A beautiful day in Sharjah Image Credit: Istock

Highlights

  • Sharjah is home to 1.5 million people. A whopping 1.2 million of those people are expatriates
  • Sharjawis appreciate a more modest lifestyle
  • Sharjah is home to some fantastic street food

I grew up in Sharjah. I went to the German School of Sharjah and lived a two minute drive and a 10 minute walk away from my school. I was part of a swim team there, I rode horses there and I lived in a beautiful white Spanish style four bedroom villa, with a garden and a swimming pool for the price of a one-bedroom apartment in Dubai. It was a quiet, affordable and relaxing life.

Everyone visits Dubai for its cleverly curated entertainment, dining and nightlife, but Sharjah is where you can get up close and personal with the real UAE. Sharjah is a lot more than just the neighbour of its famous sister emirate Dubai. Sharjah is diverse, cultural and there’s a lot more to do there than you think. Although it’s traditionally more conservative than the other emirates, it is widely considered the nation’s cultural capital. But that’s not all… Sharjawis (the emirate’s local residents) enjoy the exciting and unpredictable side of Sharjah that fizzes with an intense energy. They love their emirate.

1. A lot of expats live in Sharjah

Residents at Qanat Al Qasba in Sharjah Image Credit: GN Archives

Sharjah is home to 1.5 million people. A whopping 1.2 million of those people are expatriates, while only 175,000 are Emiratis. For Emiratis, the population of females outnumbers males. However, there are significantly more male expats than female expats. Most people who live in Sharjah are very young, between the ages of 20 and 39.

2. Sharjah is really affordable

Residents at Qanat Al Qasba in Sharjah. Image Credit: GN Archives

Rent, schools and entertainment are among the things that are very affordable in the emirate. Life there is comfortable and a great place to save money. Getting an apartment in Sharjah is a savvy option as you save a lot on rent. Rents for 1 bedroom apartments in Sharjah range from Dh30,000 to Dh40,000, rarely hitting the expensive Dh50,000 mark according to online listings. Many areas in Sharjah are diverse communities with easy access to facilities, such as schools, hospitals, and grocery stores.

Huma Shahzad, a stay at home mom who lives in Sharjah said “Sharjah’s affordability and ease of living is definitely a draw for residents and expats alike. The city is also a great draw for arts and culture enthusiasts, especially for those looking to get a rich glimpse into the country’s Bedouin past. These cultural roots are what allows Sharjah to truly stand out from the rest of the emirates, and I think this is one aspect that the city should be looking to further invest in the future.”

3. Everything in Sharjah is conveniently located

Life is affordable in Sharjah Image Credit: GN Archives

When we asked people what they loved most about Sharjah, many answers included the fact that life is convenient and essentials are conveniently located. The modern community is well serviced with schools, hospitals, restaurants, supermarkets and family entertainment. Everyone commented about the fact that the supermarkets are more affordable and that the city is full of hidden gems. Whether you’re looking for great places to eat, somewhere to buy cheap furniture or simply a place to get your hair done. Restaurants, malls and attractions are only a stone’s throw away from many people’s homes.

4. Sharjawis want to stay in Sharjah

Sharjah aerial view Image Credit: Gn Archives

If you were to ask most people who are based in Sharjah whether they would move to another emirate, most of the time, the answer you would get is a ‘no’. Even if many of the residents work in Dubai, they wouldn’t trade their commute issues with a more expensive and less authentic life elsewhere. Ehab, who works as an engineer in Dubai and resides in Sharjah said “I don’t believe that moving will solve my mobility issues – plus I would rather live in Sharjah despite my daily struggles, because the environment that it offers suits the dynamics of my family far more than the other emirates. As of now, I want to stay where I am. ”

5. Sharjawis like the fact that it’s a conservative emirate

Sharjah Quran Roundabout Image Credit: Istock

There are some people out there who appreciate a more modest lifestyle. They aren’t easily impressed by glamourous and reflecting skylines. They want the real and old-school UAE. They appreciate the conservative life that Sharjah offers. Rania an employee at an insurance company, who lives in Al Nahda-Sharjah said “Sharjah is where my family and friends reside, and its underlying cultural environment is more suited to the conservative lifestyle that we aspire to have.”

6. Sharjawis love big living spaces

Sharjah home in the Aljada area Image Credit: Supplied/ Arada

Why do people in Sharjah not want to move out of their homes? Because they have a tonne of space. Their apartments are large and built with high quality materials for very good prices. They have big bedrooms, a big living room and spacious kitchens. Elie Mrad, Head of Architecture at Arada said “When we design homes in Sharjah, we make sure that a feeling of spaciousness permeates through every aspect of the homes. We focus on making the best use of all the available space, including making sure that each area is naturally lit and cleverly ventilated. The one aspect we are focusing on the most in our current and future designs is incorporating more green space into our projects.”

7. Sharjawis want to raise their kids there too

Kids at the Sharjah Book Fair Image Credit: GN Archives

People who grew up in Sharjah, want their kids to have a similar upbringing. They want them to live a modern and comfortable life, while also enjoying the affordability and cultural heritage that Sharjah brings. Sharjah is also one of the most diverse emirates when it comes to nature. Sharjah is home to mangroves, mountains, deserts and beaches. Heba Faour, a stay at home mom, who resides in Sharjah said “I want my children to have the same childhood that I had, one that was away from electronics and more intertwined with nature.”

8. Sharjah is home to a protected nature reserve

The rare endangered Gazelle and the Arabian Oryx Image Credit: Supplied

A very special natural gem in Sharjah are the Wasit Nature Reserves, which is a 4.5 square kilometre area that has previously been used as a dumping ground. It was then been converted into a beautiful nature reserve, with birds flocking in from around the world. The Wasit Nature Reserve located on the Sharjah-Ajman border and was declared a protected area in 2007 by Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. It’s a flourishing area that allows visitors to have a closer look at rare birds and other wetland species. The nature reserve houses four natural lagoons attracting around 150 species of birds, both migratory and resident, throughout the year. The water bodies are supported by underground water channels flowing out of Hatta Mountain and Al Falaj areas.

9. Sharjah is full of hidden foodie gems

Sharjah is home to some of the best shawarma in the UAE Image Credit: GN Archives

Looking for the best biryani or Shawarma in the UAE? Sharjah has fantastic street food, specifically if you are looking for stuff that’s really authentic. They have hundreds of little restaurants that serve cuisine that’s unique to specific regions all over the Middle East, India and Pakistan.

Sharjah is the cultural capital of the Arab World

Art and culture in Sharjan Image Credit: Sharjah Art Foundation

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, 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.

11. Once a Sharjawi, always a Sharjawi

Even when Sharjah residents end up moving to Dubai, they still like to venture back to where they grew up. Um Seif, who works in Dubai said “I was born and raised in Sharjah and it represents my true and original home. When I started my career, I found a job in Dubai and felt that living somewhere near my office and my children’s school was the most suitable option. However, every weekend we find ourselves going back to Sharjah to have fun or to visit families and friends. Sharjah is a beautiful city.” Another expat, Ahmad, who works in media firm in Dubai, yet still lives in Sharjah, said “I haven’t considered moving to Dubai because I have strong relationships with my former colleagues, friends and family in Sharjah. When I was a university student, I had to buy a motorcycle to avoid the traffic leading up to Dubai. I am even looking into buying a home in Sharjah. Perhaps one of their latest projects.