At the dead centre of Sharjah on Al Burj Avenue stands the modest little Al Hisn Fort, the former residence of the ruling Al Qassimi family and centrepiece of the old town. (Currently overshadowed by a long line of spectacularly ugly apartment blocks, although these are now slated for long overdue demolition as part of the ambitious Heart of Sharjah project which aims to remodel the entire city centre over the coming decade.)
The original fort was actually demolished in 1969, save for a single tower. Hearing of the fort’s destruction, Sharjah’s current ruler Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi (then the crown prince) returned post-haste from Cairo, where he was studying, and ordered the immediate rebuilding of the entire structure, salvaging as much of the original as possible.
The fort underwent further extensive renovations in recent years, finally reopening in 2014 and now looking as good as it ever did – or possibly better. Modest exhibits fill out the various rooms, arranged around the spacious central courtyard. One (Al Ghurfah) has been done up to resemble a traditional majlis (meeting room) complete with chintzy antique armchairs and old books. Another houses a replica medbasa , or traditional date-press room – sacks of dates were piled up the ridged floor beneath heavy weights and the juices squeezed out and collected to make molasses. You can also spend time inside the murky old prison cell located the base of the fort’s main tower.
Other exhibits include a few interesting photographs of the Al Hisn over the years including of the fort before its demolition in 1971, looking surprisingly different from the building you see today.