With the multitude of things to do in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sharjah is merely a neighbouring emirate where plenty of residents live and work. However, scratch beneath the surface of this city and there are plenty of adventures on offer.
Dubbed the Pearl of the Gulf, Sharjah is the only emirate in the UAE to have land on both the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. It is made up of the city of Sharjah, as well as the enclaves of Kalba, Dibba Al Hisn and Khorfakkan.
Sharjah is one of the best emirates for sightseeing, purely due to the heritage spots the government has preserved, as well as newer landmarks. Since the city is more of a family-friendly destination, a lot of activities are tilted towards the little ones. But don’t let that put you off — they’re all fun to visit for adults too. Here are the ones to check off your to-do list.
This major cultural hub offers all kinds of recreation and entertainment attractions suitable for the whole family. As well as having plenty of stalls, cafés and restaurants, there’s also a massive exhibition space — Al Maraya Art Centre —where local and international art shows take place. Al Qasba Theatre, meanwhile, hosts performances and concerts — visit Alqasba.ae to check what’s on.
Make time for a ride in one of Al Qasba’s traditional boats. They offer splendid views of the walkways, bridges and modern skyscrapers that make up the city’s skyline.
But the biggest highlight of all is Al Qasba’s Eye of the Emirates. Sharjah’s iconic observatory wheel stands 60 metres high with 42 fully air-conditioned gondolas that offer stunning panoramic views of the emirate. The best time to go on this ride is during the evening. Afterwards, you can while away the hours in one of Al Qasba’s many cafes.
Estimated at 1.7 million square hectares of water, Khalid Lagoon is so vast that you have to see it in real life in order to take in all its glory.
Sitting in the middle of it is one of Sharjah’s main landmarks: The Khalid Lagoon Fountain. The third-tallest fountain in the world, jets of water reach heights of 100 metres. Needless to say, it’s much better to watch this in the evening, and shows take place daily between 4pm and 10pm.
Al Majaz Waterfront
Much like the Marina Walk in Dubai, this beautiful lagoon-side setting is one of Sharjah’s most common night-time hang-outs. The area is great for walking along, and there are plenty of cafés too, including international favourites such as Il Caffè di Roma, Tim Horton’s and Cold Stone Creamery. You’ll catch plenty of tourists and residents spending their time here, especially during the cooler winter months, and the views of the city are stunning.
Sharjah Heritage Area
This neatly renovated district of the traditional Al Sheyoukh and Al Mareija neighbourhoods features many Bedouin village homes, including Al Midfa house, a property with its own large wind tower. The area, which dates back to 1804, represents the traditional way of life of the people of Sharjah.
Next to the homes is a number of interesting little museums, and these all come under the umbrella of the Sharjah Heritage Museum. Visit Sharjahmuseums.ae for further information about the tours on offer, as well as special exhibitions. Make sure to stop at the area’s Souq Al Arsa for some interesting souvenirs.
Sharjah is home to some eye-catching mosques, the most visited being the Al Noor Mosque along the Al Buhaira Corniche. What makes it stand out is the fact that it became the first mosque in the city to open its doors to non-Muslims. Visitors are able to learn about the emirate’s culture and religion. Public tours are available every Monday at 10am. Visit Shjculture.com
This museum features the majority of Sharjah’s historical artefacts, dating as far back as the Stone Age. Ancient relics on display include jewellery and pottery with descriptions of the time period from which they hail, as well as their original purpose. The museum is open from Saturday to Thursday between 8am and 8pm. Tickets cost Dh5. Check Sharjahmuseums.ae for more information.
Arabian Wildlife Centre
There are no zoos in Sharjah, but if you want to see animals in their natural habitat, head to the Arabian Wildlife Centre, which provides a home for species that would otherwise become extinct in the region. Split into three zones, visitors can explore different types of mammals, reptiles and insects. There’s also a petting farm where the little ones can feed ponies, goats and camels.
Open Wednesday to Monday, from 9am-6pm. Visit Breedingcentresharjah.com
Natural History Museum
There’s so much to see here, from the Geology Zone that teaches how life on Earth began to the Flora Hall where one can learn about all the plants in the region. Want to know how honey is made? You may learn something from one of the beehives available. You can also sample fresh cheese, yoghurt and milk made in Sharjah courtesy of Sharjah Farm.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 9am-5.30pm. Check out Sharjah-welcome.ae
Home to more than 250 species of marine life — including tropical fish, sea turtles and sharks — Sharjah Aquarium allows visitors to wander through underwater tunnels surrounded by hundreds of these delightful creatures.
Open every day from 8am-8pm. Tickets are Dh10 for children and Dh20 for adults. See Sharjahaquarium.ae
Golf and Shooting Club
Searching for something a little more grown-up and adrenaline-fuelled? Look no further than the Sharjah Golf and Shooting Club. The ultimate highlights of the venue are the indoor and outdoor paintball parks. Archery may be difficult, but hugely therapeutic if you can master it.
Booking ahead is recommended. See Golfandshootingshj.com for information on opening hours and pricing.