Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum and Islamic Botanical Gardens

Although many people visit the Arabian Wildlife Centre, not many seem to visit the other parts of the Desert park. As with all of Sharjah’s museums, they’re very well done and you’ll notice something different with each visit.

The Natural History Museum takes you on a journey through millions of years of history of the area of Sharjah before exploring fossils, different stones, etc. As it covers so much, I find it’s a place we return to again and again depending on what topic is being covered at school and there’s something for all ages.

During your visit, you will learn about the beginning of the Earth, tectonic plates, creatures from long ago, fossils, marine life, fungi and many other topics. For younger children, the dinosaur exhibition is usually their favourite part.

It has a lot of interactive stations where you can test, for example, the difference of a human, goat and camel foot walking on the sand, the effect of black and white on temperature, the effect of wind direction on sand dune formations.

Sharjah is not only rich in its love of knowledge, science and culture, but is also known for its adherence to Islam and many of their events have an Islamic flavour to them. And so reference is made throughout the exhibition to verses from the Quran and early Islamic scholars and scientists. This may come as a surprise to non-Muslims as it is a common misconception that there is a contradiction between Islam and science.

Once you leave the natural history museum, you’ll pass some of Sheikh Sultan’s butterfly collection and enter the botanical museum which has a lot of interactive stations. At the time of writing, halls G8 and G9 (see floor plan above) are closed for work.

There is a gift shop at the entrance to the Botanical Museum where you can buy science kits and related items. There is a small cafe which now only sells ice creams and cold drinks and isn’t always manned.

You may want to have a rest, picnic or play before moving on to your next stop. The grassy area continues over to the right so there’s plenty room to find a quiet spot.

The next stop is the Islamic Botanical Gardens. Again reference is made throughout to the Quran as many plants are mentioned in its verses. It also make mention of traditional medicine, particularly in the early Islamic days.

Notice the geometrical designs, the water and canals, all a main feature of Islamic gardens.

There is a cafeteria which serves coffee and nice cakes, muffins and savoury snacks. There is also a wall display within the cafeteria.

Of course, if you have time left, you can go on to the Wildlife Centre and the Children’s Petting Zoo or save it for another day. That will be covered later, but in the meantime, here’s a little taster.

  • Entrance to the Desert Park including all museums, Islamic garden, Wildlife Centre and Petting Zoo: Adults 15.75 dhs, children under 12 free. School trips 2dhs.
  • Sunday – Thursday 9am -6:30pm
  • Friday – 2pm – 6:30pm
  • Saturday – 11am – 6:30pm
  • Tuesday: closed
  • Location – Dhaid Rd/Airport Rd intersection 9.
  • Cafeteria selling hot meals and snacks in Wildlife Centre with a view of the outdoor animals.

Buhais Geology Park

Buhais Geology Park sits on the plains at the foot of Jebel Buhais near Al Madam. Although it may look small it has a wealth of information in the exhibition halls and a great outdoor trail. I often drive through the mountains and sand dunes in awe of some of their formations and across gravel and rocky plains and after my visit to the park, I understand them so much better.

Hall 1 explains the overall history of the land surface on the earth such as tectonic plate movements and geologic timescale, with a special focus on the areas of the emirate of Sharjah.

Hall 2 is very interactive and explains different types of rock and their formations, types of sand and sand dunes, formation of alluvial plains, fossils, climate change, etc. There are interactive stations to suit all ages.

The outdoor trail takes you through Wadi Suq tombs (Bronze Age) and various rock formations. Spot fossils in the rocks. At the peak of the trail you can see right across al Faya and Aqabah Mountains and the plains to the Hajar Mountains. There are a couple of rock benches along the way to stop and just sit and enjoy the scenery and tranquility.

The exhibition is fully bilingual and there are guides to take you around if you wish. There may not be an English-speaking guide but the information is so complete, you really don’t need one and you can go at your own pace.

After you’ve finished your tour, you can have some refreshments in the cafe overlooking Jebel Buhais. (The menu is mainly burger type meals from what I saw and delicious cakes and fresh juices.)

If you prefer, you can find a spot on the plains along the main road to have a picnic, spot birds and butterflies and identify trails left by birds, animals and insects.

You can also visit the other archeological sites further down at Jebel Buhais. Here are a couple of them.

Note that the climate in this area is different from the coast. It’s cooler than the Gulf coast in the winter and hotter in the summer, but there’s no or little humidity which makes it more pleasant in the summer. You may need something warm in the winter.

I had a very enjoyable and extremely informative afternoon at Buhais Geology Park and I hope you do too!

