Sharjah The cultural metropolis of the UAE
12 October 2015 03:03 pm
By Shehara Rizly
Last month we gave you only a glimpse of the Emirate of Sharjah but this month we would like to share more details on the lifestyle of the expatriate population in Sharjah. As we stated last month, Sharjah is a conservative locality ideal for families and those who desire home away from home atmosphere. Most expatriates working in Dubai opt to travel from Sharjah as the housing rents are quite competitive when compared with Dubai.
Living in Sharjah
Sharjah is home to many nationals including Sri Lankans, Philippinos, Indians, Pakistanis, Europeans, Chinese, Americans, Egyptians, Arabs, and many others. It is a developing city with lots of beautiful sites, parks, malls etc. It has won the hearts of many expatriates as they have access to all the Emirates within a few miles distance.
The city of Sharjah has many high - rise buildings which comprise of housing properties, offices or mall facilities. It is one of the most populated states with the most amount of leisure activities for the entire family. Standard of living is quite high as everyone enjoys the comfort of air conditioned apartments which they call home. There are some villa type of housing as well but the most popular are the apartments as they are located with all conveniences beside them.
Many expatriates have made this city their home due to various reasons; the first being that they have employment either in Sharjah or neighbouring Dubai. Although not many people speak about the positive nature of working abroad, if you were to witness first hand you will definitely change your mind about the many negative comments we often listen to from total strangers. Every person who lives in Sharjah will either be working or studying; there may be a few who are housewives but most women too work here therefore, the standard of living is actually at a higher end. The reason to state this is because when a lady goes to work, she mingles with people, exposed to all the interesting and innovative ideas around thus making her a whole lot richer in terms of information.
The apartments on rent will bear your name not only as a mere tenant but it requires you to obtain electricity, water and gas too in your name until the end of the tenure. There is an Emirates identity card for every person therefore it is linked to all authorities and you can simply present it to get the verification.
Outskirts of Sharjah
There are three main towns on the outskirts of Sharjah which are Kalba, Dibba Al Hisn and Khor Fakkan. Kalba is an enclave of the Emirate of Sharjah lying on the gulf of the Oman coast north of Oman and south of the Emirate of Fujairah. Khor Kalba (Kalba creek) is a mangrove swamp located further south of the town. Most people use the Kalba road to avoid traffic if they are travelling to the special school areas located.
Dibba Al-Hisn is also an enclave which belongs to the Emirate of Sharjah – that too is bordered by the Gulf of Oma from the east, Dibba Al Baya from the north and Dibba Al Fujairah from the south. It is mainly known for the fish market and the ancient fortress, from where it is believed to have got its name. There is a high density of population here.
Khor Fakkan is geographically surrounded by the Emirate of Fujairah. The town is set on a picturesque bay of Khor Fakkan which means “creek of the two jaws”. It is one of the largest towns in Sharjah with a container terminal and a port. About fifteen kilometers from Khor Fakkan there is a popular natural beauty pool site named WadiWurraayah where there is a year - round pool with a seasonal waterfall. It is only accessible by four wheel drive. Fortunately in this country the four wheel drive vehicles are quite competitively priced.
Everyone who works in the city of Sharjah or any other emirate needs an Emirates identity card, which is the most valuable asset for all including children. This contains a microchip which is linked to all your transactions at banks, your phone cards, school or university. Every important department is linked, therefore all your information is stored which makes it easier for you. If you are under your husband’s sponsorship then you are even given an additional health identity card where you can present it if you are sick at the government hospitals. The process to get this identity card is simple but all documentation should be well planned in order to expedite this process. You need to submit your basic certificates and the relevant authorities will arrange for a medical check up to ensure that you are healthy to work. The identity card as I said before links all relevant authorities so when you need to obtain even basic electricity or water for your home you can present it to the authorities and the rest is taken care of without a hassle.
National airline in Sharjah
The national budget carrier Air Arabia takes center stage as the home airline where the residents and tourists can fly to over 100 destinations worldwide. Sharjah International Airport has been recognized as the best cargo terminal.
Air Arabia operates one aircraft type, the Airbus A320, the world’s best ever selling commercial jetliner, which is recognized as the benchmark for single-aisle aircraft. All aircraft cabin interiors are fitted with world-class comfort seats, offering the highest seat pitch of any economy cabin across the globe with a spacious seat pitch of 32 inches (measured from the same point on one seat to the same point on the seat in front). Air Arabia's current fleet consists of 44 new Airbus A320 aircraft. Anyone can register to get updates on the latest promotions available with the carrier and the website is very easy to use.
Transport in Sharjah
There are registered taxis such as Sharjah taxi, Union, Emirates etc which will charge you a start up fare of AED 10 or if you want to go to Dubai the start up rate is AED 20. The details of the driver are given on the screen and most of them speak English.
Taxis are the fastest to get around but you can also rent a vehicle if you possess a valid driving license but the UAE driving license is recommended for residents from Asian countries. It is left hand driving and there are many open roads and highways but you must maintain the speed authorized or if you do exceed you will see a light flashing which means you have got caught to the radar camera and a heavy fine will be levied. It takes a few weeks to get the UAE driving license and you can lease and get your own set of wheels; generally quite competitive. There are the brand new and the second hand markets as well. The fastest cars in the world can be seen in and around Sharjah and Dubai. These days the dodge seems to be quite popular and most police vehicles are Lamborghinis!
Important Arabic phrases
It is always better to know a few basic phrases no matter what country you would like to visit. Last month we shared a few of them and this month we would like to add on a little bit more.
