Sharjah tourism still untapped

Sharjah focuses on family tourism.

When Sharjah was awarded the status of cultural capital of the Arab world in 1998 by Unesco, it was an official stamp of world recognition.

Mohamed A Al Noman, director of Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, explains that the appeal of Sharjah lies in precisely this mix of the old and the new.

He explained: "The old part comes through the heritage and culture of 6,000 years of settlement; and the new is from the architecture and technology of an oil-producing nation.

"Sharjah is, to a certain degree, still untapped in terms of its tourism potential. The government believed it was essential to develop the infrastructure and the development of commerce and industry before pushing tourism, but we believe the time is right for people to discover Sharjah."

For many GCC residents, the emirate represents an ideal getaway, combining beach, shopping and culture - all in a family-friendly environment. Al Noman explained: "Shopping is one of the most popular pastimes here in the Gulf - not least in the hot summer months. In the last couple of years, we have seen a boom in terms of shopping malls, with three new ones opening up in the last two years.

"However, the traditional souks, selling everything from furniture to gold and spices, are as popular as ever; indeed the Blue Souk, for example, has become a tourist attraction in its own right, thanks to its distinctive architecture as well as its traditional market feel inside."

The family focus is a theme that runs throughout the city. Beaches are clean and safe, and the nightlife is also geared towards the family.

This is one of the main attractions for visitors from overseas - and not just from the GCC.