Sharjah – Arab Region’s Capital of Islamic Culture 2014


The history of Sharjah dates back to some 6000 years. Its first inhabitants settled around water sources and were generally engaged in trade, shipbuilding, farming, fishing and pearl diving. Having conquered the area at the east coast in 1507 in order to control the spice trade, the Portuguese built forts at Khor Fakkan, Kalba and Dibba. They assumed command of the region for one full century until the arrival of the Dutch who dominated the area. The 17th century was the turning point of the city as the British arrived in the region and started trading with the Qawasim clan, the forefathers’ of present Sharjah’s ruling family. The Europeans preferred to conquer the area of the Gulf and Red Sea in view of its strategic importance as a vital link between the Middle East and India. In the 18th century, the ruling Qawasim turned out to be a stronger marine power in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaima. In 1803, Sultan bin Saqr bin Rashid Al Qasimi became the Sheikh of Sharjah which he governed for over 50 years.

ISESCO Director General at launch of events marking celebration of Sharjah – Capital of Islamic Culture 2014

In 1809, the British land-based attacks on the Qawasim were stopped in Ras Al Khaima. In 1820, the first of other peace treaties was signed assuring maritime peace, security and protection of the British against any attacks for 150 years. Then the coast was known as the Trucial Oman Coast and Sheikhdoms of Oman as the Trucial States. Until the formation of the United Arab Emirates in 1971, these names were attached to the relevant regions. On 2 December 1971, Sharjah became part of the United Arab Emirates as a founder member. On 25 January 1972, Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi held the reins of power as the ruler of Sharjah and became a member of the UAE Supreme Council. He distinguished himself by a great dedication to science, academic research and scientists as well as by encouragement and supervision of cultural and educational initiatives, plans, programmes and activities in Sharjah.

Upon launch of SICC 2014 celebrations: ISESCO Director General presents celebration’s shield to HH Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi

In the same year, oil was found in the Mubarak oilfield situated 80 km offshore and close to the Abu Mousa Island. The production of oil began two years later. It is worth mentioning that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was the principal driving force behind the formation of the United Arab Emirates. In 1946, he was appointed as governor of Al Ain. On 6 August 1966, he became the ruler of Abu Dhabi. When Britain declared its intention to withdraw from the region in 1968, the late Sheikh Zayed made earnest endeavours to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation. During his reign, the UAE has significantly developed in various fields.


The particular interest of Sharjah in establishing mosques is consistent with its dedication to keeping the features of Islamic architecture alive in every aspect of life. This proceeds from a deep understanding of the essence of Islam and Islamic civilization and a marked tendency to combine the fundamentals of Islam with the advantages of modern civilization. Sharjah is most notable for its mosques which incorporate Islamic architectural design features. The most famous mosques are Al-Noor Mosque, Al Imam Ahmad Bin Hanbal Mosque, Sheikh Saud Al Qassimi Mosque, Al Bara’a Bin Azeb Mosque, Al Maghfira Mosque, Al Radwan Mosque, Al-Arqam ibn Abi Arqam Mosque and Al Salaf Al Saleh Mosque. The buildings of government institutions also feature an exquisite Islamic architectural design.

The Sharjah Archaeology Museum first opened in 1993. It was moved to its current location in 1997 to serve as a permanent archive for all archaeological findings recovered in Sharjah since the start of archaeological excavations in 1972. The mission of the museum is to preserve, interpret and exhibit its collections and to disseminate knowledge about them in a manner that encourages appreciation, learning, and enjoyment of Sharjah’s archaeological heritage.

This interesting museum displays the stories of Sharjah’s very early history. It also enables visitors to explore the changing environments experienced by the region’s inhabitants from the Stone Age to the present day through displays of artifacts, coins, jewellery, pottery and ancient weapons.


