Human settlement in the area covered by the emirate has existed for over 120,000 years, with significant finds made of early axes and stone tools as well as Copper and Iron Age implements in Al Dhaid, Madam and Faya. Archaeological finds in the Mleiha area point to human habitation consistent with the spread of humanity from Africa to the wider world, evidenced by finds displayed at the Mleiha Archaeological Centre.
Historically the emirate was one of the wealthiest towns in the region.
Around 1727, the Al Qasimi clan took control of Sharjah and declared the polity independent.
The first in a long series of maritime skirmishes between the Al Qasimi and British vessels took place in 1797, when the British-flagged Bassein Snow was seized and released two days later. The cruiser Viper was subsequently attacked off Bushire. A period of great instability followed along the coast, with a number of actions between British and Al Qasimi vessels alongside various changes of leadership and allegiances between the Rulers of Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Sharjah with Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi claiming sovereignty over 'all the Joasmee ports' in 1823, a claim recognised by the British at the time.
On 8 January 1820, Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi signed the General Maritime Treaty with Britain, accepting protectorate status in order to resist Ottoman domination. Following the expiration of a further, ten year, treaty in 1843, on 4 May 1853 Sharjah, along with other Sheikhdoms on what was then known as the 'Arabian Coast' signed the Perpetual Treaty of Peace, which gave rise to the collective name Trucial States being given to the emirates of the coast.
Like four of its neighbours, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain, its position along trade routes to India made it important enough to be recognized as a salute state.
Throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, Sharjah was an important pearl fishing port. A British marine survey of 1830 found 'three to four hundred boats' fishing in the season, earning the ruler 100,000 Maria Theresa Dollars.
In 1932, Imperial Airways established a regular air service through Sharjah, which was an overnight stop on the Eastern British Empire route. Al Mahatta Fort was built to house the airline's guests.
On 2 December 1971, Sheikh Khalid bin Muhammad Al Qasimi (Sheikh Khalid) joined Sharjah to the United Arab Emirates. On 24 January 1972 the former ruler Sheikh Saqr staged a leftist coup. Having previously deposed Saqr, Sheikh Khalid had ordered the demolition of Sharjah Fort (Al Hisn Sharjah) to expiate Saqr's memory. Saqr took over Khalid's palace, holding him inside and in the ensuing confusion Sheikh Khalid was killed. Saqr was arrested and Khalid's brother, Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, an author and historian, came to power.
In 1987 Sultan's brother Abdulaziz staged a coup while Sultan was abroad. Huge state debt was stated as the reason. UAE President Zayed vehemently denounced the coup, and a deal was reached for Sultan to be restored, while Abdulaziz would become the Deputy Ruler. Sultan, however, dismissed Abdulaziz quite quickly. In 1999, the Crown Prince (Sultan's eldest son) died while on vacation in their palace in England. Sultan made the decision to testify in front of a UK court. The new Crown Prince was appointed from a remote branch of the family.
Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, and is the only one to have land on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The emirate covers 2,590 square kilometres (1,000 sq mi) which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the UAE's total area, excluding the islands. It has a population of over 800,000 (2008).
The emirate of Sharjah comprises the city of Sharjah (the seat of the emirate), and other minor towns and enclaves. The city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Persian Gulf, has a population of 519,000 (2003 census estimate).
Sharjah City borders Dubai to the south and Ajmân to the north and the three form a conurbation.
The city lies some 170 kilometers away from the UAE capital city Abu Dhabi.
Sharjah also owns three enclaves on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn, and Khor Fakkan, which provides Sharjah with a major east coast port. In the Persian Gulf, the island of Sir Abu Nu’ayr belongs to Sharjah, and Abu Musa is claimed by UAE, but controlled by Iran. Sharjah has an exclave containing the village of Nahwa, located inside the Omani enclave of Madha which borders Fujairah and Sharjah.
Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is the fertile Dhaid region, where a range of vegetables and fruits are cultivated.
Sharjah Municipality was founded in 1927. A decree issued in 1971 defined the role of the contemporary municipality, which encompasses public health, agricultural policy and management and infrastructural and engineering support. Water and electricity services are provided by Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) and waste management by recycling and waste management company Bea'ah. Company registration and other aspects of economic planning and activity are undertaken by the Economic Development Department.
A Sharjah e-government portal offers access to a number of services online.
The Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority was established by decree in 1996 to "promote commercial and tourism activities" in the emirate. The state-backed authority is responsible for, among other things, creating policies for local and international exhibitions and marketing Sharjah to attract foreign investment and tourists.
