Sharjah is one of the largest emirates in the UAE, and was the most important until the 1970s, serving as a vital hub for British trade routes to India.
This land of caravans and pearl-seekers has preserved an important cultural heritage, and although over time it has been eclipsed by the rise of Dubai, today it is a pleasant place to visit, offering excellent museums and adventurous experiences to do.
Sharjah has been recognized as the Arab Capital of Culture and is the cultural heart of the UAE. Today many people who work in Dubai choose to live in Sharjah, a modern, eclectic and peaceful city that absolutely deserves to be visited!
The Best Things to Do and See in Sharjah
1. Sharjah Heritage Area (Heart of Sharjah)
The Sharjah Heritage Area, also known as the Heart of Sharjah, is a complex of well-preserved ancient buildings, where you can see what the city of Sharjah was like in the early 1900s.
Today the complex of the Sharjah Heritage Area, candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List, houses several museums, such as the Sharjah Heritage Museum, which tells the history of the emirate, the Calligraphy Museum dedicated to the art of manuscripts and Bait Al Naboodah, a restored traditional house, which once belonged to an important local family.
Stop by the Souk Al Arsah, a traditional souk still active today, where you can find handicrafts, jewelry, spices and other local products.
In the Sharjah Heritage Area there is also a wonderful hotel, The Chedi Al Bait Sharjah. Spending a night here means living the experience of staying in an authentic Arab palace surrounded by great old charm.
2. Sharjah Mosque
The new Sharjah Mosque is a masterpiece of contemporary Arab architecture, inaugurated in 2019.
This large mosque is surrounded by green gardens, fountains and courtyards in richly decorated white stone. The prayer room is decorated with huge chandeliers and stained glass windows, in total the mosque can accommodate up to 25,000 worshipers.
The Sharjah Mosque is located outside the city, on the road to Maleha, and is also open to non-Muslim visitors.
In Sharjah there is also another very beautiful mosque, in classic Ottoman style, which even non-Muslims can visit, the Al Noor Mosque Sharjah, which is located in the center of the city.
Another famous Sharjah mosque is the King Faisal Mosque, dating back to the late 1980s and which for a long time was the largest in the UAE.
3. Sharjah’s Blue Souk (Central Market)
One of the best places to see in Sharjah is the Blue Souk, the central market. The name Blue Souk derives from the blue arabesques which decorate the facade of the building.
Inside there are over 600 shops that sell a little bit of everything, from jewelery to clothing, from spices to food, from perfumes to souvenirs.
The upper floor is the most characteristic wing, where they sell handicrafts, carpets and jewelery in an old-fashioned atmosphere.
4. Al Mahatta Fort – Sharjah Aviation Museum
The history of the United Arab Emirates is truly intriguing, and in a few places you can still go hunting for traces of the past like in Sharjah, where in the center you can find the remains of… an airport!
In the early 1900s, planes needed more frequent refueling than today and were not made to fly long distances without stopping. For this reason the British needed an overnight stop somewhere in the area of the Arabian Peninsula, controlled however by a myriad of sheikhdoms.
All area rulers rejected the British request for an airstrip, except for the then ruler of Sharjah. In 1932 an airstrip was built in Sharjah and a fort guarded by armed guards to protect against the Bedouin raids.
In return, Sharjah obtained money for the rent from the British, and made sure that its port became the main port for British ships, which greatly improved the economy of the emirate.
Al Mahatta Fort was for a long time the only airport in the entire region, and after unification it became the first airport in the UAE. Al Mahatta Fort remained active until 1977 when Sharjah International Airport was built. Today it can be visited and houses the Sharjah Aviation Museum, which tells the history of air travel in the UAE.
Here you can see a collection of old airplanes, including the first airplane landed here. Inside the Al Mahatta fort there was also a small cinema, this was the first cinema in the Gulf area.
5. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is one of the most important museums to visit in Sharjah, because it houses one of the most complete collections on Islamic and Arab culture.
During the visit to the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, the visitor can learn many interesting things about local culture. The exhibitions include collections of artifacts ranging from the 7th to the 19th century, weapons, jewels in precious metals, ancient manuscripts and astrolabes.
Noteworthy is the mosaic representing the zodiac, visible on the vault of the central dome of the museum.
6. Sharjah Fort
Sharjah Fort is an ancient fort built around 1820 to defend the city of Sharjah and as a residence for the ruler’s family.
Sharjah Fort is located near the Heritage Area and was the result of careful renovation work that took place between 1997 and 2015, with the transformation into a museum.
The Sharjah Fort Museum houses a collection of vintage weapons, cannons, the royal bed and other things that belonged to the ruler.
7. Al Majaz Waterfront
Al Majaz Waterfront is one of the most beautiful places in Sharjah, and to enjoy it to the fullest, go there at sunset, it’s spectacular!
Al Majaz Waterfront is located at the end of the Khaled Lagoon, in the heart of Sharjah, and is one of the most vibrant places, with green meadows, ponds and fountains. Locals love to walk here in the evening or in the morning, or go on the long jogging track that runs through the park.
