Sharjah, the energetic emirate

Between Ajman and Dubai lies Sharjah, the third largest emirate – and perhaps the third best known, as well. Sharjah is also the most conservative emirate: alcohol is completely forbidden, dress codes are strict and no mixing of men and women if unwed. Not even a sheesha cafe to be found.

Lively Sharjah

Despite those rather medieval policies, my first impression was favourable. Sharjah seemed much livelier than Dubai. Lots more people out and about. After being bored in Ras Al-Khaimah, Umm Al-Quwain and Ajman, my daughters were pleasantly surprised and stopped grumbling.

Sharjah – old and new

Many of Dubai‘s workers choose to live here, as cost of housing is about one third of that in Dubai. If you’re visiting Sharjah, Hindi or Urdu would be more useful to know than Arabic, I think. Surprisingly many residents of both Sharjah and Dubai that we met didn’t speak Arabic, even after having lived here for 10 or 15 years!

All the emirates have mosques, of course, but the ones I saw in Sharjah were among the prettiest. Sharjah also has a pleasant promenade along a bay with a cool cityscape across the water.

The UAE is a good base for exploring not only the Arabian Peninsula, but also Iran, Iraq and the fascinating countries of Caucasus and Central Asia, all high on my travel wish list. So I’ll undoubtedly return – and when I do, I think I might like to stay in Sharjah for a few days. And maybe take in a few of the 16(!) museums.

Sharjah prom

We only stayed in Sharjah a few hours, and this post is but a glimpse and first impression. Heaps more info (and photos) of this emirate is available from – Solo female traveler Sabina and GlamGran Inka, two intrepid women travellers and fellow Middle East enthusiasts.

10 Responses to “Sharjah, the energetic emirate”

  1. Michael Hodson 28 February 2011 1803 #

    really looking forward to getting over there soon. Nice quick guide here.
    Michael Hodson recently posted..Top 10 Lists Suck A Lot

  2. Ayngelina 28 February 2011 2017 #

    I love the old and new comparison photo, what a difference
    Ayngelina recently posted..Don’t hate me because I’m lazy

  3. Jason 28 February 2011 2133 #

    16 museums? Wow! I wonder what type of museums they are?

    This place sounds infinitely more exciting than R-A-K emirate from your earlier post.
    Jason recently posted..Finding A Swim Team In Cusco

  4. Jason 28 February 2011 2133 #

    I like the new look of your blog: very clean and organized.
    Jason recently posted..Finding A Swim Team In Cusco

  5. Andrea 28 February 2011 2316 #

    Must be interesting checking out the more conservative parts of UAE – I really hope our plan to work over there next year works out because I want to explore the region.
    Andrea recently posted..New Zealand Roundup- Our Travels from Dec 2010-Mar 2011

  6. RyukyuMike 1 March 2011 0412 #

    Love your stories, always but, this slick new theme you have makes me cringe.
    I’m jealous, of course !

    • Anne-Sophie 1 March 2011 2149 #

      Thanks Mike.
      It’s a free wordpress theme (called arras), easy to use and play with – which is important for a non-techie like me.

  7. Christian 2 March 2011 1855 #

    Interesting. I think I might stop by here when I’m in Dubai next month, despite the wine ban,

    • Anne-Sophie 2 March 2011 1858 #

      Haha. I think you can manage without wine for a little while, Christian.

  8. Sabina 6 March 2011 0232 #

    I really loved living in Sharjah, and its limitations on dress and behavior were very interesting to cope with day in and day out. It is the hard core Middle East and fascinating to be a part of. The historical area of Sharjah, just down the street from where I lived, is a very small part of the city. The majority is comprised of the shiny glass buildings as shown in your photo. Westerners seem to find its appeal mainly as a place to land a cheap hotel room while they spend their days in Dubai. It’s a shame because there’s tons of worthwhile sights in Sharjah and many thousands of really, really, really interesting people to watch.

    The population is about 80% Indian and other expats, far outweighing the Emiratis, but the same holds true for Dubai. I think they came to the UAE to work on construction sites when the building boom began and just never left. I’m pretty sure most of the Indians in Sharjah are Muslim, as I would see them pouring into and out of the mosques on Fridays. They live and hang out primarily in the old, poor part of town, of course. Take a taxi to the shiny side, and you’ll find mostly Arabs.

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