Sharjah prides itself on being the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates. The glimpses of its past from ancient to modern are kept carefully in an array of museums in Sharjah. They are scattered across the Emirate of Sharjah. In fact, the best way to explore Sharjah is through its museums and markets. A visit to the museum may make you head to the market and vice-versa.
Museums In Sharjah, UAE
Here is my choice of different museums in Sharjah that would take you through ancient, historical, modern, and contemporary Sharjah. Sharjah is home to many museums managed by the Department of Museums which is quite active on social media. However, I have chosen the museums from a traveler’s perspective and keeping in mind the diverse interests of tourists.
Sharjah Heritage Museum
If people, culture, costumes, and rituals interest you, this is the first museum you should head it. It is located in the Heart of Sharjah premises – a late 18th CE heritage building in itself with a very earthy rustic feel to it. You know you are stepping back in time when you enter the Sharjah Heritage Museum.
You see the medicine system and the herbs used. I loved the way costumes and jewelry are explained – with their Arabic names and English translations. There is a whole documentation of types of perfumes, hair oils, and Kohls. Music and games can never be away from human life and the displays at Sharjah Heritage Museum confirm that.
The trade that was an important part of the region is shown with its routes and the professions it involved. I am always curious about the ancient trade links that were as global as they could be.
You must the way men greet each other by touching their nose tips. You can pick up some tips on the coffee ritual.
Read More – First Impressions of Sharjah
Heart of Sharjah Museum
Heart of Sharjah is not really a museum but a historical preservation and restoration project. It aims to revive the old heritage structures and also build new buildings with the ethnic architecture of Sharjah. The displays here take you through the drawings and photographs of the heritage quarters of Sharjah.
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
As the name suggests this museum focuses on the nuances of Islamic civilization including Islamic Art. I do not understand Islam much, so cannot comment on the displays. However, I loved the long building that was a market or a Souk once upon a time and is now a well-designed museum. When you stand in the center and look at the arched walkway with rooms on either side, you inadvertently think of a bustling market.
I liked the display of pottery, paintings, and calligraphy at this museum. There is a history of sailing, shipbuilding, and medical procedures.
The best part of this museum is the ceiling of the central dome where the constellations of the sky have been painted. In a bright blue color, it can give you the illusion of looking at the night sky. The 12 zodiac signs are painted in a circle. Thankfully there are chairs in this chamber for you to sit and look up.
I also enjoyed the displays that explained the making of Rosewater – explaining how the rose essence is extracted using a series of interconnected glass tubes.
Sharjah Fort or Al Hisn Fort Museum
Sharjah Fort which now operates like a museum is about 200 years old. This was the royal home of the Al Qawasim family besides being the seat of the Government of Sharjah then. It carries the modern history of Sharjah in within its walls secured by strong bastions. High walls, watchtowers, and cannons in front of the main gate give it the look of a fort although if you have seen bigger forts, this would look quite small in comparison. However, it is evidently the biggest construction of Sharjah of its time.
They say the walls are made of corals collected from the deep sea. Alas, you do not see them as they are covered in plaster of earth color. History is told through photographs and artifacts.
A high royal bed is the highlight of the Al Hisn Museum which needs a staircase to reach the bed. It reminded me of Akbar’s bed at Fatehpur Sikri – which is also very high and very large.
Video of Sharjah Aquarium
Well, we do not really think of Aquariums as museums. But think again, a museum is what they are. For a country located next to a Gulf, it makes sense to remember the creatures in the neighboring waters.
Watch the video to see what the Sharjah Aquarium looks like with all those colorful fishes and corals.
Mleiha Archaeological Museum – Museums in Sharjah
Well, they do not call it a museum but an exhibition – but it is nothing but an interesting museum for me. It traces what the excavations in and around the village of Mleiha that indicate that this area was inhabited since Palaeolithic times. It was probably on the route of the first human migration from Africa.
There are some fossil rocks in the region that can be visited through a tour organized by the Mleiha Archaeological Centre. I was awe-struck when I saw the fossils in the giant rocks that stood tall in the middle of high sand dunes. Yes, you get to do a bit sand dune bashing too while visiting these rocks.
The displays at the museum take you through a history that is too far from the past – definitely beyond my imagination. There are maps, graphics, and films that attempt to give you a sense of time and space. There are fossils, mass graves in circles, stone tools, potteries & inscriptions. The presence of terracotta, metal objects, and ivory objects tells that this region was inhabited on a continuous basis.
The most intriguing display at Mleiha Archaeological Centre is that of the Baliya Practice of the late pre-Islamic Period. It is a practice where a camel or horse is immolated along with its owner on the latter’s death. It was chilling to see a Camel skeleton buried beneath the ground we were standing on.
For more information, check their website.
Arabia’s Wildlife Centre
If you think there is no biodiversity in the desert of Arabia – you need to visit this center. It is like an indoor air-conditioned zoo where you can comfortably spend a couple of hours.
There are many varieties of Lizards on display like the Jayakar Lizard, Garden Lizard, Fringe-Toed Lizard semaphore lizard, and Laptien’s spiny-tailed lizard.
There are various types of snakes including Cobras. The toad and frog collection is colorfully amusing. Then there are fishes and insects including grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets.
The best part of this center is the large aviary that you can walk through as the birds fly around.
Unfortunately, no photography is allowed at Arabia’s wildlife center.
Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum
This one is a fairly large museum to get lost in. This museum is all about evolution on earth.
There is a large fossil rock that reminds me of Shaligrams back home.
There is a demonstration of the mechanisms inside the body of a camel – I think this is a brilliant place to get your children to learn about nature and how it works.
Close to this center is a garden that displays all the plants and food mentioned in the Quran. The displays are beautiful. In the garden, we could catch some birds jumping around.
Sharjah Classic Cars Museum – Museums in Sharjah to visit
If you love classic and vintage cars – that are still shining and still working – Sharjah Classic Cars Museum is for you. They have a huge collection of vintage cars on display with ample documentation for you.
I do not understand cars much beyond their practical use of taking me from point A to point B. I just walked around the large hall, admiring the shapes, sizes, and colors of these cars. Sometimes I stopped to look at their age. But mostly I soaked in the collective aura of grandeur that they presented.
Towards the exit, you can sit in one of the cars and pose with it. The rest of the others, you must admire from a distance.
Sharjah Art Museum – Museums in Sharjah to visit
After you have traveled through the past if you want to see contemporary Arab Art head to Sharjah Art Museum.
Through the sculptures and paintings of the contemporary artists of the region, you can see the history in the making. What our generation would leave for future generations is a mark of our times.
Do you still have the appetite left for more museums? See the website of their museum’s department for online collections.
I recommend you read the following travel blog on Sharjah.