Culture & History of Sharjah

Sharjah is a symbol of culture, intellect and architectural revolution in the United Arab Emirates. Sharjah, with the meaning ‘Rising Sun’, dates back more than 6,000 years. In 1490 AD, Sharjah was mentioned in records written by the famous Arab navigator, Ahmad Ibn Majid, as he navigated the Gulf’s waters.

Today Sharjah is renowned for its leading role as a patron of fine arts and true cultural values. Sharjah is known for its ability to create a cultural identity that harmonizes between its Islamic roots, historical heritage, and contemporaneity while embracing the many humanitarian cultures. In addition to its historical significance, Old Sharjah became even more valued since its houses and buildings were transformed into art facilities, showrooms, calligraphy and decoration museums, and ateliers for calligraphers and plastic artists.
The area, with all its traditional buildings and unique character, became a unique venue tinged with the whispers of the past, where contemporary and folkloric arts are celebrated, and traditional flavours overlap in the old halls redolent with the essence and traditions of the bygone days.

Among the circles of intellect and knowledge, Sharjah’s name has become synonymous with its ruler and patron, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, who dedicated his life and efforts to add a rich cultural and intellectual flavour to life.

Sharjah is the third largest emirate and it is the only one with land adjoining the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
In 1998, UNESCO awarded Sharjah the title of the Cultural Capital of the Arab World, and in 2014 it received the title of the Capital of Islamic Culture.

Cultural Events in Sharjah

Sharjah Biennial

Since its inception in 1993, the Sharjah Biennial was able to cause a drastic shift in the definition of visual arts both locally and internationally and became an important artistic and cultural pillar that contributed in shaping artistic awareness and enhancing the aesthetic palate. Given its dynamism and flexibility, the Biennial had the capacity to accommodate and depict the changes and developments in the world of contemporary visual art.

Calligraphy Biennial

The Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial was launched in 2002 to give strength and shape to various calligraphic arts, such that it encompassed many traditional and contemporary art trends from its very beginning. The Biennial was able to attract renowned calligraphers and practitioners from around the world, and it opened new horizons for the development of Arabic calligraphic arts that express our cultural identity and emphasize its importance and aesthetics.

Theatre Days

The event, launched in March of 1984, is an annual cultural and theatrical event in which local theatre troupes compete for the winning title. The Sharjah Theatre Days welcomes theatrical experts from various countries so they may observe the performances and participate in practical and intellectual seminars, meetings and open discussions. The festival also hosts international performances to strengthen communication links between Arabic and international theatre.

Islamic Arts Festival

The Annual Islamic Arts Festival commenced in 1998 with the aim of exhibiting various kinds of traditional and contemporary Islamic arts. Over its successive editions, it was able to present various rich styles of Islamic art through relying on the selection of art projects capable of expressing the authenticity of Islamic art and its ability to keep up with current artistic changes and refine itself using all kinds of creative expressions.

Heritage Days

Sharjah Heritage Days is a 15-day festival that began in April 2009 under the supervision and organization of the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah. With its ambience, activities and exhibitions enabling visitors to explore the aesthetics of the past. The event is considered an important cultural heritage project, a focal point that draws everyone to participate and benefit from its lively and entertaining heritage performances.

International Book Fair

The Sharjah International Book Fair is a ten-day event more than a typical book exhibition, it is an institution that can give an insider’s glimpse at authentic Arab culture. First launched in 1982 under the continued guidance and patronage of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, Sharjah Book Fair has become to be the 3rd largest book fair in the world.