10 things to do in Sharjah
The UAE’s cultural center, Sharjah, has acted for the past three decades as a custodian of heritage and the arts. Elected cultural capital of the Arab world by Unesco in 1998, it is a treasure trove of discoveries, from its souks to its historic forts, and a must-see destination if one wants to better understand the past and present of the United Arab Emirates.
Here are some of our favorite reasons to visit the Northern Emirate and its remote enclaves.
Kalba Conservation Reserve is home to a variety of flora and fauna and is located in the breathtaking landscapes of eastern Sharjah, near the border with Oman. A diverse ecosystem, the region offers three main experiences: the Kalba Bird of Prey Center, where falconry is the highlight of the day; Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Center, which offers a range of hiking trails; and the Al Hafiya picnic park. There are also some stunning mangroves nearby where active adventurers can go on the water and avid campers can camp under the stars.
It’s a well-kept secret among the country’s passionate hiking community. Wadi Shees is located on the far east coast of the United Arab Emirates, where the water is more reminiscent of the Indian Ocean than the Gulf, and hiking the area offers a journey through time.
Several trails are available around the Shees Valley, where the shadow of the spectacular Hajar Mountains and its beautiful stream provide a welcome respite from the heat. Along the route, look for the old village and local farms for a real taste of a bygone era that is still very much alive in these areas. Local plants and animals dot the trails and an oasis of palm trees is the perfect resting place along the way.
The sleepy town of Khorfakkan, near the Oman border, is enjoying a renaissance, with its souk and cornice now home to a range of trendy boutiques, cafes and street art. The three-kilometer crescent-shaped beach offers a range of water sports, from fishing and diving to parasailing and kayaking. There is also sailing, scuba diving, and snorkelling near Shark Island, which is a short boat ride from the beach. The coastline here is unlike anything else in the United Arab Emirates.
One of the treasures of the emirate, the archaeological center of Mleiha is located in the central region of Sharjah. Offering a slice of history and activities for all ages, it is also one of the most beautiful places in the emirate, with its red and golden sand dunes.
Gateway to the country’s Bedouin past, the area is home to the tomb of Umm an-Nar, a circular tomb from the Bronze Age, as well as the famous Fossil Rock, a huge rock formation teeming with marine fossils. Activity lovers will find spectacular treks as well as quad biking and paragliding on the rolling peaks of Mleiha, while campers can sleep under the stars. A museum houses a collection of several antiques and offers interactive exhibits and activities for children.
Considered the oldest market in the United Arab Emirates, Souq Al Arsah was once a hub for traders from Persia and India. Now a covered space with air-conditioned alleys, it still features the traditional wooden doors, coral brick walls and hanging lanterns of yesteryear. Visitors can find a range of original items in quaint shops, from pearl chests and copper coffee makers to jewelry, perfumes and incense. Located on the Corniche in central Sharjah, it is close to several other popular souks in the city, such as Souq Saqr, Souk Al Jubail, and Souq Al Shanasiyah.
The emirate now has 16 museums, including the Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, Sharjah Maritime Museum, Sharjah Heritage Museum and Sharjah Islamic Museum, celebrating the history of Sharjah and the region. The beauty of Sharjah’s museums is that many are within walking distance, so in cooler weather it can be a great way to enjoy the city on foot.
Sharjah Archaeological Museum, Natural and Botanical History Museum, and Bait Al Naboodah Museum are also worth adding to the list, each offering something unique in content and architectural design.
Combining culture and adventure, Al Rabi is a great day trip. The tower marks the start and end of a breathtaking hiking trail overlooking Khorfakkan and its bay, and is accessible even to beginners. It zigzags up to a summit of 395 meters with panoramic views. The structure was built in 1915 as a watchtower to protect the Khorfakkan enclave and provides a fascinating window into recent history.
On the border with Fujairah, this remote destination offers more than 500 hectares of protected mangroves, a rich natural habitat where rare birds, sea turtles and mammals abound. You might spot an endangered Arab collared kingfisher hovering over the mangroves, or hawksbill and green turtles nesting on the nearby beach. Although expensive, an overnight stay in one of the 20 luxury tents at Kingfisher Lodge is a real treat, with the mangroves on one side and the ocean on the other.
The emirate’s favorite water park, Al Montazah, offers a fun day out for the family and spans 126,000 square meters, offering two distinct experiences, Pearls Kingdom and Island of Legends. Pearls Kingdom offers adventures across 25 rides, with pirates and princesses galore. At Island of Legends, visitors can travel back in time to the Steam Age of the 18th century. Spread across nine different nations, the experience offers something for all ages.
Even those who are not avid car enthusiasts cannot help but enjoy the Emirate’s Classic Automobile Museum, where more than 100 vintage vehicles from around the world are on display as an ode to the automobile. The prized treasures of collector Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, ruler of Sharjah, include a 1915 Dodge and a 1969 Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman.
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Update: November 2, 2021, 10:26 a.m.