At Al Majaz Waterfront you can see the spectacular Sharjah Musical Fountain and many events and artists that animate the place in the evening.
For families there are many restaurants and cafes and also children’s playgrounds. The main Sharjah concerts and festivals are also held here, making it one of the most popular parks in the city.
Entrance is free, some games or attractions are subject to a fee.
8. Al Noor Island
Al Noor Island is the ideal place to take a quiet sunset stroll or enjoy some tranquility.
Al Noor Island is a small islet in Khalid lagoon, in the center of Sharjah, inaugurated in 2015. From here you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Sharjah skyline, and stroll through the green gardens which are illuminated by colored lights in the evening.
The bridge you walk to get there is a great spot to take good pictures, and the best time to go is at sunset, when Al Noor Island comes alive, with artistic and musical performances.
The must-see attraction of Al Noor Island is the Butterfly House, where you can see over 500 butterflies belonging to 20 different exotic species.
Entry to Al Noor Island costs AED 35 for adults and AED 20 for children (ages 3 to 12).
9. Souk Al-Jubail
Immerse yourself in local life, take a look at Souk Al-Jubail, the large covered market in Sharjah.
This market is frequented by locals who find the freshest ingredients here, freshly caught fish in the Gulf and a large variety of colorful fruit and vegetables.
Souk Al-Jubail is always crowded, and it’s a good place to buy something good to eat, like dates, and have fun bargaining with vendors.
10. Sharjah Archeology Museum
The area around Sharjah is rich in archaeological finds and traces of ancient civilizations. The Sharjah Archeology Museum allows you to see the most important finds, from the Stone Age onwards.
An area is dedicated to gems and artifacts dating back to the merchants who traded with Mesopotamia (today’s Iraq), the path then continues through the rich exhibition dedicated to the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.
Thanks to the interactive installations along the way, the visit is pleasant and simple, able to convince even children.
11. Al Qasba
Al Qasba is Sharjah’s top nighttime destination, it is located directly on the sea and is full of nice restaurants and cafes.
Local couples and families (but also tourists) love to walk along the Al Qasba canal, it is a quiet place, there are playgrounds for children, benches and places to enjoy some rest.
12. Sharjah Classic Cars Museum
Vintage car enthusiasts will love this place, the Sharjah Classic Cars Museum is located near the airport and houses a valuable collection of vintage cars dating back to the early 1900s.
The oldest car on display is a 1915 Dodge, but the exhibition traces the entire history of the automotive industry, explaining its construction processes and telling the story and the evolution of brands and models.
One of the highlights of the collection is an old Mercedes limousine that belongs to the Sharjah ruler.
13. At Montazah Parks
Al Montazah Parks is one of Sharjah’s main tourist attractions dedicated to entertainment. Located in Khalid Lagoon this park (once called Al Jazeera Park) offers a famous water park called Pearls Kingdom and a large open-air adventure park called Island of Legends.
Al Montazah Parks are located on Flag Island, on the opposite side from the side where the flag pole is. While you’re there, take a look also at the beautiful Flag Island!
Places to see in Sharjah with the kids
1. Sharjah Aquarium & Maritime Museum
The Sharjah Aquarium offers an overview of the species that live in the Gulf, with around 200 different species housed in the tanks which are a perfect reproduction of the coral reef. Compared with the Dubai Aquarium, this is significantly smaller in size.
Connected to the Sharjah Aquarium is the Maritime Museum, which houses an interesting exhibition of Dhows, the traditional wooden boats of the UAE, and is a good place to learn about fishing, pearls and ancient trade routes.
2. Sharjah Desert Park
Sharjah Desert Park is a park dedicated to desert wildlife and divided into a Natural History Museum, a Botanical Museum and the Wildlife Center, where you can see many animals, including the rare Arabian oryx and the majestic Arabian leopard, as well as wildcats, hyenas, mongooses, hyenas, wolves and snakes.
The kids will love the Children’s Farm in Sharjah Desert Park, where they can get close to the cute farm animals and feed the cows, goats, camels and Arabian horses.
3. Sharjah Science Museum
This is a place for curious kids (and parents)! The Sharjah Science Museum is a fully interactive museum, which allows kids to test themselves with exciting experiments and incredible discoveries.
From the secrets of physics to the magic of chemistry, kids will learn many new things by doing, learning the human body, looking in microscopes or trying to synthesize new sounds.
4. Sharjah Discovery Center
The Sharjah Discovery Center is a theme park dedicated to the wonders of technology and science, where children can learn many things about construction, energy, transport and communication.
Kids can find out how an airport is made, how an oil refinery works, have fun with sounds or improvise film directors.
The entire interactive path offers many play possibilities that stimulate children’s curiosity and creativity.
5. Sharjah National Park
Sharjah National Park is a large public garden, the largest in Sharjah, and is the place where local families love to go with their children.
At Sharjah National Park you will find a large green lawn, paths lined with plants and fountains, jogging tracks, picnic and BBQ areas, and a large free playground for children.
Sharjah National Park is located next to the Sharjah Discovery Center and is a good place to spend an afternoon just like the locals do.
