The third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sharjah is known for its culture and heritage. In all honesty, I hadn’t heard of Sharjah before being invited to visit which is quite rare for me. I had visited Dubai and Abu Dhabi but knew little about the other Erimates.
I was quite excited to discover somewhere totally new and I was not disappointed. Sharjah is the only Emirates with two coasts as it lies between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. In addition to fantastic sea views and white beaches Sharjah has rugged mountains, awesome sand dunes and beautiful nature reserve.
The third biggest city in the UAE is also a great place for foodies with a rich and varied diet that can be sampled through its modern restaurants on water fronts, traditional restaurants tucked away in souqs and best of all eating at the home of a local.
I was also surprised to discover that Sharjah was once the biggest producer of pearls in the world. It has a rich history plus it is considered to be the centre of Islamic culture in the UAE, having previously held UNESCO designations in Arab and Islamic cultures.
Here are 23 fantastic places to visit while you’re in Sharjah.
23 Fantastic Places to Visit in Sharjah
Table of Contents
- 23 Fantastic Places to Visit in Sharjah
- 1. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation
- 2. Sharjah Corniche
- 3. Al Noor Island
- Heart of Sharjah
- 4. Souq Al Arsah Sharjah
- 5. Souq Al Shanasiyah
- 6. Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
- 7. Bait Al Naboodah
- 8. Sharjah Art Spaces
- 9. The Rain Room
- 10. Sharjah Mosque
- 11. House of Wisdom
- 12. Sharjah Safari Park
- 13. Holy Quran Academy Sharjah
- 14. Al Majaz Waterfront
- 15. The Sharjah Aquarium
- 16. The Sharjah Forts
- 17. Al Buhais Geological Park Sharjah
- 18. Shais Park
- 19. Khorfakkan Amphitheatre
- 20. Khorfakkan Waterfall
- 21. Khorfakkan Old Souq
- 22. Mleiha
- 23. Sharjah Light Festival
- Places to Eat in Sharjah
- Jones the Grocer
- The Cloud Lounge
- Boutique Hotels in Sharjah
- Chedi Al Bait
- Mysk Moon Retreat
- Mysk Al Faya Retreat
- Mysk Al Badayer
- Kingfisher Retreat
- How to Get to Sharjah
1. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation
If you’re keen to learn more about Islam this is the place to go. The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation is dedicated to Islamic art and contains over 100,000 artifacts.
The museum’s gallery of Islamic faith does an excellent job explaining the processes within the religion, how mosques work, the different elements in mosques and their roles.
Futher galleries cover the achievements of muslim scholars in science and technology. This includes everything from chemistry to medical treatments to engineering. The first floor of the museum is an art gallery.
For me the photography highlight of the museum was the stunning blue mosaic inside its dome which depicts the night sky and the signs of the zodiac.
2. Sharjah Corniche
The Sharjah Corniche runs for just over 4 miles along the coast of Sharjah. It is lined with palm trees and a great place to walk, jog or cycle. It is particularly lovely at sunset.
3. Al Noor Island
Al Noor Island is on the north shore of the khalid lagoon. This beautiful island is home to more than 85 species of plants and its centre piece is the butterfly centre, home to over 500 butterflies.
The island was one of my favourite places to visit in Sharjah. In addition to all of its beautiful trees and plant life the island is home to a beach, lagoon and botanical garden. Plus interesting sculptures and other works of art appear in many places across the island and offer some great photo opportunities.
Sit on The Swing, an art installation by Azza Al Qubaisi. It represents the times in the pearl harvest season when women would stand by the shore and wait for their husband’s safe return from sea. Today it is a wonderful place to watch the sunset over Sharjah.
Or the Taurus Sculpture, a beautifully formed stainless stell elliptical mirror that misleads the eye in order to stimulate the mind.
Heart of Sharjah
The Heart of Sharjah is the largest historical preservation and restoration project in the region. First launched in 2010, this project has revitalised the heritage distrcit of Sharjah by restoring old buildings and constructing new buildings in the traditional Sharjah architectural style. They are now home to museums, hotels, markets, restaurants and much more.
It is possible to buy a Heritage ticket which includes Sharjah Fort, Al Eslah School Museum, Sharjah Heritage Museum, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum and Bait Al Naboodah.
4. Souq Al Arsah Sharjah
One of the oldest souqs in the UAE, Souq Al Arsah Sharjah is a popular shopping destination in Sharjah. The building dates back 150 years and today it is home to shops selling souvenirs and clothing as well as restaurants and cafes.
5. Souq Al Shanasiyah
Souq Al Shanasiyah Sharjah is another popular shopping area in the Sharjah heritage area. It is a covered street complete with fans to help keep shoppers cool in Sharjah’s often warm weather. This is another great place to come to buy traditional items as souvenirs to take home.
6. Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
The only museum in the United Arab Emirates to be dedicated to the art of calligraphy, Sharjah Calligraphy Museum is home to more than 2,000 pieces of calligraphy that date back to the 15th century. In addition to the lovely permanent collection, the museum holds many exhibitions.
7. Bait Al Naboodah
This beautiful traditional emirate home was once the residence of the wealthy pearl trader Obaid bin Eissa bin Ali Al Shamsi. Today it is a museum that tells the story of the pearl trade and its previous owner who ws nicknamed Al Naboodah.
Bait Al Naboodah was originally built in the mid-19th century and features beautiful carved doors, tiles and a large interior courtyard. It has a peaceful feel and gives a sense of what life must have been like during the times of pearl trading in Sharjah.
8. Sharjah Art Spaces
Sharjah Art Spaces was founded in 2009 to support contemporary artists in the emirate. The museum was created from five dilapidated buildings in the Sharjah Culture Centre which were connected through their rooftops to create a large and airy space for exhibitions.
9. The Rain Room
The Rain Room is an immersive installation at the Sharjah Art Foundation and the first of its type in the Middle East. It is essentially a very large dark room that has a smaller area in it that is constantly raining.
The fun bit is walking through a downpour of rain without getting wet – and of course whilst being photographed and/or captured on video.
A warning – it is not immediately obvious how to immerse yourself in the rain area without getting wet so be prepared to get at least a little wet in the beginning. The key is to figure out the path to follow and to move very slowly.
The rain area also has lights which makes for some lovely rain effects as well shadows for some great photo opportunities. Make sure you visit the Rain Room with at least one other person as you won’t want to take your phone under the water – and the best photos are those taken by someone outside the rain area.
10. Sharjah Mosque
Sharjah mosque is a spectacular building with a spectacular location on the Sharjah corniche. It is one of the largest mosques in the UAE and one of the most important religious sites in Sharjah. Built in the early 20th century, the mosque was built from limestone and sandstone.
Now the largest mosque in Sharjah, it opened in 2019. It is also well known for its beautiful gardens and fantastic water fountains that offer beautiful reflections of the mosque. The mosque somewhat changes colours during the day depending on the light. I thought it was at its most beautiful at sunset.
Sharjah Mosque is also one of the few mosques non muslims can visit. At the time of writing this article tours were being held on Mondays and Thursdays at 10am. Additionally, private tours can be organised.
11. House of Wisdom
Another spectacular building (this one by Norman Foster and Partners), Sharjah’s House of Wisdom opened in 2020. The original House of Wisdom was in Baghdad but it was destroyed in the siege. Inspired by Sharjah being honoured with the World Book Capital title by UNESCO for 2019, the House of Wisdom re-imagines the concept of a library by expanding it into a cultural hub.
Sharjah promised UNESCO it woudl promote reading and ease of access and knowledge to all members of society. The House of Wisdom uses advances in technology to deliver a library unlike no other. The investment in tech is clearly evident from how to find a book to how to borrow to the espresso book machine. This machine can print a book in less than 5 minutes for as cheaply as $USD7.
As it is a cultural centre it is possible to take a tour of the House of Wisdom. The building itself is spectacular enough to warrant a visit and don’t miss the stunning glass atrium at its centre.
12. Sharjah Safari Park
Sharjah’s latest attraction opened early 2022. Alas, Sharjah Safari Park opened just after I visited so I wasn’t able to see it in person. But this safari park has been seven years in the making, has 12 different environments, 1000 animals and birds and is the UAE’s largest wildlife attraction.
13. Holy Quran Academy Sharjah
Opened in 2007, the Holy Quran Academy is a global project for teaching the Holy Quran from Sharjah to Muslims around the world. It is the largest complex dedicated to Islam and its teachings in the world. It consists of seven scientific and historical museums that cover the history of writing and then the codification of verses of the Holy Quran.
The Holy Quran Academy has versions of the Quran dating back to 700 AD, some of which are worth over USD$1 million. And like many of the other places to visit in Sharjah in this article, all of this is within a stunning building. However, the interiors almost out do the exteriors with beautiful designs particularly in the domes.
14. Al Majaz Waterfront
Located on the banks of the Khalid lagoon, Al Majaz Waterfront has restaurants, mini golf, a park and a fountain that shoots water up 100 metres with colored lights and music at night. During the day rent a bike and cycle along the waterfront.
15. The Sharjah Aquarium
One of the most popular attractions in Sharjah is its Aquarium. Sharjah Aquarium consists of 20 large tanks and is home to more than 150 species of marine life including sharks. The museum is open daily from 9am to 7pm.
16. The Sharjah Forts
Built in 1923, the Sharjah Forts are a series of five forts that where built to protect the city. They were also home to the ruling Al Qasami family and the sat of Sharjah’s Government. Today the forts are used as a museum that tells the history of Sharjah and its royal family.
