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Discover Sharjah: A Journey Through History, Culture, and Modernity

Sharjah Uncovered: The Historical, Cultural, and Economic Gems of the UAE's Cultural Capital.

History of Sharjah

Sharjah, often hailed as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, boasts a rich history dating back to the third millennium BC. This region's historical significance is evident from the numerous archaeological sites scattered across the emirate, revealing evidence of ancient settlements, sophisticated trade routes, and thriving civilizations.

Archaeological discoveries at sites like Mleiha have uncovered tombs, forts, and artefacts that paint a vivid picture of life in Sharjah thousands of years ago. These findings include tools, pottery, and remnants of early agricultural practices, indicating a well-established community engaged in farming, hunting, and trading. Mleiha's extensive archaeological site provides insight into the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and pre-Islamic periods, showcasing Sharjah's long-standing historical importance.

Over the centuries, Sharjah evolved into a prominent trade centre due to its strategic location along the Arabian Gulf. It became a crucial link in the trade networks connecting the Arabian Peninsula with India, Persia, and the broader Middle East. This period saw the emirate thrive as a bustling port, facilitating the exchange of goods such as spices, textiles, and pearls. The influence of various cultures that passed through Sharjah is evident in the diverse artefacts and architectural styles found in the region.

In the early Islamic period, Sharjah continued to flourish as a centre of commerce and culture. The spread of Islam brought new architectural styles, art forms, and cultural practices to the region. The establishment of Islamic schools and centres of learning further cemented Sharjah's reputation as a hub of knowledge and culture.

By the 18th century, the Al Qasimi family rose to prominence, establishing themselves as the ruling family of Sharjah. Their leadership brought stability and growth to the emirate, fostering an environment conducive to trade and cultural development. The Al Qasimi rulers played a pivotal role in shaping Sharjah's identity, balancing tradition with progress.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sharjah faced challenges from regional conflicts and changing political dynamics. However, the emirate's strategic importance and resilient leadership helped it navigate these challenges, eventually joining the United Arab Emirates in 1971.

Today, Sharjah's commitment to preserving its rich history is evident in its numerous museums and cultural institutions. The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, the Sharjah Art Museum, and the Al Mahatta Museum are just a few examples of institutions that celebrate the emirate's historical and artistic legacy. These cultural landmarks provide a deep insight into the region's history, from ancient artefacts to contemporary art, ensuring that Sharjah's vibrant past continues to inspire future generations.

 

Culture and Traditions of Sharjah

Sharjah, often referred to as the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a vibrant emirate known for its dedication to preserving and promoting its rich cultural heritage and traditions. This commitment is evident in the numerous cultural institutions, events, and initiatives that Sharjah hosts and supports, making it a beacon of culture in the region.

Cultural Events and Festivals

Sharjah is home to a variety of cultural events and festivals that draw visitors from around the world. The Sharjah International Book Fair, one of the largest book fairs globally, is a prominent event that celebrates literature, learning, and the joy of reading. This fair attracts renowned authors, publishers, and book lovers, offering a platform for literary exchange and fostering a love for reading among all age groups.

Another significant event is the Sharjah Biennial, an internationally acclaimed art exhibition that showcases contemporary art from diverse cultures. Organised by the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Biennial provides a space for artists to explore and present their work, encouraging cultural dialogue and artistic innovation.

Museums and Heritage Sites

Sharjah's dedication to preserving its cultural heritage is also reflected in its extensive network of museums and heritage sites. The Sharjah Heritage Museum is a prime example, offering visitors a glimpse into the emirate's traditional lifestyle, customs, and crafts. Exhibits include traditional Emirati clothing, jewellery, household items, and tools, providing a comprehensive understanding of Sharjah's cultural heritage.

The Heart of Sharjah project is another noteworthy initiative aimed at preserving and restoring the emirate's historical areas. This ambitious project seeks to revive Sharjah's old town, transforming it into a vibrant cultural district with restored buildings, traditional souks, art galleries, and museums. Visitors can wander through the narrow alleyways, exploring the rich history and architecture that define Sharjah's past.

