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.

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!

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

 

Al Qasba

There’s so much going on at Al Qasba!

Al Qasba is both a lively and relaxing place to be. With matching buildings in Arabic architecture on either side of the canal housing restaurants, cafes, bookshops, a theatre, musical centre, a business centre and art centre and plazas, immaculate gardens, dancing fountains and children’s play areas and boats to hire on the canal, there’s something for everyone.

Sharjah is both very family-focused and an emirate full of culture and Al Qasba is a perfect example of how it is providing places for families to go out and enjoy time together and offering cultural and educational activities.

You can find all kinds of restaurants, such as Lebanese, Italian, Mexican, etc, all with indoor areas and outside terraces. If you fancy something lighter, there are coffee shops and ice cream outlets.

Although a couple of these photos are now out of date as the famous Eye of the Emirates big wheel has only just been dismantled to be rehoused at Al Montaza Water Park, there are still many attractions.

At one end in front of Caribou, there are musical fountains with scheduled performances. In between performances, children (or even you!) can have lots of fun running through them. Be sure to bring appropriate shoes though so they don’t hurt their feet on the metal grid. And although there are enormous walk-in driers, they don’t always work, so bring a towel.

Next to the fountains, there is also a traditional Emirati coffee shop where you can sample local drinks and snacks.

At the other end of the building on the same side, there is a fun play park with a separate area for toddlers. (Entrance fee 15dhs for unlimited time.)

Next to the play park is an area with rides for children and on the opposite side of the canal there is an indoor play area.

You can hire a BYKY, a small go-kart to go up and down the canal side (after 4pm). Or if you prefer to go on the canal itself, you can hire a waterkart to use yourself (all day in winter, after 4pm in summer) or you can go on an abra around the lagoon.

Or perhaps you’d prefer to unwind at Body & Soul Spa or work out at their gym. Or you might catch a play or a film at Masrah, the theatre, which hosts film festivals, musical shows and the like. They also offer drama classes for children at the weekend.

The Maraya Art Centre hosts exhibitions and offers workshops and talks and Furat Qaddouri Music Centre offers clssses in music, ballet and arts.

Kalimat, Sharjah’s very own children’s Arabic book publishing house has a bookshop near the indoor play area. As well as housing lots of great books for children, it has a cafe and in the winter months hosts children’s workshops and movie nights.

Mothers of young children are well catered for under Sharjah’s mother and baby friendly approach. Clean spacious cabins are available for feeding and changing with comfortable upholstered rocking chairs along with a small play area to occupy older siblings

Al Qasba mosque is yet another example of fine Arabic architecture. The Friday sermon is read in English here and it can get pretty busy.

Finally, there are several festivals throughout the year which take place at al Qasba, for example, the Light Festival and the Food Festival, Choir Festival, Indian Festival, Sharjah World Music Festival and Qasba Street Festival.

So what are you waiting for? Come and see one of the most vibrant and beautiful areas of Sharjah for yourself!

 

 

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)