Sharjah mulls boutique hotel at canal

One year after it was launched, Sharjah’s Qanat Al Qasba is to be recreated as a tourist destination, Marwan Al Sarkal tells KEITH J FERNANDEZ
Sharjah’s new land mark: Eye of the Emirates

THE landmark Qanat Al Qasba (QAQ) cultural, leisure and entertainment destination in Sharjah is likely to see the opening of a 150-room boutique hotel as part of an effort to bring more tourists into the emirate, according to the development’s Marwan Al Sarkal. The QAQ will have a presence at ATM, at the Sharjah stand.

“The focus of the area was as a dining destination – but we’re now repositioning it to as a village that includes shopping, leisure and entertainment,” he says. With the influx of local and expatriate residents of Sharjah, QAQ is intended to become a tourist destination for visitors from all over the globe. “In keeping with Sharjah’s image, the entire area will serve families, who appreciate the fact that alcohol and sheesha is not available here.”
The area will also be upgraded over the summer, to host several new dining outlets as well as seeing a landscaping effort that will include the construction of a new island in the neighbouring Al Khan lagoon. Much of the new work will focus on creating an open-air boulevard, offering an alternative to airconditioned malls, he says. New additions are to include facilities and services such as a three-storey gym and ensuring wireless internet across the area. The development is also working to involve university students in projects at the area.
“By the beginning of the Ramadan festival, the whole area will have a new look, and we will kick off an intensive marketing campaign at that time to promote the venue, rather than focusing only on the events associated around it,” says Al Sarkal, who admits that the venue needs a couple of years to become a focal point for residents and tourists alike. “The new hotel will be promoted in Europe as a place to come and enjoy the architecture of Sharjah.”
One of the venue’s major challenges, he says, was low footfall – but anyone attending the recent first anniversary celebrations would find that hard to believe, with crowds thronging the area to visit an open-air market and for evening rides in the observation wheel that is the Eye of the Emirates.
Sharjah is generally regarded as the more sedate emirate, well-known for its culture, tradition and heritage.
Being the premiere cultural, leisure and entertainment destination in the emirate, QAQ has opened up Sharjah to a wider audience and introduced a family-friendly destination. QAQ’s location on its own tranquil canal, linking two lagoons near the Sharjah Corniche, is both picturesque and easy to locate. Three pedestrian bridges cross the canal where a number of restaurants and cafés are stretched by both banks, in addition to many stylish and executive outlets were built in a mixture of oriental and contemporary European architecture.
The QAQ development already offers an array of culinary and entertainment options and hosts Arabic and international theatrical and musical performances.
Another notable attraction is the 300-seat theatre, Masrah Al Qasba, which is located in the centre of the North Quarter. Masrah Al Qasba has hosted film festivals and music concerts.
QAQ has been chosen as the assembly point of the 2006 edition of the Harley-Davidson Saudi Chapter’s tour.
The pièce de resistance, however, has to be the Eye of the Emirates – a 60-metre high observation wheel – which has become a Sharjah landmark. It’s the highest observation wheel in the region. With its superb location on the edge of the canal, the Eye features a fantastic panoramic view from the Sharjah coast to the southern borders of Dubai and beyond. The wheel has 42 air-conditioned gondolas and each has been designed to accommodate up to eight people.