Sharjah of the Light Brigade...
Thursday, 05 July 2012
By ANDREA McVEIGH
SHARJAH may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of the seven sheikhdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates (UEA) - that privilege usually goes to Dubai. But that will soon change when the fabulous Sharjah Light Festival - the reason for my trip last February to the third largest emirate in the UAE - becomes better known.
Right now Sharjah - known as the cultural capital of the Arab world - feels like the pleasant secret of those-in-the-know, the hidden jewel in the UAE. After flying into Dubai International Airport with Emirates and picking up my luggage, I hopped in a taxi and in less time than it takes to get to many of Dubai’s hotels, I was in my room in Sharjah’s Radisson Blu Resort hotel.
Sharjah, the name of both the emirate and its main city, is a walkable city, unlike Dubai. And it’s the only emirate to have land on both the Arabian Gulf coast and the Gulf of Oman so there’s a freshness in the air, a feeling of space and verdant abundance.
It’s sometimes hard to see where Sharjah ends and neighbouring Dubai begins, as taxis speed from one attraction to another, which helps for those who fancy a drink in this ‘dry’ state, where the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned. All you have to do is jump in a cab and travel 10 minutes to one of Dubai’s hotels, which is what you’d do in Dubai on a night out anyway. Personally, I didn’t notice the lack of alcohol, as I was too busy drinking delicious mocktails, the perfect thirst quencher after a day spent kayaking, on a desert safari or discovering the fantastic Desert Park with its natural history museum, botanical area, wildlife centre and children’s farm.
While keeping its sophisticated Islamic identity, Sharjah is also almost European in parts, a thought which struck me as I lunched at the waterfront promenade Corniche Al Buhairah hotel, with my table overlooking the tree-lined Corniche road and the Khalid Lagoon, beyond which was the impressive city skyline.
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