As I explored Sharjah, the beauty of this little-visited city in the United Arab Emirates mesmerised me.
From its beautiful Islamic architecture and centuries-old souks to its towering minarets and epic light show, there are endless things to do in Sharjah.
If you’re looking for an exciting destination that’s also culturally rich, then Sharjah is the perfect choice for a traditional yet invigorating escape in the UAE. And if you’ve settled down as a digital nomad in the United Arab Emirates, then Sharjah makes for an easy trip!
In this guide, I’m going to give you the complete rundown on what to do in Sharjah, and how to make the most of your trip.
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My Personal Thoughts on Sharjah, UAE
I traveled to Sharjah recently, the third-largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates. I was truly impressed with this dynamic city – an exciting mix of modern and traditional sights.
As I strolled around the city, I was enthralled by everything from picture-perfect mosques to modern malls and antiquity-laden museums.
With Dubai airport only 10 miles away to the west, I thought a trip to Sharjah would make for an interesting day trip, but I soon realized it deserved more than just a few hours of my time – this city has so much that’s worth exploring!
Keep reading for my top picks of the best things to do in Sharjah.
Top Things to Do in Sharjah, UAE
Sharjah, UAE is an absolute must-see destination. From its immaculate mosques to its otherworldy desert landscapes, Sharjah offers everything you would want from an Arab Emirate.
In the section below, I’ll share what I believe are the top attractions in Sharjah.
1. Al Noor Island
Al Noor Island is an oasis of beauty and calm that you can’t help but photograph!
Located just 10 minutes away from the Heart of Sharjah, Al Noor island is surrounded by the Khalid Lagoon and packed with many attractions.
Feel like wandering through the lush gardens filled with sculptures, botanical art installations and winding paths?
Spend an afternoon exploring this enchanting place and discover three different areas: floral trails, water fountain gardens, and a butterfly house.
Take some time to admire the colourful lights that cascade over the island creating a dream-like atmosphere; or take in the amazing wide range of sculptures, including the egg-shaped OVO installation that lights up at night.
You can even visit a dedicated children’s playground to keep little ones entertained, or try the trampoline walkway too!
Souq Al Shanasiyah is a great place to start exploring the city’s cultural side and should be top of your list of things to do in Sharjah.
One of the region’s oldest and most vibrant soukss has been given a makeover and has been transformed into a shopping destination for stylish furniture, homeware, prayer beads, Arabic perfumes and oils, and kandoras and abayas made to order.
It’s here you’ll find lots of eclectic souvenirs, jewelry, and traditional clothing from all around the region – browse, bargain and marvel at the exhibits on offer in between walking trips along the bustling streets.
After walking through the impressive souk, you can reward yourself with a coffee at the Chedi Al Bait Cafe or sample the delicious Emirati cuisine at the Arabic Tea House.
3. House of Wisdom
If you’re looking for a unique and educational experience, then the House of Wisdom in Sharjah, UAE is a must-visit.
The House of Wisdom is a beautifully modern building, designed by the legendary architects Foster & Partners. Inside, you can explore a hugely impressive two-storey library and cultural centre, which is home to over 80,000 books.
From Islamic calligraphy to astronomy, you can learn about the history of the region and the culture of the people.
The House of Wisdom also features a futuristic fabrication machine that allows you to print your own book within 5 minutes. If you have your own book and want to become a published author – now’s your chance!
My visit to the House of Wisdom in Sharjah in 2023 was one of the most memorable experiences I had in Sharjah. Not only did I get to explore and learn about the culture and history of the UAE, but I also got to have a delightful lunch at their on-site cafe Chie.
4. Holy Quran Academy
The Holy Quran Academy is a stunningly beautiful complex and the largest of its kind in the world.
With students from over 63 countries learning remotely, it is a truly international experience.
You can visit to explore the many museums dotted around the complex, or marvel at the grand interior of the building for hours on end.
Entrance to the Holy Quran Academy is completely free, but it’s best to let them know in advance so they can manage capacity.
5. The Rain Room
The Rain Room is a permanent modern art installation, uniquely available all-year round in Sharjah.
Created by the London and Berlin-based Random International, the Rain Room art installation has been displayed at some of the world’s most famous museums, including MoMA in New York and Barbican in London.
The only place it’s based permanently, however, is Sharjah!
With 2,500 liters of self-cleaning, recycled water and trigger sensors to pause the falling water, visitors can enjoy an unparalleled experience of walking through falling rain without getting wet.
Supported by the Sharjah Art Foundation and associated with the Sharjah Art Museum, the Rain Room is understandable one of the city’s most popular attractions.
6. Sharjah Safari
After opening their doors in February 2022, Sharjah Safari is now the largest Safari in the world outside of Africa.
It’s the perfect spot for all adventure lovers, offering a rare opportunity to observe the endemic wildlife of Africa in an environment similar to their natural habitat.
