines, felines, rodents, primates and ‘ungulates’, aka hoofed mammals); reptiles (snakes and lizards); and insects (a range of creepy crawlies). Arabian wolves and caracals have been successfully bred this year alone. The breeding centre is not open to the general public because the animals need peaceful environments in which to reproduce, but the wildlife centre, which houses adult, non-breeding animals, welcomes visitors. The aim of this centre is to both repopulate species currently lacking in numbers in the region and educate its visitors on respecting them in future. In the Children’s Farm, younger visitors can get hands-on experience by petting and feeding less exotic animals such as ponies, goats and camels.
Located on the same premises as the Sharjah Natural History Museum, about 26km from the city centre just after the airport, close to interchange 8. Open Sat 11am- 5.30pm; Sun-Mon and Wed-Thu 9am-5.30pm; Fri 2pm- 5.30pm; closed Tue. Entry is Dhs15 for adults, Dhs5 for kids aged 12 to 15, free for under 12s. (06 531 1212), www.breedingcentresharjah.com.
Sharjah Natural History Museum and Desert Park Why see it? Guaranteed to be a day of family fun, you can learn about both the plants and animals that populate Sharjah.
The details: Head to the beehive to watch bees fly in and out via a transparent tube and witness honey being made, then pop over to the kitchen and try fresh cheese, yoghurt and milk made in Sharjah. The Geology Hall demonstrates how Earth and all life began, with audio-visual presentations on tectonic plate movement, earthquakes and volcanoes. There’s also the flora hall, where you can learn about the plants of Arabia (yes, there are many).
See directions for Arabian Wildlife Centre. Open Sat 11am- 5.30pm; Sun-Mon and Wed-Thu 9am-5.30pm; Fri 2pm-5.30pm; closed Tue. Entry is Dhs15 for adults, Dhs5 for kids aged 12 to 15, free for under 12s.
(06 531 1212), www.sharjahmuseums.ae.
Sharjah Archaeology Museum Why see it? This is home to the majority of Sharjah’s many historical artefacts, dating as far back as the Stone Age.
The details: See ancient relics including jewellery, pottery and even clothing with descriptions of the time period from which they hail, as well as their original purpose. These items tell the story of Sharjah: from the Stone Age to the present day. The museum offers overwhelming amounts of information for very little: adult entrance is only Dhs5.
Located in Al Abar area on Sheikh Rashid bin Saqr Al Qasimi Road. Open Sat and Mon-Thu 9am-1pm, 5pm-8pm; Fri 5pm-8pm; closed Sun. Dhs5 entry for adults, kids get in free. (06 566 5466), www.sharjahmuseums.ae.
Qanat Al Qasba Why see it? This whole area is a hub of activity, home to some of Sharjah’s most interesting and exciting tourist attractions.
The details: Qanat Al Qasba is essentially a collection of attractions conveniently located in one area; the main draw is the Maraya Art Centre. This gallery is curated by famous Italian artist Giuseppe Moscatello and houses three floors of exhibitions, ranging from canvases to digital pieces and multimedia projects. Al Maraya often holds themed exhibitions, all of which can be investigated on the Qanat Al Qasba website. This area can’t be included without mentioning the ‘Eye of the Emirates’: the Ferris wheel located right next to the building, which you’ll have no doubt noticed on the horizon if you’ve ever driven through the emirate. Standing 60m tall, the ride presents views over the whole of Sharjah and is one of the area’s most visible landmarks. Thankfully, each cabin is air-conditioned.
Located in the Al Khan area; Al Tawun shopping centre is the nearest landmark. Qanat Al Qasba is well signposted from Al Ittihad Road. www.qaq.ae.
Sharjah Science Museum Why see it? This is the first interactive museum in the UAE, offering hands-on fun.
The details: The Science Museum is divided into four main areas: The Magic Show, The Static Electricity Show, The Physical Law Temperature Show and The Space Show. Kids and adults are invited to hold a glass of water upside down and watch nothing tip out, then feel their hair stand on end as they take hold of a Van de Graaf generator. The museum avoids monotony with its weird and wonderful experiments, while also being extremely educational.