Traditional Crafts and Practices

Sharjah is also committed to preserving traditional crafts and practices. The Sharjah Calligraphy Museum, for instance, celebrates the art of Arabic calligraphy, showcasing works by renowned calligraphers and offering workshops to teach this ancient art form. Similarly, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization houses a vast collection of Islamic artefacts, including manuscripts, scientific instruments, and artworks, highlighting the contributions of Islamic civilization to global culture.

The emirate also places great emphasis on traditional music and dance. Events and performances often feature Al-Ayyala, a traditional dance performed by men with sticks, and Al-Razfa, a traditional Bedouin dance. These performances are not only a form of entertainment but also a way to keep these cultural traditions alive for future generations.

Educational and Cultural Institutions

Education plays a crucial role in Sharjah's cultural landscape. Institutions such as the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and the University of Sharjah (UOS) are renowned for their academic excellence and cultural contributions. These universities host various cultural events, lectures, and exhibitions that enrich the cultural fabric of the emirate.

The Sharjah Institute for Heritage is another key institution dedicated to preserving and promoting Emirati heritage. It offers educational programs, workshops, and research opportunities focused on Sharjah's cultural traditions, ensuring that these practices are passed down to future generations.

Cultural Policies and Leadership

The leadership of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah, has been instrumental in shaping the emirate's cultural identity. A scholar and author himself, Sheikh Sultan has initiated numerous cultural projects and policies aimed at preserving and promoting Sharjah's heritage. His vision has transformed Sharjah into a cultural hub, recognized globally for its dedication to arts and culture.

Sharjah's culture and traditions are a testament to its rich history and the emirate's commitment to preserving and promoting its heritage. From world-class cultural events and festivals to dedicated museums and heritage sites, Sharjah offers a vibrant cultural landscape that celebrates its past while embracing the future. Through the efforts of its leaders and the participation of its people, Sharjah continues to be a shining example of cultural preservation and innovation in the UAE and beyond.

 

Food of Sharjah

Sharjah's culinary scene is a delightful fusion of traditional Emirati cuisine and international flavours, reflecting its rich cultural heritage and diverse population. The emirate's food culture offers a unique gastronomic experience, combining age-old recipes with contemporary culinary practices.

Traditional Emirati Cuisine

At the heart of Sharjah's food culture is traditional Emirati cuisine, which is characterised by its use of fragrant spices, fresh ingredients, and time-honoured cooking methods. Some of the most beloved Emirati dishes include:

  • Majboos: A fragrant rice dish typically made with chicken, lamb, or fish, and flavoured with a blend of spices including turmeric, cumin, and coriander. The dish is often garnished with fried onions, nuts, and raisins.
  • Harees: A hearty dish made from wheat and meat, usually chicken or lamb, slow-cooked to a creamy consistency. It is often enjoyed during the holy month of Ramadan and on special occasions.
  • Machboos: Similar to Majboos, this dish features spiced rice with meat or fish, often accompanied by a tangy tomato sauce and a variety of pickles.
  • Balaleet: A traditional breakfast dish made of sweetened vermicelli noodles served with a savoury omelette on top. The contrast of sweet and savoury flavours makes it a unique and beloved meal.
  • Luqaimat: A popular dessert consisting of deep-fried dough balls drizzled with date syrup or honey. These sweet treats are often enjoyed with Arabic coffee.
  • Seafood: Given its coastal location, Sharjah has a rich tradition of seafood dishes. Grilled fish, shrimp, and squid are often seasoned with local spices and herbs, offering a taste of the Arabian Gulf.

Influences from Other Cultures

Sharjah’s diverse population has also introduced a variety of international cuisines to the emirate. Indian, Persian, Lebanese, and Western cuisines are widely available, reflecting the multicultural nature of Sharjah’s residents and visitors. This culinary diversity ensures that everyone can find something to suit their taste buds.