The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) was established in 2009 as an independent government body to "oversee the social, cultural, environmental and economic development of Sharjah in line with its Islamic identity." It focuses on three areas for the emirate; investment, development, and asset and property management. Shurooq's developments include:Al Qasba – 10,0000-acre project including a 1 km-long man-made canal and 60 m high observation wheel, it was made open for the public in 2005. It includes Masrah Al Qasba, a theatre, the Maraya Art Centre, the Multaqa Al Qasba meetings and conference centre and a children’s Fun Zone. The project, managed by the Al Qasba Development Authority (an affiliate of Shurooq) has an architectural design including pedestrian bridges, boats, and lagoons. It attracted two million visitors in 2011.
Al Majaz Waterfront – Shurooq opened the Al Majaz Waterfront in December 2011 after redeveloping it. The new park, located between Jamal Abdul Nasser Street and Khalid Lagoon Corniche, covers an area of three km2 for recreation, including six new buildings with restaurants and a 100 m tall water fountain.
Heart of Sharjah – The Heart of Sharjah, slated for completion in January 2015, has been proposed by Shurooq as a tourist and trade destination with commercial, cultural and residential projects as well as hotel, archaeological sites, museums and commercial space.
The Chedi Khorfakkan Resort – The Chedi Khorfakkan, scheduled to open in 2015, is under construction an hour outside of Sharjah city centre. Shurooq has stated that once complete, the project will include a tourist resort and a fort on the Al Suwifa Mountain.
Conservative Sharjah is the only Emirate in the UAE in which the sale of alcohol is prohibited, although its consumption in one's own home is permissible if one is in possession of a valid Alcohol Licence (as is the transportation of alcohol between the place of sale and the home). The only place this prohibition is relaxed is the members-only sporting club, the Sharjah Wanderers. Sharjah also maintains the strictest decency laws in the UAE, introduced in 2001, with a conservative dress code required for both men and women. Mixing between unmarried men and women is illegal: "A man and a woman who are not in a legally acceptable relationship should not be alone in public places, or in suspicious times or circumstances," according to a booklet published by the municipality in 2001.
Sharjah has two main free trade zones: the seaport and free trade zone of Hamriyah and the Sharjah Airport International Free Trade Zone (SAIF Zone).
The Hamriyah Free Zone Authority was established by an Emiri decree issued on November 12, 1995 and consists of a port and associated logistics and trade facilities.
Also established in 1995, the SAIF Zone is adjacent to Sharjah International Airport and is currently home to some 2,500 companies.
Universities in Sharjah:University of Sharjah – the largest university in the emirate, it is accredited by the UAE Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
The American University of Sharjah (AUS) – established in 1997, it is accredited by the UAE Commission for Academic Accreditation of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, as well as the United States Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Troy University – ITS Sharjah Campus
Skyline College Sharjah
Sharjah Men's College
Sharjah Women's College
The University City of Sharjah is an educational district to the east of Sharjah City that includes AUS, the University of Sharjah, and the Higher Colleges of Technology (which in turn includes Sharjah Women's College and Sharjah Men's College. The area also includes the Sharjah Library, Police Academy, and the Sharjah Teaching Hospital.
Newspapers:The Gulf Today (English)
Al Khaleej (Arabic)
Sharjah has long invested considerable resources in building a strong cultural identity and heritage and was named in 1998 as UNESCO's 'Arab Capital of Culture', an event commemorated by a large pillar erected opposite the Sharjah Desert Park and Arabian Wildlife Centre between Sharjah and Dhaid cities.
Sharjah was also named as Islamic Culture Capital 2014 by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), a specialized institution of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the fields of Education, Science and Culture. This is commemorated by a (smaller) pillar mounted to the front of Sharjah's University City.
The Sharjah Art Foundation works on a broad range of contemporary art and cultural programmes to the communities of Sharjah, the UAE and the region, including the Sharjah Biennial which first took place in 1993. Founded in 2009, SAF also organises the annual March Meeting, residencies, production grants, commissions, exhibitions, research, publications and a growing art collection as well as a number of education and public programmes. Sharjah Art Foundation is funded by the Department of Culture and Information.
The city has 16 museums. Sharjah’s Ruler, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad al Qasimi, established the Sharjah Museums Department, an independent department affiliated to the Ruler’s Office, in 2006. Museums in Sharjah include:
The Expo Centre Sharjah in the city of Sharjah holds an annual book fair that is known throughout the region. It was founded, built and operated from 1976 to 1989 by Frederick Pittera, an international producer of Trade & Consumer Fairs. The event typically attracts hundreds of local and international publishers and thousands of titles.