17. Al Buhais Geological Park Sharjah
Located halfway between Sharjah’s two coasts, Al Buhais Geological Park looks like something out of Star Wars. The spectacularly designed Interpretive Centre sits in a large desert park. Its five interconnecting pods seem to almost come out of the ground.
The design of the pods was inspired by the fossils of the area. The pods sit on reinforced concrete discs to minimise interference with the park and are clad in steel panels.
The five pods house an immersive theatre, cafe, gift shop and further facilities. Interactive displays bring to life the mountains and sand dunes of the area as well as allowing visitors the chance to examine local rocks and fossils.
Make sure you take the outdoor trail that allows visitors closer contact with the park as well as providing great views of the Interpretive Centre.
18. Shais Park
Covering 11,000 square metres, Shais Park opened in October of 2020. It sits on the eastern side of Sharjah and is home to a mix of flora and fauna. Visitors can walk, cycle, bird watch or learn to trek. The park sits on the Hajar Mountains offer some stunning vistas.
19. Khorfakkan Amphitheatre
Khorfakkan is the largest of Sharjah’s east coast cities and home to some of the best places to visit in Sharjah. Like, Khorfakken Ampitheatre the largest open-air theatre in the Middle East that has seating capacity for up to 3,600 people.
Inspired by Roman architecture, the ampitheatre has an innovative cooling system which I think the Romans missed! The theatre hosts numerous concerts and events and has a great location just a stone’s throw from the sea.
20. Khorfakkan Waterfall
Just a few steps from Khorfakkan ampitheatre is Khorfakkan waterfall. This 45 metre high waterfall is man made but carved out of the natural rocks of the area. It has viewing windows at the top which can be open to the public for views of the waterfall as well as the sea.
21. Khorfakkan Old Souq
The atmospheric Khorfakkan old souq is a mix of old and new. The old markets and shops have been restored in a traditional manner and the souq is also home to a great little museum which brings the ways of the past to life.
There are many great places to visit in Sharjah but the top of my personal list was Mleiha. A trip to Mleiha normally includes a jeep safari and a traditional dinner at a Bedouin camp. Or you can also add sandboarding to the itinerary if you’re up for it.
We took a jeep safari and had a fantastic time. Our driver really leaned into his extreme turns and bounces and we got some great photo opportunities. We watched an amazing sunset from the top of a sand dune.
Once the sun dropped we headed back to a bedouin camp for some traditional food and star gazing. Technologically advanced telescopes were available as well as experts to guide us in seeing star formations and to give us a close look at the moon.
Finally we enjoyed a delicious dinner sharing style outside under the stars. A Mleiha Desert Safari is a must do when in Sharjah.
23. Sharjah Light Festival
The first Sharjah Light Festival was in 2012 and it has become an annual popular event (it was unable to run in 2021 due to Covid). It is a fantastic event and well worth scheduling your visit to Sharjah to coincide with the event.
During the Light Festival, spectacular light shows are projected onto some of Sharjah’s best known landmarks as well as unique venues like the waterfront. Themes and techniques change each year of course but when Sharjah’s striking architecture is combined with the creative use of light and color it is certainly something to see.
Places to Eat in Sharjah
This mediterranean-lebanese dining concept is located on the Al Qasba waterfront in Sharjah. The menu at Shababeek was curated by chef Maroun Chedid of Top Chef fame. We enjoyed some fantastic grilled meats, awesome dips and delectable pita bread.
Jones the Grocer
Flag Island is unsurprisingly named for its 123 metre high flagpole. It is also home to the Jones the Grocer restaurant. Jones the Grocer began in Australia in the mid 1990s. Their mix of cafe, grocery store and cheese room was unique at the time.
They have developed into the Middle East and their Sharjah restaurant offers a wide range of food styles prepared in a healthy and modern way.
The Cloud Lounge
I only had coffee at The Cloud Lounge but I had to mention it as it has the most fantastic views. The Cloud Lounge is located in the Khorfakkan mountains and sits 600 meters above sea level.
Boutique Hotels in Sharjah
Sharjah is filled with stylish boutique hotels. I stayed in two and took tours of the other three boutique hotels below. If, like me, you love a boutique hotel then you’ll love Sharjah – and the boutique hotels in Sharjah are often very good value.
Chedi Al Bait
Oh my I so loved the Chedi Hotel in Sharjah!!! Where to begin? Firstly this luxurious five star hotel has a fantastic location in the heart of Sharjah City. All of the attractions in the Heart of Sharjah area which I listed above are within walking distance of the hotel.
The Chedi Al Bait translates as “The Home”. The hotel is actually five heritate houses whichi were once owned by local families. The hotel itself covers 10,000 square metres and has only 53 rooms. This gives guests a wonderful sense of space and privacy.