  • Indian Cuisine: Popular dishes include biryani, tandoori, and a variety of curries, which are available in numerous restaurants throughout Sharjah.
  • Persian Cuisine: Known for its use of saffron, dried fruits, and nuts, Persian cuisine offers dishes like kebabs, saffron rice, and stews.
  • Lebanese Cuisine: Favourites like hummus, tabbouleh, and shawarma are widely enjoyed, alongside fresh bread and a variety of grilled meats.
  • Western Cuisine: Sharjah also boasts a range of Western dining options, from fast food chains to fine dining establishments, offering everything from burgers and steaks to pasta and salads.

Cafes and Street Food

The café culture in Sharjah is thriving, with numerous coffee shops and tea houses offering a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy a variety of beverages and light snacks. Arabic coffee, served with dates, is a staple, while more contemporary options like cappuccinos and lattes are also popular.

Street food is an integral part of Sharjah’s food scene. Local markets and food stalls offer an array of quick bites, from shawarma and falafel to fresh fruit juices and traditional sweets. These street vendors provide an authentic taste of Sharjah’s culinary traditions at affordable prices.

Food Festivals and Events

Sharjah hosts several food festivals and events throughout the year, celebrating its culinary diversity and heritage. These events offer residents and visitors the chance to explore a wide range of cuisines, sample new dishes, and enjoy live cooking demonstrations. The Sharjah Food Festival, for instance, is a popular annual event that showcases the best of local and international cuisine.

The food of Sharjah is a vibrant reflection of its rich cultural heritage and diverse population. From traditional Emirati dishes to international flavours, the emirate offers a culinary journey that caters to all tastes. Whether dining at a fine restaurant, enjoying street food, or participating in a food festival, Sharjah’s gastronomic offerings are sure to leave a lasting impression on every visitor.

Education System of Sharjah.

Sharjah’s commitment to education is deeply rooted in its history and continues to be a cornerstone of its development. The emirate’s educational journey began with traditional forms of learning in the early 20th century, where informal schools known as "kuttabs'' were common. These schools focused on teaching the Quran, Arabic language, and basic arithmetic. As the need for formal education grew, Sharjah established its first modern school, Al Qasimiyah School, in 1953, marking a significant milestone in the emirate's educational evolution.

Over the decades, Sharjah has significantly expanded its educational infrastructure to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population. The establishment of the University City in the late 1990s was a transformative step. This sprawling campus is home to some of the UAE's most prestigious institutions, including the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and the University of Sharjah (UOS). These universities have gained international recognition for their academic excellence, research contributions, and state-of-the-art facilities.

The American University of Sharjah, founded in 1997, was established by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, to provide a high standard of education in the region. AUS offers a diverse range of undergraduate and graduate programs, adhering to the American model of education, which emphasises critical thinking, liberal arts, and scientific inquiry. The university attracts students from over 90 countries, fostering a multicultural academic environment.

The University of Sharjah, also established in 1997, offers a broad spectrum of programs in various fields, including engineering, health sciences, business, and law. UOS is renowned for its comprehensive research initiatives and collaborations with international institutions. The university’s medical and health sciences programs, in particular, have gained acclaim for their contributions to healthcare research and practice in the region.

In addition to higher education, Sharjah boasts a strong network of primary and secondary schools, both public and private. The emirate’s schools adhere to diverse curricula, including the UAE Ministry of Education curriculum, British, American, and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. This variety ensures that families can choose educational paths that best suit their children’s needs and aspirations.

The government of Sharjah places a high priority on education, regularly investing in new facilities, technology, and training for educators. Initiatives such as the Sharjah Education Council and the Sharjah Private Education Authority work to enhance the quality of education across all levels. These efforts include teacher development programs, student scholarships, and collaborations with international educational organisations.

Furthermore, Sharjah is home to numerous specialised institutions, such as the Sharjah Institute for Heritage, which focuses on preserving and promoting Emirati heritage through education and research. These institutions not only contribute to the academic landscape but also enrich the cultural and intellectual fabric of the emirate.

In conclusion, Sharjah’s educational system is a testament to its enduring commitment to learning and development. From its early days of informal schooling to its current status as a hub of academic excellence, Sharjah continues to prioritise education as a vital component of its progress and prosperity.

Sharjah Business Traditions & Sharjah’s Economy.