The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is situated right at the historical heart of Sharjah in Al Majarrah area. It is regarded as a significant tourists’ attraction and a major Islamic and civilizational landmark. It started its life in 1980’s as a traditional Middle Eastern souq or indoor market.


The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization was renovated and re-opened in 2008 as a significant tourist landmark in the region, and the first of its kind in the UAE. The museum building, now transformed into a state-of-the-art cultural venue, houses more than five thousand exquisite Islamic artifacts from all over the Islamic world, arranged according to themes over seven spacious galleries and display areas.

The Sharjah Heritage Museum was re-opened in the Heritage Area (Heart of Sharjah) in 2012 as part of an expansion plan; the original museum first opened in early 2003. The museum preserves and displays Sharjah’s rich traditions, customs and culture as a source of pride and inspiration to the Emiratis and to visitors to the UAE.

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Built in 1820, this large double storey fort, which was the former residence of the Al Qasimi ruling family, houses priceless objects, fascinating old photographs, classic weapons and trading tools tracing 200 years of Sharjah’s history.

The Sharjah Maritime Museum was first opened in the Heritage Area in early 2003 to highlight the maritime life of Sharjah. However, due to the importance of the sea and its significance in the region’s heritage, the museum was expanded and relocated in Al Khan area in 2009. The museum hosts traditional wooden seafaring dhows used for fishing, trading and pearling, each designed according to their use.

The Sharjah Art Museum was opened in April 1997. It became the largest art museum in the Gulf with both temporary exhibitions and permanent collections by renowned artists. It also displays works by the Orientalist painters of the 18th and 19th centuries. The museum is comprised of three floors of galleries, one of them being dedicated to the Fine Art Library which is equipped with visual and audio materials.


The Sharjah Science Museum, which first opened in 1996, has more than 50 interactive displays suitable for all ages. This museum has so many exhibits and enables visitors to discover science with hands-on experiments and illusions and explore colour, aerodynamics, cryogenics and physiology.

The Sharjah Calligraphy Museum was opened in 2002 in the Sharjah Heritage Area. It features works of art created by local artists and well-known international calligraphers, and enables visitors to embark on a journey of discovery across centuries of Arabian heritage in the form of beautifully written script. Arabic calligraphy can be seen on canvas, wood, paper and ceramics…


This building situated in Kalba was the prominent residence of H.E. Sheikh Saeed bin Hamad Al Qasimi, fully restored to display items of Islamic heritage and lifestyle, archaeological finds, weapons, agricultural equipment, in addition to a collection of musical instruments. The house was built between 1898 and 1901 in a rectangular shape. It is divided into two sections, eastern and western. The eastern section includes the Access, the Majlis, Morabba’a, the defensive barrage with its shooting outlets (Mazaghil) and the inner Majlis facing the shore. This section, which is separated from the other by a wall in the middle, is designated for receiving men and guests while the western section comprises the living units and serving facilities allotted for women, children and servants.

The museum was set up to commemorate the late Ibrahim bin Mohammed al Midfa, a prominent intellectual figure who contributed immensely to the cultural development in the UAE in general, and Sharjah in particular. In 1927, Al Midfa issued the first newspaper in the history of the UAE – the Oman newspaper. Later he published another newspaper titled “Sout Al Asafeer” in 1933. The museum boasts many interesting items such as a carved pearl chest, old books and manuscripts and a silver dagger with gold leaf decoration.

Bait Al Naboodah opened its doors as a museum in 1995. The house originally belonged to the late Obaid bin Eissa Bin Ali Al Shamsi, nicknamed Al Naboodah, who was a prominent pearl trader that held commercial ties with India, Africa and France. This two-storey house, which typically depicts the traditional Gulf architecture, was built in 1845 around a large courtyard surrounded by walls made from coral.


Arabia’s Wildlife Centre is the only ‘zoo’ in Arabia which exhibits all the animals naturally occurring in the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East, both current and extinct. This facility houses over 100 species displayed in safe, spacious and natural surroundings.