  • Entrance fee: Adults 10.5dhs, children under 12 free
  • Opening hours: Sun-Thurs 9am-7:30pm, Fri 2pm-7:30pm, Sat 11am-7:30pm, closed Tuesday
  • Wheelchair accessible (outdoor trail has a wheelchair accessible path going directly to the peak but you can do around 2/3s of the trail itself before getting to steps and turning back.)
  • Prayer and ablution rooms
  • School/university trips 2 and 5dhs per student respectively

Water is freely available for topping up your bottle. Well done, Sharjah!

  • What’s nearby?
  • Discover Mleiha
  • Al Faya Retreat
  • Jebel Buhais Archeological sites

Sharjah Art Area and Sharjah Art Foundation

If you love art, or you just love wandering through traditional buildings, Sharjah Art Area is the place for you. Set back from Sharjah Corniche, it consists of several buildings. From the Corniche, enter Bait al Shamsi which was built in 1845 and was most recently the home of Obaid Al Shamsi. It was renovated in 1997 and has since also been known as The Hall of Arts. Of the many rooms off the courtyard, 13 have been designated as studios and contemporary artists from around the world are invited to exhibit their work there. In the evening, artists gather their to discuss their work.

Next walk through the side entrance past the Emirates Fine Arts Society and you will come to Sharjah Art Museum which hosts temporary exhibitions. At the time of writing, Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival was underway. A few of the exhibits can be seen below. The Museum also has a library, a cafe and a small shop.

Opposite the Art Museum and next to Sharjah Art Foundation office is Bait al Serkal, home to another gallery. The building itself was built in the 19th century and was originally the home of the British Commissioner and in the 1960s it served as the first hospital in Sharjah. It was restored between 1993 and 1995.

Alongside art exhibitions, Sharjah Art Foundation also organise film festivals, film screenings, music and performance programmes, residency programmes for artists, opportunities for interns and volunteers to gain experience. They also offer workshops and events for the general public such as ceramics, painting and drawing, sculpting, engraving and printing and mural painting.  The workshops are free and aimed at adults, children, families and families with disabilities and take place on Saturdays whilst the courses cost around 500 dhs and run weekdays with morning and evening options.

Sharjah Art Foundation runs activities across the emirate include the central and eastern regions. It’s definitely one of Sharjah’s many cultural activities not to be missed.

To view current exhibitions and other events visit Sharjah Art Foundation.

Opening hours: Saturday – Thursday 8am -8pm, Friday 4pm-8pm

Entry: Free

Mleiha

Mleiha has long been one of my favourite places and should really be on everyone’s must do list.

The scenery in Mleiha is simply stunning from mesmerising rock formations, rolling sand dunes, desert meeting mountain on Fossil Rock to sandy plains and lush gardens.

Take a stroll through time, choose one of the many exciting activities on offer, or just relax and enjoy the view.

Archeology

There are numerous sites scattered around that go through various ages starting all the way back to the Palaeolithic Period 130,000 years ago. Visit caves used in the Stone, Iron and Bronze Age and Faya Cave which was used by peoples through all periods including the Ice Age when it was used as a shelter. In front of the visitor centre, you can also find the restored tomb dating back 4000 years to the Bronze Age.

Whilst there are information boards at many of the sites, your visit should include the museum located in the visitor centre where you can see some of the artefacts discovered in the digs carried out by teams from Australia, Spain and the UAE amongst others.

Don’t forget to visit the many other archeological sites on the other side of the main road including Mleiha Fort and the horse cemetery.

Activities

Why not spend the night camping in the desert? Discover Mleiha have their overnight stays in tents at the foot of the mountains including trekking, stargazing, barbeque dinner and breakfast and after watching the sun rise. All this for only 350 dhs and 250 for a child. You can also add on horse-riding or a dune buggy adventure. And if you don’t wish to stay overnight, you can opt for the Sunset Lounge package.

Other activities include dune-bashing, dune buggies and for the kids there’s a ride through the desert on an awesome UniMog (see workshops.) Take a guided tour to the top of Fossil Rock or Camel Rock and watch the sunset.

You might also choose to go horse-riding on a hack through the desert. Or you if you’re a beginner, take a training session at the arena.

Workshops for children and adults in and out the museum. Learn to be a palaeontologist,  or learn about geology, astronomy and the local flora and fauna. Several packages are available but should be booked in advance.

Finally stop off at the Bistro in the visitors centre where they serve delicious smoothies, juices, cakes, sandwiches and you can enjoy a beautiful relaxing view from both indoors and outdoors.

Whatever you choose, I’m sure you’ll have an amazing day!

And finally here’s just a few more photos!

Al Mahatta Museum

A trip to Al Mahatta Museum is great for kids learning about transport or the science of flight or anyone who wants to know more about the history of Sharjah.