Sharjah’s economy is a testament to its strategic vision and historical legacy of trade and commerce. Historically, Sharjah was a vital trading port on the Arabian Gulf, serving as a crucial link between the East and the West. Its geographical location made it a hub for merchants dealing in spices, pearls, textiles, and dates. The tradition of commerce is deeply ingrained in the emirate’s ethos, shaping its modern economic landscape.

Today, Sharjah boasts a diversified economy that seamlessly blends traditional sectors with contemporary industries. The emirate has successfully balanced its historical roots in manufacturing and real estate with burgeoning sectors such as education, healthcare, and tourism. This economic diversification has been a cornerstone of Sharjah’s resilience and growth.

Manufacturing remains a key pillar of Sharjah’s economy, with the emirate being home to numerous factories and industrial units. The Sharjah Industrial Area is one of the largest in the UAE, housing a wide range of industries from food processing to construction materials. This industrial prowess is complemented by the emirate's robust real estate market, which has seen significant growth driven by both residential and commercial developments.

Sharjah’s modern economic strategy includes significant investments in education and research. Institutions like the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and the University of Sharjah (UOS) contribute to the local economy by attracting international students and fostering innovation through research initiatives. These universities not only provide high-quality education but also serve as incubators for new ideas and technologies.

Tourism is another vital sector, bolstered by Sharjah’s rich cultural heritage and numerous attractions. The emirate’s commitment to preserving its cultural sites, such as the Heart of Sharjah and various museums, has made it a desirable destination for cultural tourism. Additionally, events like the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Sharjah Biennial draw thousands of visitors, further stimulating the local economy.

The Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) plays a crucial role in supporting businesses and fostering economic growth. SEDD’s initiatives include simplifying business registration processes, offering incentives for startups, and ensuring a conducive environment for foreign investments. The establishment of various free zones, such as the Sharjah International Airport Free Zone (SAIF Zone) and the Hamriyah Free Zone, has been pivotal in attracting businesses from around the world. These zones offer numerous benefits, including tax exemptions, full foreign ownership, and state-of-the-art infrastructure, making Sharjah an attractive destination for international enterprises.

SAIF Zone, located adjacent to the Sharjah International Airport, has become a hub for logistics and warehousing, providing businesses with strategic advantages in terms of connectivity and supply chain efficiency. The Hamriyah Free Zone, on the other hand, caters to a diverse range of industries including petrochemicals, steel, and maritime, further diversifying Sharjah’s economic base.

Sharjah’s government continues to foster an environment of growth and innovation through initiatives like the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa), which supports startups and small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by providing mentorship, funding, and networking opportunities. This focus on entrepreneurship is nurturing a new generation of business leaders and innovators, driving the emirate’s economy forward.

In conclusion, Sharjah’s economy is a dynamic blend of historical commerce and modern innovation. Its strategic initiatives, combined with a rich cultural heritage and a business-friendly environment, ensure that Sharjah remains a key player in the UAE’s economic landscape.

Rulers of Sharjah and the Al Qasimi Family Tree.

The Al Qasimi family has ruled Sharjah for over two centuries, playing a pivotal role in the emirate's development and preservation of its cultural heritage. The Al Qasimi dynasty, a prominent family in the UAE, traces its origins back to the 18th century. They are part of the larger Al Qasimi tribe, which also has branches in Ras Al Khaimah.

Historical Background

The Al Qasimi family emerged as a significant power in the Arabian Peninsula during the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They initially established themselves as influential leaders through their maritime prowess and control over trade routes along the Arabian Gulf. The family's strategic position allowed them to engage in trade and diplomacy with various regional and international powers, including the British Empire.

In the early 19th century, the British sought to curb piracy along the Arabian Gulf, leading to several conflicts with the Al Qasimi. The resulting General Maritime Treaty of 1820 marked the beginning of British influence in the region, but the Al Qasimi maintained their autonomy and continued to govern Sharjah and its surrounding areas.

Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.

