| Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Kids activities in Sharjah

Museums, aquariums and a giant wheel. Show your kids something different and take them for a day trip to Sharjah.

sharja1
© ITP Images

In the imaginings of many non-native Dubaians, Sharjah is the conservative, quieter emirate, permanently cut off from the rest of the country by a tidal belt of hooting, smog-drenched traffic – but if you look beyond such myths, you’ll find plenty to occupy young minds, whether that be in the form of education (museums, galleries) or entertainment (Al Qasba, Sharjah Aqaurium).

Go deep into the Rolla area of the Heritage Village and find the Emirates Fine Art Society; a friendly gallery that houses works by some of the region’s prominent local artists, along with remnants of a genuine souk that is still very much alive. Hemmed in by expanding concrete constructions, this old souk is home to pashmina shops, roti wallas and tatty cafés under a grubby, makeshift cover of bamboo. Bargains abound and it can get very busy and hectic early in the day.

If you prefer something a little calmer, where the bobbing up and down of a seahorse or the flicker of a reef shark’s tail are the only forms of movement, head over to Sharjah Aqaurium, which is sure to be a hit with old and young alike. The venue houses over 250 species of marine life, and entry costs start at just Dhs5 for children.

And if you’re looking to continue the water theme, head to Al Qasba, a sprawling waterside complex located near the Dubai-Sharjah highway that comes to life particularly at night. Here you’ll find cafés, restaurants, shops, a theatre, art gallery and children’s rides. To really soak up the atmosphere, be sure to take a scenic abra ride, through the 1km-long canal and along the Sharjah coastline. Back on dry land, head to the Al Qasba Musical Fountain and watch the water ‘dancing’ in time with the music.

But no trip here would be complete without a ride on the Eye of the Emirates – 60m high, with views stretching far into the distance. The Eye has 42 cabins, and can carry 336 passengers at one time.

Al Qasba also offers a packed calendar of events aimed at children throughout the year – during the summer there was a huge tent featuring a stage with puppet shows, acrobats and more. Check on the website, www.alqasba.ae, for details.

Essentials

Al Qasba
Features restaurants, cafés, abra rides, fairground rides and the Eye of the Emirates. An up-to-date calendar of Al Qasba events can be found at www.alqasba.ae.
Near the Dubai-Sharjah highway (06 556 0777).

Archaeological Museum
Interactive displays of finds from Sharjah’s many Stone, Iron and Bronze Age sites sit alongside lovingly wrought models of the emirate’s first settlements.
Halwan District, off Cultural Square (06 566 5466). Open Sat-Thu 9am-1pm, 5pm-8pm; Fri 5pm-8pm. Admission Dhs5-10.

Desert Park & Arabian Wildlife Centre
More than 100 animal species roam the various recreated habitats, while in the vast indoor aviary thousands of birds swoop inches above your head.
Sharjah Airport Road (direction Al Dhaid), Interchange 9 (06 531 1999). Open Wed-Thu 9am-5.30pm; Fri 2pm-5.30pm; Sat 11am-5.30pm. Admission Dhs15; under-12s free.

Mega Mall
One of the most popular shopping centres in town, there are plenty of high street offerings here: Guess, Pierre Cardin, Zara and Mango to name a few.
(06 574 2574) Open Sat-Thu 10am-11pm; Fri 2pm-11pm.

Natural History Museum & Botanical Museum
If you’re taking a trip to the Wildlife Centre, it’s worth dedicating an hour to pottering around these museums.
By Desert Park & Arabian Wildlife Centre, Sharjah Airport Road (direction Al Dhaid), Interchange 9 (06 531 1411). Open Sun-Thu 9am-5.30pm; Fri 2pm-5.30pm; Sat 11am- 5.30pm. Admission Dhs15.

Sharjah Aquarium
Fish tanks in every shape and size; the walls are full of fishy friends, there are plenty of ponds and even under-floor tanks that you can walk on.
Al Khan Lagoon (06 528 5288). Open Wed 4pm-7.30pm; Thu 9am-7.30pm; Fri 4pm-7.30pm; Sat 9am-7.30pm. Admission Dhs5-50.

By Laura Fulton
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