Introducing Sharjah

Unless they happen to take advantage of Sharjah’s lower rents, many Dubai expats have never set foot in their conservative northern neighbour. Why go, they ask? There’s no booze, no party, no fancy restaurants, no beaches, and traffic is so dense, it’s punishing to even get there. All true. But as so often is the case, that’s only half the story.

Sharjah doesn’t dazzle with glitz but with culture. Long before Abu Dhabi began vying for the title, Unesco declared Sharjah the Cultural Capital of the Arab World. And deservedly so. The restored central Arts and Heritage Areas are among the most interesting neighbourhoods in the UAE. Quality museums, galleries and theatres abound. And prominent festivals like the Sharjah Biennal art fair and the Sharjah International Book Fair draw worldwide attention. Add to that some lively souqs where you can indulge your souvenir cravings and you’ve got a fascinating destination that’s well worth braving the traffic for.

One caveat: Sharjah is the one emirate that takes its decency laws seriously, so do dress modestly. That means no exposed knees, backs or bellies – and that goes for both men and women. Swimsuits should only be worn at hotel pools and beaches (no string bikinis).