Sharjah – cultural metropolis of the UAE
9 September 2015 03:46 pm
By Shehara Rizly
Known as the pearl of the gulf, it is the third largest and most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), located on the west coast of the UAE surrounded by both Persian gulf and gulf of Oman. There are many foreign nationalities in the city of Sharjah who have made this state their working home away from their birth countries. It is quite conservative and a city where decency and public behavior are most important, thereby many families opt to bring up their kids in this environment. Quite recently Sharjah is been developed as a healthy city where many streets and parks are filled with greenery. For the health conscious and willing to sweat by walking, they have some really good walking and jogging tracks especially in the Majas and cornische area which is popular with many residents.
The history of Sharjah dates back to 5000 years when it was one of the wealthiest towns in the gulf region and it still remains when you witness first hand all the high rise buildings. In the early days trade, farming , hunting , fishing and peal farming is said to be the economic activities present. The arrival of the Portugese in the 16th
century and the Dutch thereafter controlled the spice trade and the forts at Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Dibba were built during this period.
The turning point for the city was the arrival of the British in the 17th
century as they began trading with the Qawasim, the forefathers’ of present Sharjah’s ruling family. Europeans preferred the area of the gulf and the Red sea as they linked principal routes of communication between the Mediterranean and India.
It is stated that by 1804 ruling Qawasim turned out to be a stronger marine power in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaima and Sultan bin Saqr bin Rashid Al Qasimi became the Sheikh of Sharjah, who governed for 50 years thereafter. However, there is said to have been a few clashes with the British before signing the peace treaty assuring maritime peace, security and protection of the British against any attacks for 150 years. In 1971, the British presence in the city officially ended with the formation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Sharjah was among its founding members.
In 1972, His Highness Dr.Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi succeeded as the ruler of Sharjah and it is said that oil was found in the same year in the Mubarak oilfield situated 80 kms offshore close to the Abu Mousa island and two years later production of oil began and gas drilling started in 1990.
It has been stated that the city of Sharjah has been developed utilizing the available natural wealth and the wisdom provided by the Sharjah ruler H.H. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi. It also had the first airport in the region; now the original early airport is converted to a museum of aeronautical history.
Although the main language is Arabic, English is spoken and understood by most department stores, shopping malls, theatres etc. We have shared with you some important phrases that might be helpful if you visit Sharjah or any Arab state.
The most common Arabic greeting used by both Muslims and non – Muslims is as-salaamu ‘alaykum which means peace be upon you and the answer to be given is wa ‘alayykumus salaam which means and upon you be peace.
- Hello marhaban
- Welcome ahlan wa sahlan
- Good morning sabaahal khayr
- Good evening masaa al khayr
- How are you? Kayfal haal?
- I am fine, thanks anaa bikhayr shukran
- I am not very well lastu ‘alaa maa yuraam
- Have a good night tusbih ‘alaa khayr
- See you tomorrow araaka ghadan
- Take care diir baalak ‘ala haalak
Hot summers from May to September can soar up to 40 C degrees and winter from October to April goes down to 24 C degrees during the day time but drops during the evening.
It is best to wear conservative clothing when in Sharjah as it is the practice of the city. Especially in the summer you must be clad in decent clothes respecting the culturally rich city.
Best time to travel
Winter would be the coolest time to travel and with the Dubai shopping festival every year at the beginning where you could get some great discounts on many internationally acclaimed brands.
Getting around in Sharjah
There are enough and more taxis in Sharjah and getting about is very easy. They are air conditioned therefore even on a hot and humid day you are most certain not to sweat as you will be travelling in cool comfort. The fare is reasonable and will cost you AED 10 for a short radius, all taxis have the name of the person and a taxi meter so you are quite safe to go about without any problem. Some of the shopping malls have their own taxi queues where you will have the assistance of a person to help load your bags into the taxi as well. If you would like to reserve a taxi, then there is a number to note down which is the main office of the taxi company and they will dispatch a vehicle to your location at the time needed but there is a call up charge, yet it is convenient. The taxi drivers are quite friendly and will not cheat you but it is better to have some change in hand as it is easier to proceed to your destination without a hassle.
If you want to go to Dubai or any other neighbouring states you will be charged AED 20 extra for crossing the border but it is quite worthwhile. You can even get them to change the channel to any music you prefer from English retro sounds to urban music or Hindi, Tamil or even Malayalam. All drivers are well disciplined and keep to their lanes so driving is easy but there can be traffic in Sharjah during the school time and office hours as some roads are a little narrower than others still but they are widening them so very soon that too will ease. It is left hand driving and getting in and out of a taxi should always be from the right side or you may be fined, so do bear that in mind.
