The Heart of Sharjah – take a cultural journey back in time to the UAE’s capital of Culture
From luscious lagoons and archaeological marvels, to vibrant souks and decadent local dining – Sharjah is a must- see on any UAE adventure list!
After taking in Dubai’s iconic landmarks on a luxury Seawings Seaplane flight, we fly in the direction of Sharjah and soar over its colourful ports and the emerald shorelines below. Once we reach the Emirate, we gracefully glide into one of the two jetties exclusively reserved for Seawings seaplanes. We are literally inside the mesmerizing Khalid Lagoon!
The Khalid Lagoon is one of the UAE’s most spectacular water features and a key Sharjah tourist attraction – instantly recognizable by the Jet D’Eau at its epicenter (a fountain that can shoot water up to 150 metres into the air so we’re told). The views around us are a striking juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers intermingled with Arabesque mosques, archaic structures, and dazzling architecture.
From here the choice is endless…do we go for a stroll along the bustling Al Majaz Waterfront to the right, or do we enjoy the ecological ambience of the Al Noor island’s indoor Butterfly Garden to the left? Our guide tells us we can do both, so after a delicious coffee at the Waterfront, we move to the Butterfly Garden – passing the Palm Tree Garden which is home to a large portion of the UAE’s 47 million palm trees.
The next stop on the agenda is the Central Souk. We approach what resembles a beautiful, British colonial train station, but upon stepping inside, we discover a treasure trove of trinkets, traditional apparel, fabrics, ornaments, jewelry, and more.
After some productive shopping in the souk, we are eager to sample some traditional gastronomy so next, we are taken on a swift Sharjah City Tour – ending at the Al Bait Sharjah – a GHM hotel.
Perceptions can be deceptive and if it wasn’t for the fleet of vintage cars outside – we would have thought that we had stepped into an ancient Arabian time-capsule. We thought that the Seawings Seaplane flight was going to be the only opulent highlight of our cultural day of discovery – but we were wrong. We entered one of the UAE’s most authentic hotels that perfectly combines history with high-end luxury and we were greeted with a ‘welcome home’ by a friendly member of staff (fitting, given that the meaning of ‘Bait’ is home in Arabic). We were then led to a picturesque majlis that really made us feel submerged in our Middle Eastern surroundings. To further add to the welcome we were presented with ‘magic chocolates’ and a glass of ‘liquid silver’ – a refreshing concoction of lavender and fruit syrups.
The building itself is a 200 years old UNESCO site and tells the illustrious story of Ibrahim Al Midfa – a merchant and chief secretary to four of Sharjah’s rulers. Located in front of Sharjah’s main port, the hotel used to be an Inn for travelling rulers and prominent Bedouins – today it continues to draw a guest list of royals and the international Glitterati.
After meandering through white stone and coral rock corridors and past the UAE’s only circular wind tower (a traditional air-conditioning system), we pass by the hotel’s library containing a selection of books – some over 500 years old – then we wander through the on-site museum to learn about the perilous pearl diving industry – once the main source of income for the Emirates.
Our Seawings tour guide then takes us to The Restaurant where we enjoy a generous sampling of sumptuous classic local cuisine as well as thoughtfully crafted world-wide dishes. Its classic Emirati design details complete the chic, understated dining room – it was simply stunning.
Then it was time to dig deeper into the fascinating history of the cultural capital. Surrounding the hotel is the Al Hisn Fort – once an abandoned, ancient fortress dating back to the 1820s – today it is a myriad of cultural discovery and home to the Sharjah Heritage Museum, the Sharjah National Theatre, a secret garden, and a Madrasa – an Islamic teaching house. A short distance away is the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and after an afternoon spent soaking up this wealth of history, it’s time to sample some more of the local cuisine.
It seems that no two Sharjah tours are the same and each of these experiences is bespoke and crafted to meet the respective interests of the client. We have long since realised that we are in good hands – our Seawings tour guide is an expert and knows exactly where to take us, so off we venture to Al Qasba for a well-deserved dinner.
Despite being in one of Sharjah’s attractive nightspots, we feel very much as if we are strolling through a French quarter. Flowing through the middle is the Al Qasba Canal, flanked on both sides by luscious palm trees and two quintessential Arabesque buildings spanning the length of the area. There’s an ample selection of restaurants to choose from and we opt for a lovely table outside to enjoy the sunset. Each side of the canal is linked by retro multi-coloured bridges, so after dinner, we saunter over to the other side.
Now it’s time to head back to Dubai and luckily, we have a very comfortable, luxury Seawings car to take us back the short distance to our hotel. Sated, enlightened, and thoroughly pleased with our Sharjah sightseeing tour we start making a plan for our next Seawings Seaplane adventure. This was certainly a highlight of our trip!
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