Just down the road from Dubai, the city and emirate of Sharjah offers a fascinating – and stark – contrast to its glamorous neighbour. There’s plenty to see here, although most of the main attractions can be easily covered in a single day.
Start at the excellent Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization then walk down the breezy creekside Corniche, past the small Iranian Souk and the Sharjah Art Museum, and turn left up Hisn Avenue, to reach the recently restored and reopened Al Hisn Fort.
Immediately west of Al Hisn Fort, the old coral-stone houses of Sharjah’s time-warped Heritage Area conceal a number of museums including the atmospheric Bait al Naboodah and the insightful Sharjah Heritage Museum.
Right next door is the quaint Souk al Arsa, a marvellous little labryinth of old stone houses arranged around narrow covered alleyways and a pretty central courtyard. Look out too for the cute Majlis Ibrahim Mohammed al Madfa, tucked away behind the souk, proud possessor of what is said to be the UAE’s only round wind tower.
Sharjah isn’t exactly overflowing with good places to eat. The old fashioned Al Arsaha Public Coffee Shop on the courtyard at the centre of Souk al Arsa is an enjoyably rough-and-ready spot for a drink and a simple biryani lunch.
Finish exploring the Heritage Area then catch a cab or walk around 1km west to reach the imposing Blue Souk, a sprawling market housed in a pair of huge white buildings. It’s a fun place to explore, and one of the best places to shop in the UAE if you’re hunting for inexpensive carpets and kilims.
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