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  • Sharjah

    Sharjah is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The emirate covers 2,600 km² (1,003 mi²) and has a population of over 800,000 (2008). The emirate of Sharjah comprises the city of Sharjah (the seat of the emirate), and other minor towns and enclaves such as Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn and Khor Fakkan.

    The emirate is a constitutional monarchy of the Al Qasimi dynasty. It has been ruled by Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi since 1972.

    History

    Human settlement in Sharjah city has existed for over 5,000 years. Historically the emirate was one of the wealthiest towns in the region.

    Around 1727, the Al Qasimi clan took control of Sharjah and declared the polity independent.

    On 8 January 1820, Sheikh Sultan I bin Saqr Al Qasimi signed the General Maritime Treaty with Britain, accepting protectorate status in order to resist Ottoman domination. Like four of its neighbours, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain, its position along trade routes to India made it important enough to be recognized as a salute state.

    On 2 December 1971, Sheikh Khalid III bin Muhammad Al Qasimi (Sheikh Khalid III) joined Sharjah to the United Arab Emirates. In 1972 the former ruler Sheikh Saqr staged a leftist coup and killed Khalid III. Saqr was unable to establish his rule and fled. Khalid III's brother, Sultan bin Mohamed Al-Qasimi, an author and historian, came to power. In 1987 Sultan's brother Abdulaziz staged a coup while Sultan was abroad. Huge state debt was stated as the reason. UAE President Zayed vehemently denounced the coup, and a deal was reached for Sultan to be restored, while Abdulaziz would become the Deputy Ruler. Sultan, however, dismissed Abdulaziz quite quickly. In 1999, the Crown Prince (Sultan's eldest son) died of drug addiction while on vacation in their palace in England. Sultan made the decision to testify in front of a UK court. The new Crown Prince was appointed from a remote branch of the family.

    Geography

    Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, and is the only one to have land on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The emirate covers 2,590 km² (1,003 mi²) which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the UAE's total area, excluding the islands. It has a population of over 800,000 (2008).

    The emirate of Sharjah comprises the city of Sharjah (the seat of the emirate), and other minor towns and enclaves. The city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Persian Gulf, has a population of 519,000 (2003 census estimate).

    Sharjah City a sister city to Dubai and Ajmân (two fellow emirates) on both its borders. The three urban areas have now expanded to each other's borders. Sharjah is about 170 kilometers away from the UAE capital city Abu Dhabi.

    Sharjah also owns three enclaves on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn, and Khor Fakkan, which provides Sharjah with a major east coast port. In the Persian Gulf, the island of Sir Abu Nu’ayr belongs to Sharjah, and Abu Musa is claimed by UAE, but controlled by Iran. Sharjah has an exclave called Nahwa inside the Omani enclave of Madha which borders Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Sharjah.

    Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is the fertile Dhaid region, where a range of vegetables and fruits are cultivated.

    Government

    Sharjah is a constitutional monarchy, ruled by the Wahhabi Al Qasimi dynasty since the 18th century, and a part of the United Arab Emirates. It is ruled by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Sheikh of Sharjah.

    Commerce and Tourism Development Authority

    The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority was established by decree in 1996 to "promote commercial and tourism activities" in the emirate. The state-backed authority is responsible for, among other things, creating policies for local and international exhibitions and marketing Sharjah to attract foreign investment and tourists.

    Investment and Development Authority

    The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) was established in 2009 as an independent government body to "oversee the social, cultural, environmental and economic development of Sharjah in line with its Islamic identity." It focuses on three areas for the emirate; investment, development, and asset and property management. Shurooq's developments include: Al Qasba - 10,0000-acre project including a 1 km-long man-made canal and 60m high observation wheel, it was made open for the public in 2005. It includes Masrah Al Qasba, a theatre, the Maraya Art Centre, the Multaqa Al Qasba meetings and conference centre and a children’s Fun Zone. The project, managed by the Al Qasba Development Authority (an affiliate of Shurooq) has an architectural design including pedestrian bridges, boats, and lagoons. It attracted two million visitors in 2011.

    Al Majaz Waterfront - Shurooq opened the Al Majaz Waterfront in December 2011 after redeveloping it. The new park, located between Jamal Abdul Nasser Street and Khalid Lagoon Corniche, covers an area of three km2 for recreation, including six new buildings with restaurants and a 100m tall water fountain.

    Heart of Sharjah - The Heart of Sharjah, slated for completion in January 2015, has been proposed by Shurooq as a tourist and trade destination with commercial, cultural and residential projects as well as hotel, archaeological sites, museums and commercial space.

    The Chedi Khorfakkan Resort - The Chedi Khorfakkan, scheduled to open in 2015, is under construction an hour outside of Sharjah city centre. Shurooq has stated that once complete, the project will include a tourist resort and a fort on the Al Suwifa Mountain.

    Education

    Universities in Sharjah:

    • University of Sharjah - the largest university in the emirate, it is accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
    • The American University of Sharjah (AUS) - established in 1997, it is accredited by the UAE Commission for Academic Accreditation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, as well as the United States Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
    • Troy University — ITS Sharjah Campus
    • Skyline College Sharjah
    • Sharjah Men's College
    • Sharjah Women's College

    The University City of Sharjah is an educational district in Sharjah City that includes AUS, the University of Sharjah, and the Higher Colleges of Technology (which in turn includes Sharjah Women's College and Sharjah Men's College. The area also includes the Sharjah Library, Police Academy, and the Sharjah Teaching Hospital.