Education in the state
- Please minfadlak
- Thank you shuk-ran laka
- Thanks shuk-ran
- Yes na-‘am
- No la
- Sorry aa-sif
- Excuse me! Law sa-mah-t!
- How much is this? Bi-kemhaa-thaa?
- I want this anaa u-ni-du haa-thaa
- I don’t want this laa u-ni-du haa-thaa
- What time is it? kem as-saa-‘ah?
- Where is the toilet? ay-nalmir-haad?
Most parents opt to put their children in a school in Sharjah, if they reside there but there are some from Dubai who also prefer Sharjah schools. All schools are located in one area and each school has a school bus with a teacher accompanying, which will pick up children from their homes as early as 5.30 in the morning and return home by 2pm. The standard of education and the school fees are quite high and most parents prefer to pay for the transport as well, so that children can safely come home without any hassle. The drivers have to undergo special training in order to drive a school bus and the authorities have strict regulations which all schools must adhere to or they would take action against violators. As most children live in apartments the caretakers or children on their own go into their homes and await the arrival of their parents. They have several systems of education ranging from British, American, Australian, Indian, Philippine, Pakistan, Arabic etc.
All universities are located in a delegated area and they range from American to Australian to British etc. All leading universities in the world have their own branch in Sharjah or Dubai. The faculties range from medical to arts, business, management etc. Even the universities have their own transportation for students which makes it quite easy for them.
The buses and classrooms are air conditioned and all students are provided with an additional student identification from each school. The buildings have been made in a way that there is ample space in keeping with the regulations of the authorities. Even early childhood development centers have special regulations and there are special schools for children with special needs. School days just like working days begin on Sunday and end on Thursday making Friday and Saturday the weekend.
There are many places where families can spend their time together. One of the most visited indoor game sites is Magic Planet. It is enjoyed by small kids to adults with different kinds of games available at all leading shopping malls. Small children can ride an electronic hippopotamus or dinosaur or have a ride in a big bumble bee. There are other indoor games where children can sit on a small rubber boat and take a small ride or catch a train ride with happy music. In front of every supermarket or hypermarket is a small electric car or vehicle with nursery rhymes for small children to ride on. If you insert a coin or two it works for a few minutes. The other interesting activity for adults are the massage chairs available at every shopping mall; put two one dirham coins and you have a massage for two minutes.
Movie theatres are available in three main malls in Sharjah and also in other areas. All the new movies are released and available in different languages as well. The movie times depend on whether it is a weekend or otherwise. The movies run every two hours or so for English and the best part is that every time one movie finishes they close the theatre and clean it before letting people sit so whichever theatre you go to, it is very clean. Even the washrooms are kept clean and there is an attendant to assist you.
The summer is hot yet the number of activities you can indulge in are quite a lot. There are many parks in and around the city of Sharjah. They are equipped for jogging, walking with a play area for kids. Some parks have picnic areas where you could have a good time with your family. There are also dining outlets located close upon these areas which makes things much easier for adults with children. Every morning and evening you could see people jogging, walking or cycling on the relevant tracks. Most parks open after 8am and close by about 12 noon and re-open by about 4pm.Some of the parks are Al Jazeera park, Sharjah National park, Green Belt park and Al Majaz park. The Paint Ball park is a new addition to the list of parks.
Al Jazeera fun park
You need to pay an entrance fee but it is well worth it as everyone in the family is entertained by the many activities available. The park itself is built on a lagoon and there is an amusement park, swimming pools and even a small zoo.
Sharjah National park
This is the largest park in Sharjah covering 630,000 square meters located at the intersection number five and the park is open from 2pm to 6pm on weekdays, all day during weekends but from 10 am to 7pm on public holidays.
Green Belt park
This is exclusively for ladies and children located close to the cultural roundabout in Sharjah with water fountains and an open air theatre with four main gates.
Al Majaz park
It is a modern public garden in the Sharjah city close to the Khalid lagoon. Many people gather around the park to exercise in the morning hours. There are many child - friendly apparatus for kids to play.
You must remember whether you are a male or female, to adhere to the clothing rules and be properly clad before you enter the beaches in Sharjah. White sandy shores with calm blue beaches are quite a treat for those who like to be under the sun. There are hotels which have their own beaches whilst there are open beaches for the general public as well. Most often in winter you can see residents having a barbecue under the stars. Some of the beaches are Al Khan lagoon to Al Mamzar lagoon, Al Khan beach, Al Corniche beach, Khor Fakkan beach, Khalid lagoon and Buhairah Corniche and the Sharjah Corniche.
Food from various countries
The many nationalities living in Sharjah are quite lucky to have their own vegetables and fruits flown in from their home countries. There are specialty restaurants for Philippine nationals with special publications for their community and special food items too. Sri Lankan vegetables and even king coconut is available in certain hypermarkets and special grocery stores. There are a few Sri Lankan eateries too around Sharjah and Dubai. The Weekend and daily Sinhalese newspapers are available in certain areas in Sharjah.
Places of worship
As it is an Islamic country there are mosques (masjid in Arabic) located everywhere but for the worshippers of other religions there are churches, temples and kovils one could attend to pray. The prayer services take place every week and most of them are full of people. When I stated home away from home, I meant every word as it contains every single aspect that you need to lead a good life. Most Sri Lankans residing here have been enjoying all the benefits for over 20 years. Most of them have made this their second home due to these valuable facilities.
There are many museums around Sharjah you can visit and many interesting performances as well. The Sharjah expo center has many programmes during different times of the year and people are kept informed by various media.
It is an experience that one must gain to live at least a few months in a different country to know its culture, people and heritage.