Design wise the Chedi Al Bait is a fantastic mix of the traditional and the new. It makes the most of the beautiful old buildings and a more modern simple design aesthetic. There are many open spaces throughout the hotel with comfortable and stylish seating.
The rooms are unsurprisingly beautiful and very generous in size. My room had a separate entrance hall, dressing area, large bedroom with a seating area and a big bathroom with separate shower and toilet. The toiletries are Aqua di Parma – don’t miss using them as they are terrific.
You will most likely have a fantastic night’s sleep when you stay at the Chedi as you will be sleeping on the world’s most expensive mattresses. The Chedi has Duxiana mattresses. At USD$17,000 per mattress these are the world’s priciest mattresses and wow do they feel great! Do be warned that this will make all of the other mattresses in your life seem a little rubbish.
The stylish pool is perfect for Instagram envy photos and some serious relaxations. Don’t miss trying one of their delicious homemade fruit based by the pool popsicles. The pool is kept extra cold in the summer and heated for winter. There is also a spa which alas I didn’t have time to try and a fitness centre.
The Chedi even has its own museum which covers the history of the houses that make up the hotel as well as a jewellry shop, library and cigar bar. They are planning to have their own private beach. In the meantime the hotel provides a shuttle bus from the hotel to the beach.
Breakfast each morning is in The Restaurant. The menu offers a range of pre-prepared dishes from across several cultures. I enjoyed trying a different middle eastern style breakfast each morning. The Restaurant is open for all meals and we also had an excellent lunch there. And don’t forget the lovely coffee shop at the entrance – try an iced coffee.
The only downside I could find at The Chedi is that it is very easy to get lost. But there is always a lovely staff member nearby to point you in the right direction.
Mysk Moon Retreat
Mysk resorts own several lovely boutique hotels in Sharjah. Moon retreat is their eco friendly retreat that is located about 45 minutes from Sharjah city in the desert. The resort is only open for 6 months of the year (it is too hot for the other 6 months).
Mysk Moon Retreat looks like something out of a stylish science fiction movie. Accommodation options are either a large glamping tent or a futuristic style pod that is still in keeping with the desert environment.
There are no trade offs inside the tents and pods with high thread counts and stylish interiors. The glamping tents come with their own pools. There is no restaurant at the retreat. Each tent and pod has its own special bbq and food is provided for guests to prepare themselves. And apparently the star gazing at night is amazing!
Mysk Al Faya Retreat
The first gas pump in the United Arab Emirates is now the site of this unique boutique hotel. Another retreat about 45 minutes from Sharjah city, Mysk Al Faya has just five rooms. This makes it perfect for groups travelling together as they can essentially have the restreat to themselves.
The charming rooms have a clean and modern design and lovely bathtubs. Of course there is a pool as well as a roof terrace, tropical shower walk, herbal room and a fantastic Himalayan Salt Room.
Mysk Al Badayer
Another property less than an hour from Sharjah city, this is the largest of the Mysk desert properties but still boutique size with 21 rooms and 10 villas. The entrance to Mysk Al Badayer looks like a fort rising out of the dunes.
The rooms are simply designed with dark floor boards and ceiling beams offset by high quality white linens and white walls. I love the Middle Eastern touches in the lamps and the bathroom with its copper sink.
The villas are quite stunning and all have their own private pools. However, if like me you are staying in a room rather than a villa there is a huge pool with a small water feature and lots of stylish pool side furniture.
Mysk Al Badayer offers a huge range of activities. Quite a few are included in the cost of your stay such as the nightly falcon show and movie nights. Trips into the desert can be easily organised.
The restaurant at Mysk Al Badayer offers a buffet breakfast and dinner as well as an a la carte menu. The breakfast buffet is extensive and I enjoyed a delicious lunch at the restaurant – the best fattoush salad I have ever eaten!
Kingfisher Retreat is quite different to the three other Mysk properties I have just mentioned. Firstly, it is set on an island off the East Coast of Sharjah on a pristine beach facing the Gulf of Oman. The waters around the retreat are a natural habitat for turtles, gazelles, birds and many other animals. The mangroves can be visited on a kayak tour.
This is a retreat designed for relaxing. The pace is slower and the design is modern beach front. Like the other Mysk properties, all of the interiors are modern and simple.
The retreat consists of 20 tents, each with their own private pool. Virtually all of the tents have sea views. Guests can head to the main tent for meals and a larger pool, a spa is on offer as is yoga on the terrace most evenings.
How to Get to Sharjah
Sharjah has its own international airport which is just under 20 kilometres from Dubai airport. International airlines like Turkish and Qatar fly into Sharjah. However, Dubai airport of course has a larger number of flights and destinations.
The easiest way to get from Dubai airport to Sharjah is by taxi. Depending on traffic (which can be bad) and your destination in Sharjah this can take between 20 and 45 minutes.