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8 Best reasons



Just up the coast from Dubai, the emirate of Sharjah may look like a seamless extension of its nearby neighbour, but its vibe and spirit could not be more unique.

Call it a more human-scale interpretation of the next-gen city, Sharjah is a place that cherishes its heritage while shaping a distinct contemporary cultural identity.

Here’s a roundup of our favourite experiences.

Plug into a
thriving art scene

While other emirates stake their culture cred on attention-grabbing ventures, Sharjah has quietly nurtured a more community-based art scene.

Keep tabs on what’s hot in contemporary expression by checking out the latest exhibits organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation, which also masterminds the renowned Sharjah Biennial art expo.

Meanwhile, classic and modern Middle Eastern art take centre stage in the Sharjah Art Museum, which opened in 1997 as the nation’s first art museum and has added a wing focused on Arab Modernist works.

For a survey of 1300 years of regional arts and crafts, hit the top floor of the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization housed in a converted former souk easily recognised by its gleaming golden dome.

Walk through a downpour without getting drenched

Rain may be a rarity in this part of the world, but not in the Rain Room where it pours perpetually.

No need to unfold your umbrella, though, when walking through this surreal art installation created by Random International, a duo of German-born experimental artists based in London and Berlin.

Using motion sensors installed inside 3D tracking cameras, the cascading water pauses whenever a human body is detected, creating the ultimate photo-op.

Souq-shop till you drop

Shopping in Sharjah is less about malls than about traditional souqs. The largest is the Central Souq, which crams 600 stores into buildings embellished with windtowers, arched windows and blue tiles.

Ground floor stalls flog clothing, jewelry and watches, while those upstairs have more regional flair with carpets, lamps and antiques.

Sharjah’s oldest bazaar, the labyrinthine Souq Al Arsah is a treasure chest overflowing with pashminas, Bedouin jewelry, J-shaped khanjars (daggers) and other souvenir hunters’ trophies.

The newest kid on the block is Souq Al Shanasiyah, a historical marketplace demolished decades ago and now resurrected atop its old foundations.

Though compact, it has a reputation for high-end local brands such as Hamayem (perfume), 1971 (regional designers), Al Feryah (sweets) and Dukan Namlet (vintage soda).