Sashay through Sharjah
Sharjah would've perhaps only fleeted through my vocabulary during the World Cup or a cricket series based in the emirate. My trip last year to Dubai left me quite impressed, but soon after landing in the third largest city of UAE earlier this year, I realised what was missing.
Sharjah is known as the "cultural capital" of the UAE as it plays host, not just to Emirati arts and culture, but from the world over. The night we landed is one of the best times to visit UAE (October to March) - somehow made prettier by the decorative black street lamps with yellow lights gleaming all the way to the Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort & Spa. Ornate Islamic architecture stood on either side of our ride to the large imposing structure - straight out of Prince of Persia; a treat for the senses, especially, for the eyes and tastebuds.
Despite its advances in architecture and recreational spaces, Sharjah continues to keep its traditions at the centre. A thought reaffirmed by the majestic Al Noor Mosque illuminated in resplendent hues through laser mapping.
FOOD FOR THE SOUL
Sharjah has plenty of eateries with Indian and international cuisine. With the taste of butter chicken from my first meal at Arjwan at the Sheraton fresh in my memory, I knew this trip would have good food karma. Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe was our first official stop for local food. We sampled the simple yet flavourful dango (boiled chickpeas with dried red chillies), salatat (Middle Eastern Salad), beryani and the scrumptious luqaimat (fried dough balls in date syrup). Arabic cuisine is fairly layered with varied influences from Bedouin and Levantine styles, but between all the chicken, meat and baby shark delicacies, a roasted potato and aubergine dish won the race for me.
SOUKS AND GLAMPING
The Heart of Sharjah (a heritage project), is also home to one of the oldest markets in the country - Souk Al Arshah. This air-conditioned trip down the eras has lots of knick-knacks to take back home such as magnets, copper coffee pots and ceramic cups, and attar.
A stroll through the Sharjah Vintage Car Museum is a different kind of lux meets history experience, especially for classic cars lovers. On one of the days we hit the highway to Khorfakkan on the east coast that gave us a view of the Hajar Mountains before reaching the oldest mangrove forest in the UAE - Kalba. Next, we glamped at the Kalba Kingfisher Lodge, that features safari-style luxury tents. It was difficult to break away from the mesmerising sunset or the early morning view of the ocean from my bed.