The opening of The Flag Island and the highest flagpole in Sharjah on the occasion of National Day last year. Sharjah’s identity is visible through its culturally focused projects. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News Archives

Sharjah: Celebrating 42 prosperous years since the UAE’s union, the country holds its culture and heritage as one of its valuable treasures that have helped in the development of its community.

While Sharjah stands as the cultural capital of the UAE and the Gulf countries, it represents the country’s essence of Arabian lifestyle and Islamic culture through its restored heritage sites, mosques and traditional old souqs

Under the wise leadership of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the emirate was also promoted as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by Unesco in 1998.

Aiming to preserve and promote its tradition, the Directorate of Heritage in Sharjah, which falls under the Department of Culture and Information, was established in June 1993. The directorate has worked to preserve old buildings, museums and heritage material all over the country.

Falling under its umbrella, the Sharjah Museum Department (SMD) was also established in 2006 to represent Emirati history, culture and heritage through its museums. Eight years later, the department includes 16 museums covering Islamic art, culture, archaeology, heritage, science, marine life and the history of Sharjah and the region. The museums department has also recently received new financial investment to develop museums across the UAE, said Manal Ataya, director-general of Sharjah Museums Department. “What is very encouraging is that higher education has begun to include more courses and degrees in the fields of arts, and research in cultural heritage has led to the restoration and revitalisation of historic districts,” she explained.

The department has continued to encourage learning and creativity in the community to help build educated, well-rounded individuals through its informative programmes. “We provide a public service for public good and central to this is our ethos that everyone, particularly children, should have access to knowledge and full participation in culture,” explained Manal.

Sharjah’s identity is also visible through a number of culturally focused projects such as the Heart of Sharjah and Al Qasba by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). With the aim of bringing back the feel of the 1950s and reflecting what Sharjah was like over half a century ago, the Heart of Sharjah — a five-phase, 15-year historical restoration project — is currently under way.

The project which is due for completion in 2025 is working to restore and revamp the traditional heritage areas of Sharjah, said Yousuf Al Mutawa, manager of Heart of Sharjah. The Heart of Sharjah will link Sharjah’s heritage areas together and will act as the central hub for all cultural activities in the emirate once completed, added Yousuf. He pointed out that the area which is situated five minutes from the city’s Corniche and 10 minutes from Sharjah International Airport will be one of the main areas in the emirate to carry out a range of activities in celebration of the UAE’s 42 National Day.