The museum is in the building of the original airport which was the first in the Trucial States. It was initially just a basic airstrip in the 1920s but become a major airfield in the 1930s when a deal was struck between the Ruler of Sharjah and the British Government allowing it to be used by the Imperial Airways, primarily as a stopover on the route to India and later, Australia. Prior to the existence of the airport, the area was just salt flats.

The runway was extended in the 1940s by the British Royal Air Force in the 40s and it was used up until the 70s.

In the aircraft hanger several old aircraft can be seen including a Comet (1953) and VC10 (1962) as well as a section of an old Imperial Airways aircraft with the original seating, cockpit, etc .

The next building was a rest house for passengers, offering two different classes. It now houses a gallery of old photos of the airport, passengers, etc and various exhibits including engines, pilots’ log books, air tickets, etc,

The third section is used for temporary exhibitions by the municipality, for example, on city planning.

The next section is a large section all about the development of flight, from insects right through to the most modern rockets.

Finally, there is a theatre showing old news footage of Al Mahatta Airport.

Don’t miss out on this window into the historical development of Sharjah and fabulously laid-out exhibition on The Development of Flight.

Entrance fee: Adults 10 dhs, children (2-12) 5 dh, under two free

Opening hours: Sat – Thurs 8am – 8pm, Fri 4-8pm

Location: Al Estiqlal St, al Qasimya. 25.3460° N, 55.3960° E

Free parking available inside.

 

 

 

Sharjah Centre for Astronomy and Space Sciences

SCASS (including the Planetarium) is located next to University City and close to the Dubai border and offers another great day out during the hot months.

There is a wide range of exhibits, for example, the solar system, history of tickets, lunar vehicles, etc. And it is packed with interactive ways to learn about the universe and science.

The Planetarium offers regular shows, in either Arabic or English. Check the schedule beforehand. If it’s quiet, they’ll give you the language of your choice. Headphones with translation are also available. You can check the schedule online before your visit.

Infants are not allowed in the Planetarium itself (where the shows are held) and the exhibition is not really suited to very young children.

The observatory is in a separate building but sometimes has an open house. You can find details of this on the SCASS website.

The Centre is set inside Cosmic Park, with the golden dome being the sun and the planets are set around in it in their individual orbits.

There is a cafeteria offering hot and cold drinks and limited snacks.

Entrance fee: Adults 22dhs, children 11dhs, children under four free.

Opening times: Sun-Weds 9am-3pm (2pm during holidays), Sat 4pm-8pm, Thurs/Fri closed.

Location: Maleha Rd, Sharjah. 25.285168,55.46089

Website: http://www.scass.ae

 

Sharjah Science Museum

Another fun and educational place in Sharjah is the Science Museum. Although not big compared to others of its kind, there are many nteresting exhibits, most of them interactive. Learn how the heart works or explore optical illusions, test out laws of physics, identify insects and arachnids or find out more about different types of energy. The list goes on. There’s something for all ages and all interests and with the wide range of topics, there’s sure to be something relevant to what children are learning at school.

There are staff with a scientific background on hand (you’ll see them in white lab coats) to explain more about the topics exhibited if you wish. They also run shows in the theatre in the mornings in either Arabic or English according to the visitors they have in at that time.

Every Friday throughout the year there are family workshops in English and Arabic. The workshops last around an hour.

During school holidays they also run bilingual summer camps for one to two weeks. The next one will start on 31 July and registration opens 1 July. The camps run every weekday until 1pm.

The centre also has a free play area for younger children whilst older ones are looking around.

In the foyer, you can find the Science Museum Shop and a cafe.

Opening hours: Sat – Thurs 8am-8pm, Fri 4pm -8pm.

Entrance fee: Adults 10 dhs, children 5dhs.

Location: al Abar, Sharjah (next to Sharjah TV and Archeology Museum, near Quran Roundabout)

Sharjah Classic Cars Museum

If you love looking at old cars or your children are learning about the history of transport, this one is for you.

Take a leisurely walk through the cars of different eras of the 20th century, admire the upholstery, the sleek or chunky designs, travel back down memory lane.

There are a couple of cars that you can actually get in and get the feel of the leather seats and try out the gearstick.

Don’t miss the cars parked near the Classic Cars Club too.

Opening Times: Sat – Thurs 8am-8pm, Friday 4pm – 8pm

Entrance: Adults 10dhs, children 2-12 yrs 5 dhs.

Location: Dhaid/Airport Rd between interchange 4 and 5, just before Sharjah Airport, opposite the Discovery Centre

Website: http://www.sharjahmuseums.ae/OurMuseums/Sharjah-Classic-Cars-Museum.aspx