The best single reason for trawling out to Sharjah is to visit the city’s outstanding Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization, occupying the impeccably restored Souk al Majara, sat next to the waterfront and topped with a distinctive golden dome. It’s beautifully presented and well explained, even if the rather self-congratulatory signage attached to some of the exhibits can occasionally grate.
The museum is spread over two levels and three main sections, offering a wide-ranging overview of Islamic religious beliefs, science, arts and culture. Downstairs, the Abu Bakr Gallery of Islamic Faith features extensive and absorbing displays on the elaborate rituals and traditions connected with the traditional Haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
The adjacent Ibn al Haitham Gallery of Science and Technology showcases the many major contributions made by Muslim scientists to world knowledge over the centuries, including absorbing displays covering traditional Islamic chemistry, medicine and other sciences. The displays on medieval navigation and astronomy are particularly interesting, featuring working models of quaint old medieval instruments like armillary spheres, wall quadrants, astrolabes, equatoriums and waterclocks.
Upstairs, four galleries provide a chronological overview of Islamic arts and crafts, featuring beautifully presented displays of historic manuscripts, ceramics, glass, armour, woodwork, textiles and jewellery and so forth.