Places to see in Sharjah for art lovers
1. Sharjah Art Foundation
Located in the artist quarter and close to the major attractions of the Heart of Sharjah, the Sharjah Art Foundation is a complex of museums, art installations and buildings dedicated to art and culture.
Art lovers will appreciate the various events and exhibitions that are organized here, as well as a lively artistic community that has made this place an important reference point for local art.
2. Sharjah Arts Museum
Oriental art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Sharjah Arts Museum, one of the most important art museums in all the UAE.
The Sharjah Arts Museum opened in 1997 and is a state of the art museum, with a large permanent collection of thousands of art masterpieces spread over 3 floors, as well as several temporary exhibitions.
Places to see outside the city of Sharjah
1. Khor Fakkan
Khor Fakkan is another Sharjah Emirate exclave, facing the Gulf of Oman, along the east coast.
The city of Khor Fakkan is the second largest city in the emirate of Sharjah, but retains a peaceful and relaxed atmosphere. It is located in a strategic position, with a beautiful natural port that is often chosen as a stopover for cruise ships because of its picturesque landscape and beautiful white sand beaches.
For now, the city has retained much of its authentic charm and has not been affected by mass tourism, visitors can explore its streets, its renowned fish market and a picturesque tower from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the gulf.
Kalba is the southernmost village in the United Arab Emirates along the east coast, and is located on the border with Oman, about 120 km from the city of Sharjah, but in the same emirate.
Today Kalba is a small and peaceful fishing village, with a market where you can find excellent fresh fish. Visitors love to stroll along the Corniche, a long promenade that runs the length of the city.
Kalba Fort and the House of Sheikh Saeed bin Hamad Al-Qassimi are also worth visiting. All the main places to see are in the same area, you can park your car and walk around.
Just south of the village, beyond the Ice Factory, there is a parking lot and from there a path leads to the Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve, a mangrove forest that is a paradise for bird watchers, with dozens of species of water birds.
3. Mlieha Archeological Center
The Mlieha Archeological Center is the right place to discover the history of desert civilizations, of those people who, through thousands of years of history, have learned to survive in extreme conditions and to build villages and cities to live in.
The Mlieha Archeological Center is the most important archeological site of the emirate and is located about 60 km from the city of Sharjah. Here you can see artifacts dating back over 120.000 years ago, bronze weapons, pottery and tombs.
The Mlieha Archeological Center is located in the desert, not far from the Wadi Caves, a complex of caves dating back to prehistoric times (which can be visited with a rather harsh trek, but from the top the view of the desert is remarkable) and from an expanse of large dunes. Better to go there in winter.
4. The Buried Village
The desert is a land of mysteries, of lost cities, and of legends. The buried village which is located just outside the town of Al Madam in the emirate of Sharjah, along the border with Oman, has all these characteristics.
The Buried Village is a village lost in the desert sand, which partially covers its houses. It is said that people from the Kutbi tribe lived here, but nobody knows what happened to them or why they left.
The village, built in the 70s, is made up of two rows of houses and a mosque. Today the houses are half-buried and some, including the mosque, have filled up with sand.
Al Madam Ghost City today attracts photographers and curious from all over the world, attracted by the surreal photographs that can be taken inside the houses invaded by the sand.
The only way to get to the area is to book a 4×4, Al Madam Ghost City is located in the middle of the desert.
How to get to Sharjah
The city of Sharjah is very well connected to Dubai, this is because many people who work in Dubai have chosen to live in Sharjah.
There are several buses leaving from different stations in Dubai, but the journey time is over 1 hour. Both Dubai and Sharjah suffer from heavy traffic during peak hours.
The main buses from Dubai to Sharjah are:
- E306 from Ghubaiba Bus Station in Dubai
- E307 from Deira City Center Bus Station in Dubai
- E303 from Union Square Metro Station in Dubai
- E311 from Rashidiya Metro Station in Dubai
The E311 route is currently the best way to go from Dubai to Sharjah, it takes half the time compared to the others.
From Sharjah to Dubai it’s easier: the buses all leave from Al Jubail Bus Station in Sharjah.
The cost of the ticket is 10 AED one way.
Travelers heading to Sharjah who land at Dubai International Airport need to book a private transfer because there are no buses.
Taxis regularly connect Dubai with Sharjah and vice versa. In this case a surcharge of 20 AED is added to the price of the ride, making it the most expensive solution.
Day trip from Dubai
Most visitors to Dubai choose to take a day trip to Sharjah. You can book a guided tour that includes transportation and a professional guide who accompanies you to discover all the main attractions of the city. It’s a smart, easy and cheap choice!
How to Get Around in Sharjah
NOTE: Bear in mind that the emirate of Sharjah is the most conservative of all UAE emirates. This means for example that alcohol is completely banned (with very few exceptions), including possession. It is also better to dress appropriately.
The city of Sharjah has a good bus and taxi network. Reaching most hotels or tourist attractions is quite easy.
The most convenient solution for tourists are the Hop On Hop Off double-decker buses, which are very convenient and travel along an excellent route that allows you to fully enjoy the city and stop in all the main tourist attractions.