Home to more than 120 species of African animals, including lions, elephants, giraffes, black and white rhinoceros, and a 8000 hectare park supporting up to 50,000 animals – Sharjah Safari is an animal lover’s paradise.
I was pleasantly impressed by the level of care and thought put into Sharjah Safari. The park itself is actually far larger, and better maintained, than any of the private game reserves I’ve visited in South Africa.
The landscape of the entire park was built with attention to detail, and you could easily forget that you’re not actually in Africa!
Overall, an experience I would highly recommend for anyone that wants a taste of a ‘real’ safari.
7. Heart of Sharjah
The Heart of Sharjah is the cultural centre of Sharjah. It’s the place where people first settled here, and has since been renovated into a cultural experience for visitors.
We spent the morning learning about the origins and traditions of Arabic coffee, followed of course by a wonderful tasting session (along with endless dates!).
You can also visit the Bait Al Naboodah museum to learn about the history of pearling in Sharjah, an important aspect of the Emirate’s history.
This area is also the home of the Chedhi al Bait Hotel, so you could coincide this visit with an afternoon tea at their café and then explore the nearby Souq al Shanisayah.
8. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
Housed in a building just as impressive as its collection, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is located on the Corniche, just north of the Heart of Sharjah district.
Spread over two levels, the museum’s seven galleries cover aspects of the Islamic faith and the achievements of Arab scientists and astronomers, as well as a chronological overview of Islamic arts and crafts such as textiles and jewellery.
Among the many highlights are an astrolabe, manuscripts, ceramics, coins, a gold-embroidered curtain for the door of the Holy Ka’ba and a stunning mosaic inside the central dome detailing the zodiac constellations.
The building is incredibly beautiful and well worth a visit, even if museums are not normally your thing.
You can add this in to your Sharjah itinerary while also visiting the Heart of Sharjah.
9. Mleiha Desert Experience
Mleiha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a must-see for anyone interested in the UAE’s ancient history and desert landscapes.
The Mleiha Archaeological Centre, which opened in 2016, displays a number of ancient artifacts and more, giving visitors a glimpse into the past. Discoveries here include Bronze Age tombs, pre-Islamic forts, pottery, iron tools and plenty of camel skeletons!
Those looking for a bit more adventure can also try a huge range of desert activities available here, from desert 4×4 Jeep safari tours, to dune buggies, desert glamping and even star-gazing.
This was my absolute favourite part of our time in Sharjah. The glamping accommodation we had was top notch and I’ve never seen a night-sky so clear.
We were even lucky enough to see Jupiter’s rings during our stargazing session!
After a sunset session of ‘Dune Bashing‘ around the aptly named Fossil Rock, we spent the evening with traditional music and even a full Emirati home-style cooked meal (delicious!).
Then, it was time to wind down after our mind-blowing few days in Sharjah, and enjoying some Arabic tea around a campfire.
BONUS: Sharjah Light Festival
If you happen to be in Sharjah at the right time, you need to see Sharjah’s epic Light Festival.
Every year, the city of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates is illuminated with a spectacular display of lights, music and artistry.
The Sharjah Light Festival is an annual event that brings together light installations, live performances and interactive experiences for the whole family.
Walking through the illuminated streets of Sharjah is like stepping into a fairytale. Everywhere you look, the vibrant colors of the light displays shine against the night sky.
With each step, the city comes to life in a new and interesting way – from mesmerizing projections on the city’s iconic landmarks, to interactive installations that respond to your movements.
The Sharjah Light Festival is a wonderful opportunity to explore the city in a different light. Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening stroll or a fun-filled night out with the family, you’re sure to find something special here.
It’s a chance to make magical memories and experience the city in a brand new way.
Where To eat in Sharjah
As a traveler to Sharjah, UAE, I found all sorts of wonderful dining experiences. From native dishes, such as Chebab, to international dining experiences like the Japanese restaurant Origami, there is something here for everyone’s tastebuds.
In this section, I will tell you about all the best places we ate at in Sharjah.
1. Arabian Tea House
When it comes to the local fare, Sharjah won’t disappoint your tastebuds. The traditional cuisine here is all about ingredients that are fresh and locally sourced, with hearty spices and flavors.
One of my favourite meals during our time in Sharjah was at the Arabian Tea House in Souk al Shanasiyah.
The food here was unlike any Arabic food I’ve tried before, and my favourite dishes in particular were Salona and Harees.
TOP TIP: Another popular Emirati dish to try is chebab – tender flatbreads cooked on an open fire then served with salad or yogurt.
2. Shababeek Lebanese Restaurant
I simply couldn’t come to the Middle East and not have some Lebanese food. It’s my all-time favourite cuisine, and fortunately Shabebeek did not disappoint.
This charming restaurant offers a wide selection of traditional dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. From succulent kebabs to creamy hummus and flavorful falafel, everything is cooked to perfection.
