Just up the coast from its bold neighbour Dubai, Sharjah is the third city of the UAE and capital of
its Emirate by the same name. The city is part of the Dubai-Sharjah-Ajman conurbation which spreads
along the Persian Gulf, but it has its own distinct character and is very dense and crowded. Many
migrant workers in Dubai stay in Sharjah and battle the traffic on the bus for over two hours every
day. Sharjah is perhaps the most conservative of the Emirates, and is notable for being entirely dry - and I'm
not talking about the weather.
I clearly remembered visiting the old central souk of Sharjah back in the 1980s, and was pleased to
see it was still there when I returned in 2011. I've since been back in passing a few times, repeatedly
to the smaller covered souk which stocks all sorts of curious items. I even bought my car here,
Sharjah is a little cheaper than Dubai for cars.
Shiny glass towers at the Sharjah Corniche, with families out enjoying the cooler winter weather on
a Friday afternoon.
The old central souk in Sharjah is an impressive building, complete with traditional style Arabian wind
towers on top.
Detail of one of the fancy windows of the old central souk in Sharjah, seen from the inside.
One of Sharjah's industries is the re-fit and servicing of jack-up drilling rigs, which line the sky
at the port behind the old working dhows.
Sharjah is known for the splendour of its many mosques, with this example by the waterfront being no
The smaller covered souk in central Sharjah is a great place for finding old stamps and bank notes from
Sharjah Fort these days is somewhat boxed in by the surrounding apartment buildings, and is one of the
few surviving historical remnants of the old city.
An example of the classic Arabian wind towers which dot the skyline in old Sharjah.
Like many cities in the Gulf, Sharjah rapidly developed during the 2000s, with an impressive skyline
appearing virtually overnight. I've noticed that just about all towers in Sharjah are equipped with
helipads, but I've seen very few in Dubai.
At one of the beaches on the southern edge of Sharjah, it's apparent just how close neighbouring Dubai
is, with the Burj Khalifa and Sheikh Zayed road towers looming through the haze.
Outside of the city is the Sharjah Natural History Museum, an excellent attraction well worth a few
hours. Although not very photogenic, the Sharjah Monument just across the road from the museum was
worth a look too, sited on a small hill in the middle of the desert plain.