Sharjah: The Emirate Where Culture is Queen

Sharjah's Antiquies Museum (UAE). (c) Department of Culture and Information of the Emirate of Sharjah

Sharjah: The Emirate Where Culture is Queen [3]

Bordered on the west by the Arabian Gulf and on the east by the Sea of Oman, the Emirate of Sharjah has been able to affirm its unique character thanks to a subtle alliance between economic development and the desire to preserve its authentic culture. […]

Take the cultural heritage for a start. Significant investment has permitted the establishment of museums and heritage centres. Historical sites and monuments have been preserved or restored throughout the city. […] Similarly, the city enjoys significant artistic and educational activity. The Sharjah Biennial is an event which attracts artists from the four corners of the world. Moreover, the Emirate's Department of Information holds, each year, several cultural events, including the Book Fair which takes place in November. It also plans various instructive and technical festivals for children. […]

To understand better what Sharjah is all about, you should visit the arts and heritage districts.

The former is located just off the Corniche and on the north side of Burj Avenue (Bank Road). […] Here you will find the Sharjah Art Museum, the Sharjah Art Centre, art galleries and the Emirates Fine Arts Society. The Art Centre is a discreetly restored building and the former residence of the British Commissioner for the coast of Oman, which was later turned into the missionary hospital. The Centre offers classes by qualified art teachers for all ages and abilities. Nearby is the Art Cafe, a meeting place for artists interested in local issues. At the far end of the area, numerous art studios provide artists a place to work.  On the opposite side of the square is the Sharjah Art Museum. It has a total of 32 exhibition rooms, of which eight are dedicated to the private collection of the Ruler who has donated them to the museum. […]

On the other side of Burj Avenue is the heritage district with its collection of local markets, meeting places and small museums.  This area is an example of Sharjah’s commitment to heritage and culture that was instrumental in earning it the UNESCO title of cultural capital of the Arab world. It is home to the Museum of Islamic Civilization which contains a collection of rare Islamic manuscripts as well as items of Arab art. […]

No sooner have you left the old souks, restored buildings and tourist sites than you come across new Arab-style constructions. They are surrounded by parks and gardens which have sprung up lately in this desert region. You also find there luxury hotels, restaurants and numerous green spaces catering to tourists. Sharjah has 27 gardens. Trees have been planted on some 729,000 m² by the municipality under a two-pronged initiative concerned with both the environment and beautification-. To fight heat, wind, storms and humidity, the municipality is actively seeking to surround the city with green belts. The vegetation is perfectly suited to the desert climate. It is selected for its resistance to high temperatures and the high levels of water and soil salinity. Three kilometres from the international airport lies the Sharjah National Park, covering an area of more than 600,000 m². […]

Exploring these immense green spaces one might forget that this ancient city is built in the desert. […] As exploration is within everyone’s reach, the landscapes and heritage of Sharjah will always have something to reveal to us.

[3]           Excerpts from the June 2003 issue of the magazine Le Message des Émirats.

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