The atmosphere is warm and inviting, and the staff are friendly and attentive. Whether you’re looking for a romantic dinner for two or a fun night out with friends, you can’t go wrong with the Lebanese Shababeek.
If you have the chance to visit Shababeek, be sure to try:
- Fattoush salad made with fried flatbread pieces;
- Ghuzi – rice stuffed chicken or sheep served in tomato sauce alongside vegetables;
- Tabouleh – chopped parsley salad;
- Mahshi warak enab – vine leaves stuffed with rice;
- Hummus and kibbeh – minced lamb balls fried in spicy oil for some truly authentic flavours!
3. Origami Restaurant
If you’re looking for a truly unique dining experience, then you have to check out Origami in Sharjah. This Japanese restaurant offers a delectable selection of sushi, Japanese fusion dishes and signature desserts.
The menu is full of flavorful and innovative dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. And make sure to save room for their signature origami-shaped dessert – it’s a must-try!
We had a hugely delicious set menu meal, excellent service throughout the night and a delightful evening in this alternative Japanese restaurant.
4. Other Local Restaurants
When it comes to eating out in Sharjah, there is no shortage of local restaurants to choose from.
From cheap and cheerful family-run establishments to chilled out eateries and high-end restaurants, there’s something to suit every budget in this Emirati city.
Locals enjoy gathering at traditional Arabian street cafes filled with music and conversation, while visitors are often more contented with the plentiful buffet spreads found in major hotels.
Whatever type of culinary experience you’re seeking, Sharjah has it covered.
Where To Stay In Sharjah
During my time in Sharjah, we stayed at and got to explore 4 different hotels in the state. While I cannot speak for every hotel in Sharjah, I found all of these places to be incredible hotels with fantastic amenities.
Here are my thoughts of each hotel we stayed at in Sharjah.
1. Hilton Double Tree
This modern Hilton hotel was a great start to the trip, complete with futuristic rooms that automatically lightup as you walk through them!
The best part about the whole stay though was the incredible view over Al Noor island from my room.
The staff were all friendly and helpful, and the room we stayed in was comfortable and spacious. The buffet breakfast was also delicious and there was plenty of Arabic and Western food to choose from.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a convenient place to stay in Sharjah.
As an added bonus, the Hilton Double Tree is only 10 minutes drive from Dubai airport.
2. Chedi Al Bait
This hotel is clearly very luxurious and opulent, with beautiful decor and stunning views of the city.
The rooms looked spacious and comfortable, and the staff were friendly and helpful. The pool and spa facilities looked great, and the Cafe I tried at the front had delicious food.
While we didn’t get to stay there on this occasion, we had a full site visit and after inspecting the various facilities, the hotel looks like an incredible place to stay if you have the budget for it.
I would recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a luxurious stay, mixed with Arabic tradition, in the cultural heart of Sharjah.
3. Mysk Al Badayer Desert Retreat
The Mysk desert retreat was a complete experience and my favourite hotel stay of the entire trip!
The atmosphere was peaceful, the staff were friendly and helpful and we had our own private pool looking out over the dunes.
We had both lunch and breakfast here and I can comfortably say that the food was delicious. I would happily have Arabic food for breakfast, or every meal, so the dining here suited me perfectly.
I would definitely recommend this desert retreat to anyone looking for a unique experience in Sharjah.
4. Mleiha Glamping
Now we get to the desert glamping part of this section. All I can say is… what a place!
This is by far the nicest desert glamping experience I’ve ever had, with a level of luxury that I am usually looking over with envy at.
The tents were huge and the double beds (yes, double beds) we very comfortable.
The views of the desert were stunning, the staff were helpful and so hospitable with offering us endless Arabic coffees, and the evening Emirati BBQ was beyond delicious.
My Final Thoughts on Sharjah
As I wrap up my travels in Sharjah – and we come to the end of this Sharjah travel guide – I must say that it was truly an incredible experience.
Not only did I find the historical sites to be remarkably intriguing, but I also came to appreciate the modern city that Sharjah has become.
The culture and the locals were friendly and welcoming, and I cannot wait to return someday to explore more of what this city has to offer.
The impressive buildings, vibrant Souqs and tradition mixed with modern lifestyle are just a few of the unique features of Sharjah that makes it such a special destination.
Overall Sharjah is an underrated destination in UAE full of attractions just waiting to be explored.
Frequently Asked Questions
Sharjah is located in the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf. It is the third largest and third most populous city in the UAE.
Sharjah is located roughly 18 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Dubai International Airport.
Sharjah is the third largest city in the United Arab Emirates and is a great destination for tourists. There are plenty of things to do and see in the city, including the Holy Quran Academy, the House of Wisdom, Sharjah Safari, Al Noor Island, and much more.
The best way to get around Sharjah is by car or by taxi. There are several car rental companies in the city and you can also use the local bus system or taxis.
Sharjah is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. You can find traditional Emirati dishes like Chabob or Salona, as well as international cuisine such as Lebanese, Japanese, and Western food.