Public transport is another option that is quite easy to take and there is a special card you need to purchase known as the RTA card which is issued but the roads and transport authority in the UAE for a very nominal fee valid in buses, trams and metro. You can top it up at various points and it is quite easy to get around as it is valid in all states. There are air conditioned buses and bus halts as well. There are seats allocated for the ladies, pregnant mothers as well as the physically challenged.
Hiring or renting out vehicles is another option you have but you need to have a valid international license to drive around in the UAE. There are a number of rent a car companies where you can place a deposit and even hire with a driver if you require, so it depends on your basic requirement.
It is a paradise for all shopaholics as they have shopping malls in every corner of the state. It is not just the malls but also the other small kiosks and boutiques that stretch on every single street with jewellery, eastern sweets, hand crafted items etc. The most interesting malls are the city centers, mega mall, sahara center, safeer mall, etc. The interesting part of these malls are that all of them house all the international brands of perfumes, clothing, wrist watches, bags, shoes and accessories under one roof such as Charles and Keith, Debenhams Ninewest, Cotton on, Splash, Marks and Spencer, Max, and each of them are equipped with a super market such as a carrefurre or spinneys. The malls in Sharjah are always bustling with tourists and even the locals or expats living around. There are special railings in every supermarket for the physically challenged and people are quite patient and kind to them.
Apart from this it is a one stop destination for indoor entertainment as well. If you go with your family, you can watch a movie, dine, shop and even play in the indoor entertainment arena which even has its own roller coaster. At the city center or Sahara center you can purchase an entertainment card where you can top up with points and win certain interesting gifts once you collect points. The more games you play the more chances of you getting points of course you need to top up with cash but it is an enriching experience for children, teenagers as well as adults.
The best thing that happened at the Sahara mall was that the cars used for the Fast and Furious 7 were been displayed inside the mall and we were lucky to witness them being driven “inside the mall” that was an experience to remember. The roaring sounds of the engine was so invigorating; basically took your mind to the movie itself and personally I felt sad and happy because that was the last movie where we could see the famous late Paul Walker.
Souqs are an interesting addition to your shopping list and the most exciting places to find gifts at reasonable costs would be the AED 1 – 10 to 20 gift centers located in most parts of Sharjah. These have little gift items, sweets, souvenirs and even clothing, shoes and accessories at very reasonable prices. The gold souq is really a place that you can even bargain and buy intricate jewellery at a reasonable price and there are a few places where they will buy your old gold and you can select new designs or even recreate something you would like to have as your own.
Attractions and entertainment
Sharjah is a place with the most interesting attractions and the best places to dine as well. There are many interesting attractions and entertainment you can indulge in. For movie lovers there are theatres all around offering movies in English, Arabic, Telengu, Tamil, Hindi, Philippino etc. The best possible international brand stores and restaurants are located in the many malls around the city of Sharjah. The melodious dancing waters at the buhairah cornische is something you should not miss at the water front. The city tour in the open double decker bus is an experience you must try out, it is called the “Big bus city tour” and there are a few allocated places where you can buy the tickets. You can choose the type of activity you will like to experience ranging from indoor to outdoor.
Eye of the Emirates
This giant ferris wheel is an attraction worth not just seeing but taking a ride on. The whole area has many restaurants from eastern and western cuisine to even little kiosks selling twisted potatoes and ice slush as well to quench your thirst. You can opt for a lovely smooth boat ride on the lake that runs by either for two or even more as family. In the night it looks really amazing when its lit up.
The east coast in Sharjah has many famous diving spots in Sharjah. You can experience beautiful coral reefs, and marine life like turtles, dolphins and whales. The gulf is said to be home to many maritime species.
Mainly for the adventurous travellers. There are various places where you can book your tickets and unravel the experience. You can choose the vehicle you would like to cruise in either an open one or a closed one, it is your choice.
The coastline in Sharjah is one of extreme beauty and most often you will witness families driving up to the beach to spend some quality time as a family. You can either swim in the clear water or build sand castles on the shore, either way it is a good experience. You must be aware of the dress code for swimming as attire should be decent. The pristine waters with the white sandy shore is wonderful to those who like to be on the outdoors.
This is a ride which is unforgettable. It is an experience of a lifetime. The camel sits for you to get on his hump and then when he stands you feel that you are well over seven or more feet above the ground. When the camel starts walking it is as if you are right on top enjoying the sites below. A little scary the first time you get on him as you need to hold the animal, but it is one exciting experience you must try at least once in your lifetime.
Photographs By Shehara Rizly