The Sharjah Light Festival (SCTDA) is a nightly art exhibit with local and international artists that takes place in public places. The festival, which is the first event of its kind in the region, runs for nine nights in the month of February using the latest graphics and lighting techniques and 3-D technology. The festival takes place in 14 locations across the emirate offering a unique combination of light and music to create innovative three-dimensional designs on mosques, key landmarks and heritage buildings.
In 1963, Britain ceded responsibility for the Trucial States' postal systems. An American philatelic entrepreneur by the name of Finbar Kenny saw the opportunity to create a number of editions of stamps aimed at the lucrative collector's market and in 1964 concluded a deal with a number of Trucial States to take the franchise for the production of stamps for their respective governments. Kenny had made something of a specialty out of signing these deals, also signing with the Rulers of Ajman and Fujairah in 1964—and getting involved in a bribery case in the USA over his dealings with the government of the Cook Islands. The issue of stamps from Ajman's dependency of Manama—a tiny agrarian village in the remote plains at which a 'post office' was opened—is a perfect example.
These stamps, luridly illustrated and irrelevant to the actual emirates they purported to come from (editions included 'Space Research' and 'Tokyo Olympic Games') became known as 'dunes'. Their proliferation quickly devalued them.
Sharjah is therefore known by many stamp collectors for these issues by the Sharjah Post Office shortly before the formation of the United Arab Emirates. Many of these items are not listed by many popular catalogues.
Sport establishments in Sharjah are managed by the Sharjah Sports Council.
The Sharjah Cricket Association Stadium has hosted almost 200 cricket One Day Internationals, more than any other ground in UAE, and 4 Test matches. Since 2003, the increasingly crowded cricket calendar has precluded the holding of any major international matches at Sharjah although the stadium has been the venue for certain other matches, such as the 2004 ICC Intercontinental Cup. The use of the venue has declined as the new 20,000 seat Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi has become the preferred venue for cricket in the UAE.
Football teams in Sharjah emirate:
- Al Sharjah sport club
- Al Shaab Sports Club
- Al Hemriah Sports Club
- Al-Thaid (Al Thaid)
- Al Ittihad Sports Club (Kalba)
- Al Khaleej Club (Khor Fakkan)
- Dibba Al-Hisn Sports Club
Sharjah has hosted the F1 Powerboat Race since 2000. The December event is held during the Sharjah Water Festival and attracts over 75,000 visitors to the emirate.
International airports in the city of Sharjah include the Sharjah International Airport and Port Khalid.
Sharjah International Airport (IATA: SHJ) has connections to all major international locations. It is 10 kilometres from Sharjah City Centre and about 15 kilometres away from Dubai. It is a major cargo airport and the main base of Air Arabia. The airport served total 4,324,313 passengers and 51,314 flights in 2007. It also handled 570,363 tonnes of cargo in the same year. Over 60,000 aircraft movements were recorded in 2009. It handled 6,634,570 passengers in 2011.
Sharjah International Airport is located 10 kilometres from Sharjah city centre and 15 km from Dubai. As of 2012 it has 34 international carriers and 13 cargo airlines. In 2008, Sharjah International Airport announced it would invest AED662m (US$180m) to renovate the airport’s buildings, build a new terminal and increase car parking. The project is slated for completion in 2015, by which time the airport aims to be handling eight million passengers annually.Air Arabia
Sharjah International Airport is the main base of Air Arabia, the Middle East’s largest low cost carrier. It was the Middle East’s first budget airline when launched by the Ruler of Sharjah in 2003. The number of passengers flying to its near 70 destinations grew six percent in 2011 to 4.7 million. Net profit for 2011 was AED274m (US$74.6m), down 13 percent on the previous year. The airline, which also has hubs in Egypt (Borg El Arab Airport, Alexandria) and Morocco (Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca), delayed plans to establish a fourth hub in Jordan in 2012.
The Sharjah Public Transport Corporation (SPTC) has started the public transport system in Sharjah from May 23, 2008 with 11 buses running on the first route, Route 14 from Sharjah International Airport to Al-Sharq terminal. By November 2008, 142 buses are expected to operate on 18 routes. In February 2010, there were 115 Sharjah intercity buses, which make 250 trips daily. The tariff for these intercity buses ranges from AED 5 to AED 30.
Metered Taxis are available in Sharjah for the intra-city as well as the inter-city travel. The base fare is AED 11.50 with AED 1 charged for every 650 meters of travel. For intra-city travel, the minimum fare is AED 11.50 and for Sharjah to Dubai travel, base fare is AED 20.
The city of Sharjah contains the main administrative and commercial centers, as well as a number of cultural institutions including several museums. Distinctive landmarks are the two major covered souks, reflecting Islamic design; a number of recreational areas and public parks such as Al Jazeirah Fun Park and Al Buheirah Corniche. The city is also notable for numerous mosques.