    Local customs

    Sharjah is the only Emirate in which alcohol is banned. It also maintains the strictest decency laws in the UAE, introduced in 2001, with a conservative dress code required for both men and women. Mixing between unmarried men and women is illegal: "A man and a woman who are not in a legally acceptable relationship should not, according to the booklet, be alone in public places, or in suspicious times or circumstances."

    Cultural Policies

    Sharjah under the oil-based economy of the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf state has become very devoted in establishing a keen art scene in the region. It was known to be the first in the Emirates to develop in 1987 but reached a saturation point when it incurred almost billion dollars in debt. Having survived the meltdown, Sharjah is now known as UNESCO’s Cultural Capital of the Arab World heralded in 1998.

    The Cultural Policy of Sharjah is one of the most developed in the Arab world for its investment in art and culture. Sharjah is home to 17 museums and they host a big contemporary art exhibition via the Sharjah Biennale. The Sharjah Art Foundation also has a year long program that includes exhibitions, performances, and screenings. Its cultural programming is comparable to well established art centers in the West.

    It was also named as the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 because of its ruler Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi’s love for culture. One of the most highly regarded cultural project of Sharjah is the ‘culture without border’ project wherein 50 books will be distributed among the 42,000 families promoting the importance of cultural awareness and development among families and children. The book ranges from themes of health, religion, history and children stories.

    Gulf Art World by Robert Kluijver, mentions that the driving force behind the cultural policy of Sharjah is anchored on the Sheiks dedication to support the local art scene, shared by his family members. The devotion to the arts is not in a way a strategic conscious positioning of Sharjah as part of the Emirates but its the pleasant result of investing and developing art through cultural policies. Compared to Abu Dhabi’s obsession in building mega-structures and Dubai fueling the art market, Sharjah is known to have a reputation in cultural policies which has content. The cultural policy of Sharjah was spearheaded by the leadership of H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. This lead to a grand scheme to make Sharjah the cultural capital of the UAE but also the extend towards being the cultural capital of the whole Arab world. The endorsement of UNESCO in 1988 also helped the recognition of Sharjah as a hub for culture and the arts.

    Establishments of several cultural institutions followed after this, thereby creating new museums, conservation efforts, active interaction with other cultures, scientific and artistic centres, and the establishment of a television satellite dedicated to art and culture.

    The motivation behind the growing cultural capital of Sharjah was due to the fact that the vital importance of culture in development was acknowledged. That culture is part of the ever growing economy of the Gulf, that developing the inherited artistic and aesthetic sense of communities will be tantamount to creativity, intellectual aptitudes and stronger nationalism.

    Museums

    The city has over 20 museums. Sharjah’s Ruler, HH Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad al Qasimi, established the Sharjah Museums Department, an independent department affiliated to the Ruler’s Office, in 2006.

    Museums in Sharjah include:

    • El Eslah School Museum
    • Al Mahatta Museum
    • Sharjah Archeology Museum
    • Sharjah Art Museum and Contemporary Arab Art
    • Bait Al Nahboodah
    • Bait Khalid Bin Ibrahim
    • Bait Sheikh Saeed Bin Hameed Al Qasimi
    • Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
    • Sharjah Discovery Centre
    • Sharjah Heritage Museum
    • Sharjah Maritime Museum
    • Sharjah Museum for Islamic Civilisation
    • Sharjah’s Natural History & Botanical Museum
    • Sharjah Science Museum
    • Sharjah Aquarium
    • Sharjah Hisn
    • Majlis Al Madifaa

    Sports

    Sport establishments in Sharjah are managed by the Sharjah Sports Council.

    Transportation

    Airports

    International airports in the city of Sharjah include the Sharjah International Airport and Port Khalid.

    Sharjah International Airport (IATA: SHJ) has connections to all major international locations. It is 10 kilometres from Sharjah City Centre and about 15 kilometres away from Dubai. It is a major cargo airport and the main base of Air Arabia. The airport served total 4,324,313 passengers and 51,314 flights in 2007. It also handled 570,363 tonnes of cargo in the same year. Over 60,000 aircraft movements were recorded in 2009. It handled 6,634,570 passengers in 2011.

    Sharjah International Airport is located 10 kilometres from Sharjah city centre and 15 km from Dubai. As of 2012 it has 34 international carriers and 13 cargo airlines. In 2008, Sharjah International Airport announced it would invest AED662m (US$180m) to renovate the airport’s buildings, build a new terminal and increase car parking. The project is slated for completion in 2015, by which time the airport aims to be handling eight million passengers annually.

    Public transportation

    The Sharjah Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) has started the public transport system in Sharjah from May 23, 2008 with 11 buses running on the first route, Route 14 from Sharjah International Airport to Al-Sharq terminal. By November 2008, 142 buses are expected to operate on 18 routes. On February 2010, there were 115 Sharjah intercity buses, which make 250 trips daily. The tariff for these intercity buses ranges from AED 5 to AED 30.

    Taxis

    Metered Taxis are available in Sharjah for the intra-city as well as the inter-city travel. The base fare is AED 3 with AED 1 charged for every 650 meters of travel. For intra-city travel, the minimum fare is AED 10 and for Sharjah to Dubai travel, base fare is AED 20.

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