The definitive guide to spending a day in Sharjah
The country’s culture capital deserves a closer look this weekend – here’s why.
It’s baffling that Sharjah remains an enigma to so many of Dubai’s residents. Yes, there’s always plenty to do here and now, but hop on the E311 and you’ll see that the neighbouring city boasts everything from artistic institutions and creative eateries to hidden gems and family-friendly destinations. And should you choose to settle in and stay the night, Sharjah is home to a hotel that’s steeped in history, yet more decadent than any property in Dubai. Curious yet?
Regardless of which of its six outlets you choose, Fen Café & Restaurant is the one to beat when it comes to creative dining in Sharjah. We recommend starting the day at the impossibly chic outpost at Sharjah’s Zero 6 Mall. Incidentally, the word ‘fen’ translates to ‘the art of’, so breakfast is both elevated and beautifully plated – eggs are cooked to your liking and accompanied by homemade sourdough bread, while avocado toast is taken up a notch with truffle honey and a balsamic reduction.
GO: Follow @fenrestaurant on Instagram for more information.
Sharjah is a dry emirate, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t excitement on the beverage front. In fact, we’d consider a trip without exploring the city’s specialty coffee scene incomplete. We recommend caffeinating at Ratios Coffee. Located at Souq Al Shanasiyah and overlooking Sharjah Creek, it proudly features décor elements that have been reclaimed from a 60-year-old dhow that was once used by traders moving merchandise between the Arabian Gulf and Arabian Sea – not a shabby spot in which to sip a macchiato.
GO: Visit https://ratios.coffee for more information.
Singing in the rain isn’t something we get to do often in Dubai, but in Sharjah? It’s guaranteed, courtesy of Rain Room. This site-specific installation provides an immersive experience of continuous rainfall, but getting drenched shouldn’t be a concern – your movements will trigger motion sensors to pause the rain as you walk through the room. You can buy your tickets once you get there, but the Rain Room is incredibly popular (read: usually fully booked), so we suggest buying them online in advance.
GO: Visit http://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/projects/rain-room for more information.
Between its urban gardens, multiple galleries and seemingly endless photography opportunities, a stroll around Sharjah Art Foundation is a must-do for artsy types. Situated within the Heart of Sharjah, it hosts everything from art exhibitions and alfresco film screenings to courses and workshops. As for what you can look forward to this weekend? The ongoing Vantage Point Sharjah 9, the ninth iteration of the foundation’s annual photography initiative. On exhibit are nearly 200 images by 53 photographers from 30 countries across four categories: Conceptual, Experimental, Photojournalism and Documentary, and Staged Photography.
GO: Visit http://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/exhibitions/vantage-point-sharjah-9 for more information.
Extend your visit to Sharjah Art Foundation with a pitstop at Souq Al Arsah, which is a mere three-minute walk away. One of the country’s oldest souqs, it houses a whole host of old-timey stores that sell antiques, handicrafts, herbs and spices, bridal chests and incense – all made easier to browse as Souq Al Arsah is now air-conditioned. The heritage area is accented with the likes of hanging lanterns, traditional courtyards and coral walls, so you’re bound to love the throwback vibes of this vicinity.
GO: Visit https://www.heartofsharjah.ae/souq-al-arsah.html for more information.
The month of October has brought with it cooler temperatures, making this the perfect weekend to meander around Al Noor Island. Best explored around sunset, it brings together nature, literature, light effects, multisensory art installations and more in one place. The perfect place for a family outing, this 45,470-square-metre leisure destination is also home to The Butterfly House, where nearly 500 different species of butterflies reside in an ornately designed building inspired by its inhabitants.
GO: Visit www.alnoorisland.ae for more information.
Print-on-demand books, suspended private pods, dining outlets and a whopping 305,000 books in different languages – it all awaits at House of Wisdom. Built to honour the fact that Sharjah was named a UNESCO World Book Capital in 2019, House of Wisdom also offers uninterrupted views of ‘The Scroll’ monument that was designed to look like an ancient Arabic scroll looping 36 metres towards the sky. This striking 12,000-square-foot public library is ideal if you’re looking to pause and reflect.
GO: Visit https://houseofwisdom.ae for more information.
Putting decadent Dubai hotel properties to shame, The Chedi Al Bait is a destination on its own, the name reflecting the transformation of historic manor houses into an atmospheric resort. This is where you can experience Arabian hospitality in spades from the get-go – even the welcome drink here sparkles owing to the infusion of pearl powder. But what you’ll remember long after spending a night at Al Bait is the four-poster bed furnished with a legendary (read: a tear-inducing price tag of $22,000) DUX mattress that will make returning home so much harder.
GO: Visit https://www.ghmhotels.com/en/the-chedi-al-bait-sharjah/ for more information.