Al-Hizam Al-Akhdar Road, Halwan. Open Sat-Tue 9am-2pm; Wed and Fri 3.30pm-8.30pm. Dhs10 for adults, Dhs5 for kids aged three to 17. (06 551 4777), www.sdci.gov.ae.
Khalid Lagoon Why see it? The pure scale of this lagoon has to be seen to be believed: it consists of 1.7 million square hectares of water.
The details: Located on the corniche, Khalid Lagoon sits right next to Sharjah’s Blue Souk and is truly beautiful to look at. However, the lagoon itself isn’t the only reason this is such a successful tourist attraction; the fountain in the middle is the crowning glory. The third tallest in the world, behind similar fountains in Jeddah and Switzerland, the jets of water reach heights of 100m during fantastic displays that are free to watch. The fountain is considered one of Sharjah’s main landmarks, with displays held daily between 4pm and 10pm. For those who enjoy scenic exercise, there is also a walking track around the lagoon, used for running and cycling.
Located in the centre of the Corniche area, accessed via Al Arouba Street. (06 562 3333), www.shjmun.gov.ae.
Sharjah Heritage Area Why see it? This area offers the chance to explore authentic Bedouin village homes. Neatly restored, visitors are invited to roam around the village and investigate as invasively as they wish, as long as it is done in a respectful manner. The historic buildings on site include the Al Midfa house, a property with its own large wind tower. However, guests aren’t expected to figure out the historic facts for themselves: there is plenty of information about the houses and the previous inhabitants on offer, too.
Located in Al Merraija area, between Al-Boorj Avenue and Corniche Street. Open 24 hours, although this is subject to change, especially during public holidays. Entry is free.
Sharjah Aquarium Why see it? The aquarium is one of Sharjah’s most prized entertainment centres, housing more than 250 species of sea life.
The details: The multi-faceted centre allows visitors to wander through tunnels surrounded by colourful fish, past cylindrical tanks and between pools of stingrays – one of the tunnels even runs under the sea. The aquarium also boasts a Sammach Café serving a selection of fresh seafood, teas and coffees, as well as a gift shop that’s good for nosing around.
Located on Al Khan street: drive past Al Qasba on your left, straight over the roundabout, left at the next roundabout; the aquarium is straight ahead. Open Sat 8am-9pm; Mon-Thu 8am-8pm; Fri 4pm-9pm. Entry is Dhs20 for adults, Dsh10 for kids aged four to 17, children under four get in free. (06 528 5288), www.sharjahaquarium.ae.
Al Jazeera park Why see it? Covering 250,000sq m, Al Jazeera Park is picturesque yet never overly crowed thanks to its grand scale.
The details: This park is actually on a small island in the middle of Khalid Lagoon, offering both gorgeous views and nearby retail. Fancy a picnic? This is the ideal place – it’s covered in rich greenery and is clean and peaceful. The park first opened in October 1979 and has since developed to suit all ages: there are now 18 games to play, including the Astrojet game, which takes participants on a thrilling space tour. There are also pedal boats, a little train to take you around the grounds, several toy stalls and a swimming pool, as well as on-site cafés and fast-food joints for non-picnickers.
Located in the centre of Khalid Lagoon in Al Khan area; access is via the Khalid lagoon extension bridge. Open Sat, Mon, Wed and Thu 3pm-10pm; closed Sun, and Fri; open on Tue evenings to ladies only. Entry is Dhs5 for adults, Dhs2 kids aged five and over, free for under fives. (06 562 3333), www.shjmun.gov.ae.
The future of Sharjah
There are several exciting developments on Sharjah’s horizon; in particular Nujoom Islands. Unlike the man-made Palm Jumeirah or The World, these 10 islands are natural, and the plan is to build residential communities, restaurants, schools, leisure facilities and more upon them. The islands cover 60 million sq ft and are steadily becoming a hotspot for property investment. As well as jumping on the island bandwagon, the emirate is also to get its own marina. Burooj Properties (an auxiliary of Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank) is creating the US$4 billion development in the Al Khan area, which will span an area of 10 million sq ft; ownership will be reserved for Arab nationals. Expats will, however, be able to rent the properties built here.