If you’re wondering what to do in Sharjah to get an authentic feel for the city, start in the Heritage Area. Here, you’ll find the one of the most celebrated attractions in Sharjah: the Museum of Islamic Civilisation. In an exquisitely converted souq (market) on the corniche, the museum presents a fascinating lesson in Islamic history and ritual as well as in the wider achievements of Arabic civilisation. Discover the key role Arab scholars played at the forefront of science and maths in the medieval period. The collection contains some of the most compelling things to see in Sharjah, including letters from the Prophet Muhammad himself and handwritten Korans.
The Heritage Area includes a cluster of historic dwellings that give insight into the more elementary lifestyles most Emiratis led before the discovery of oil. It’s also home to another of the main attractions in Sharjah: Al Hisn Fort. Meticulously restored by the current Sheikh, the entrance to the rock and adobe structure is dramatically guarded by cylindrical towers and an old cannon.
Also in the Heritage Area, the Calligraphy Museum is one of the most striking things to see in Sharjah, containing gorgeous examples of penned Arabic script – including some in ancient Kufic font. These beautiful works continue to grow in grandeur in the internet age, when handwriting is going the way of the telegraph.
Among the best things to do in Sharjah in this aged neighbourhood is a visit to the Souq Al Arsah. This is one of the oldest markets in the UAE, where you can browse copper coffee pots, medicinal herbs and handwoven shawls. After shopping, sip some sulaimani black tea and try indigenous sweets in the central coffee shop.
Beyond the heritage district, the Blue – or Central – Souq is a 600-shop market where you can bargain for superior quality woven carpets. Expect samples from faraway Tibet and Pakistan, not just from the local region. The ground floor is an Aladdin’s cave of jewellery stores and designer-clothes boutiques.
Away from the material and on to the spiritual plane, many visitors place Al Noor Mosque high up on to their list of things to do in Sharjah. One of the only mosque in the emirates that non-Muslims can enter, it also happens to be one of the most beautiful. A non-profit organisation runs hour-long tours; women and men alike must not forget to dress modestly.