Cultural and natural diversions in Sharjah
THE Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation houses about 5,000 Islamic artefacts representing the work of many great Islamic scientists and artists. Highlights include a rare silk tunic produced during Mongol rule in Iran in the 8th century AH/ 14th century AD.
Many more objects from Islamic countries representing all periods of Islamic history - from its beginnings in the Arabian and Umayyad eras until the Ottoman and Mamluk eras – are on display. Managed by Aisha Deemas, curator, and Dr Ulrike Al-Khamis, Middle Eastern and Islamic arts collections advisor, the museum is the first of its kind in the UAE.
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. In addition, as part of the department’s strategic plan, more museums are to be introduced. Recent openings have included the Sharjah Old Cars Museum, the Botanical Museum, the Sharjah Aquarium 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.
The museum had been arranged in seven spacious galleries. One 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’.
There is a 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.
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. There is 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 Dh5 for adults and Dh10 for a family. Guided tours are available on request.
Another attraction is the Sharjah Aquarium. Ataya said that it was formed as a result of British and local collaboration, and the Sharjah Museums Department was dedicated to providing information about the fish and their habitats, and had complemented the display cases with documentaries on the marine life of the UAE shown on large electronic screens.