Sharjah holds rare collection of 5,000 Islamic artefacts
Since its opening on June 5 this year the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation has clocked up some 8,000 visitors.
Managed by Aisha Deemas, curator, and Dr Ulrike Al-Khamis, Middle Eastern and Islamic arts collections advisor, the museum houses about 5,000 Islamic artefacts representing the work of many great Islamic scientists and artists.
Opened by His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, the museum is the first of its kind in the UAE. Some of the objects have never been shown to the public before.
Highlights include a rare silk tunic produced during Mongol rule in Iran in the 8th century AH/ 14th century AD. Visitors will find more objects from many Islamic countries representing all periods of Islamic history - from its beginnings in the Arabian and Umayyad eras until the Ottoman and Mamluk eras, with distinctive features from each period.
To mark the opening, the Museum for Islamic Art in Berlin sent a special selection of priceless masterpieces. For over 100 years the Museum for Islamic Art has formed part of Museums Island, situated in Berlin, where the first museums were built in 1830. The Museum for Islamic Art opened in 1904.
While the current director of the museum professor Claus Peter Haase was touring the UAE he learnt of the imminent opening of the new museum in Sharjah, and supported the event by loaning it 46 masterpieces. These represent the refined arts of the 10th to 12th centuries AH/ 16th to 18th centuries AD.
A particular focus is on the Arts of the Book, which features richly illuminated double pages of a large scale Qur’an manuscript, showing its first sura ‘Al-Fatiha’ in jewel like colours. This exhibition will run for another three months.
Manal Ataya, director of the Sharjah Museums Department (SMD), said that the museum added a great deal to the profile of the department and that it would enhance communication with all the emirates as well as being a vital reference centre for researchers.
She said the opening was in line with the department’s strategic plan to introduce many more museums. Recent openings have included the Sharjah Old Cars Museum, the Botanical Museum and a special exhibition at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum on Al-Buhais18: Life and Death in the Stone Age, which provides a rare glimpse into the way of life and burial rites of the ancient people of this region. In addition the Sharjah Aquarium is also opening.
Situated in the historical heart of Sharjah on the Majarrah Waterfront, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation started out as a traditional Middle Eastern souq when it was known locally as the Souq al-Majarrah. This was the first market of its kind in the Gulf area with Islamic, Arabic and traditional architecture and design elements. Its most outstanding feature is its majestic, gilt central dome, decorated on the inside with an intricate mosaic depicting the night sky and the signs of the zodiac.
It first opened its doors to visitors in the spring of 1987, and soon became a popular landmark with both locals and tourists.
She said that the museum had been arranged into seven spacious galleries
all embodying the accomplishments of Islamic civilisation and its teachings.
A gallery is dedicated to Islamic Faith and contains prominent collections including the holy books of Quran, Islamic calligraphies, and various architectural patterns. It also displays historic photographs of pilgrimages to Mekka including the covering of Kaaba known as 'the curtain'.
The museum has allocated a whole section for Islamic art in which pottery, metallic and glass works is displayed. Another gallery displays activities of Muslim craftsmen, weapon makers and potters and demonstrates the success of integrating styles from the east and the west.
The museum also has a shop selling books, artefacts and a range of gift items as well as a cafe that provides cakes, snacks, drinks and hot meals.
Entry to the museum is five dirhams for adults and 10 dirhams for a family. Guided tours are available on request.