The current ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, ascended to the throne on January 25, 1972. Born on July 2, 1939, Sheikh Sultan is a highly educated and scholarly leader, holding several academic degrees, including a Ph.D. in History from the University of Exeter. His scholarly pursuits have greatly influenced his governance, emphasising education, culture, and historical preservation.

Under Sheikh Sultan's leadership, Sharjah has transformed into a cultural and educational hub. He has established numerous institutions, such as the University of Sharjah and the American University of Sharjah, which have become centres of academic excellence in the region. His dedication to culture is evident in initiatives like the Sharjah International Book Fair and the Sharjah Biennial, which have gained international recognition.

Family Tree.

The Al Qasimi family tree is extensive, with many members contributing to the emirate's governance and development. Key figures include:

  • Sheikh Saqr bin Sultan Al Qasimi: Ruler of Sharjah from 1951 to 1965, Sheikh Saqr played a crucial role in modernising the emirate's infrastructure and laying the groundwork for future development. His reign saw the construction of essential facilities, such as hospitals and schools, that improved the quality of life for residents.
  • Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi: Ruler from 1965 until his assassination in 1972, Sheikh Khalid's tenure was marked by efforts to strengthen Sharjah's economy and political stability. His sudden death led to the ascension of Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.
  • Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi: A prominent member of the Al Qasimi family, Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed currently serves as the Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Chairman of the Sharjah Media Council. He is actively involved in various cultural and media initiatives, continuing the family's legacy of promoting Sharjah's rich heritage.

The Al Qasimi family’s legacy is deeply intertwined with Sharjah’s history and development. Their governance has been characterised by a commitment to cultural preservation, education, and economic diversification. The family’s influence extends beyond politics, encompassing significant contributions to the emirate’s social and cultural fabric.

Under the leadership of Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Sharjah has not only maintained its historical significance but has also embraced modernity, positioning itself as a leading cultural and educational centre in the UAE. His vision and dedication have ensured that Sharjah remains a vibrant and dynamic emirate, respected both regionally and internationally.

 

Sharjah - The Cultural Heartbeat of the UAE

Sharjah, known as the cultural capital of the UAE, has a rich history dating back to the third millennium BC. Archaeological sites like Mleiha reveal evidence of ancient settlements, sophisticated trade routes, and thriving civilizations. Over the centuries, Sharjah evolved into a prominent trade centre due to its strategic location along the Arabian Gulf, linking the Arabian Peninsula with India, Persia, and the broader Middle East. The emirate flourished as a centre of commerce and culture, particularly during the Islamic period.

Sharjah's commitment to culture is evident in its numerous events, festivals, and institutions. The Sharjah International Book Fair and the Sharjah Biennial are major cultural events, while the Sharjah Heritage Museum and the Heart of Sharjah project showcase the emirate's dedication to preserving its heritage. Traditional crafts, music, and dance are also integral to Sharjah's cultural landscape.

The culinary scene in Sharjah offers a delightful fusion of traditional Emirati cuisine and international flavours, reflecting its diverse population. Traditional dishes like Majboos and Harees are popular, and the emirate also features a wide array of international dining options.

Sharjah's education system is robust, with institutions like the American University of Sharjah and the University of Sharjah gaining international recognition. The emirate offers a variety of curricula in its primary and secondary schools, ensuring quality education for its residents.

The economy of Sharjah is diversified, balancing traditional sectors like manufacturing and real estate with modern industries such as education and tourism. The Sharjah Economic Development Department (SEDD) and various free zones support businesses and attract international investors. Initiatives like the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center (Sheraa) foster a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The Al Qasimi family has ruled Sharjah for over two centuries, significantly shaping its development. The current ruler, His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, has transformed Sharjah into a cultural and educational hub through his vision and dedication. The Al Qasimi family continues to play a pivotal role in preserving Sharjah's heritage and promoting its progress.

Overall, Sharjah stands as a vibrant emirate that honours its rich history while embracing modernity, making significant contributions to culture, education, and economic development in the UAE.

 

Disclaimer:

The information presented in this article is based on extensive research and sources believed to be reliable. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, the author and DNN-DXb News Network do not assume any liability for errors or omissions. The content is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice.


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May 21, 2024 3:16 p.m. 563

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