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Sharjah is ruled by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Sheikh of Sharjah

Sharjah has three enclaves on the east coast, on the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, Dibba al-Hisn, and Khor Fakkan, which provides Sharjah with a major east coast port.

In the Arabian Gulf, the island of Sir Abu Nuáir belongs to Sharjah.

The emirate has a total area of 2,590 square kilometres, which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the UAE's total area, excluding the islands.

The city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Arabian Gulf, is built around the Khalid Lagoon, popularly known as "the creek".

The surrounding Al Buheirah Corniche surrounding the creek is a popular spot for an evening stroll.

From various points on the lagoon, small dhows can be hired to see the lights of the city from the water.

Situated near the lagoon, Sharjah Central Market, known as "The Blue Souk," is a priority for a visit. It is an unmissable sight!

Consisting of two long, low buildings running parallel to each other, and connected by footbridges, the souk is intricately decorated and imaginatively built according to Islamic design.

There are over 600 individual shops selling almost everything imaginable.

Visitors can easily spend half a day in this souk.

The Heritage Area is well worth a visit. This is the fascinating old walled city district, which is home to several museums and the traditional Souk Al Arsah.

This is probably the oldest souk in Sharjah, containing about 100 tiny shops. It has been renovated and air-conditioned in recent years.

Another must-see is Qanat Al Qasba, Sharjah's latest attraction with a canal, performance spaces and waterside restaurants.

The nearby Arts Area is a treat for art lovers with galleries and more museums.

The Natural History Museum is definitely worth a visit.

Other prominent museums are Sharjah Archaeological Museum; Sharjah Art Museum; Sharjah Heritage Museum; Sharjah Islamic Museum; Sharjah Science Museum and Sharjah Maritime Museum.

No wonder the Emirate of Sharjah is known as the cultural capital of the UAE!!

Sharjah had a population of 519,000 in the 2003 census estimate. That is now greatly increased, mainly due to the rapid expansion of Dubai and the influx of foreign workers.

Many married couples, working in Dubai, prefer to live in Sharjah because it is much quieter. It is also convenient due to its proximity.

In fact, Sharjah is much closer in distance to Dubai Creek, in the old centre of Dubai, than Jebel Ali, or even Palm Jumeirah, are to the Creek.

Such is the massive expansion of Dubai city, in a south-westerly direction towards Abu Dhabi, in recent years! Sharjah is regarded as a sister city to Dubai and Ajman on either side.

The urban areas have expanded to each others borders. The UAE capital,Abu Dhabi City, is about 170 kilometres to the south-west of Sharjah, along the Arabian Gulf coast.

Sharjah city contains the main administrative and commercial centres of the emirate, together with an especially impressive array of cultural and traditional projects, including several museums, already mentioned.

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 its numerous elegant mosques.

It was a thriving city in the past, with a lucrative trade in natural pearls. Fishing and general maritime trading were also important for its economy.

The phenomenal growth of Dubai has greatly over-shadowed Sharjah in recent years.

Currently, the Expo Centre of Sharjah is well known for the annual book fair that is famous all over the region.

The Emir personally takes keen interest in this event which brings together hundreds of publishers from all over the world and thousands of titles.

The Sharjah World Trade & Expo Centre was founded in 1976 by Frederick Pittera, a producer of International Fairs/Exhibitions as the first mixed use facility in the Arab World.

Links with the outside world are provided by Sharjah International Airport and Port Khalid.

Sharjah also encompasses some important oases areas, the most famous of which is Al Dhaid where a wide range of vegetables and fruits is cultivated on its rich and fertile soil. Everything from broccoli to strawberries is grown here. Plus, of course, a very large date crop.

This oasis town is the second most important town in the emirate, and was once a favourite retreat from the desert in the scorching heat of the summer months. On the outskirts of Al Dhaid, shoppers will find road-side stalls selling local pottery, carpets, fruit and vegetables etc. etc.

Sharjah has one Omani enclave, the Madha territory, wherein lies an UAE exclave, called Nahwa.

Sharjah is the only Arab Emirate in which the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol is banned. It 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, according to the booklet, be alone in public places, or in suspicious times or circumstances".

So attitudes are very different from those in Dubai. In fact, this law will not suit many westerners, especially young fun-loving ones!!! However, it certainly suits tee-total, happily married couples, especially if they are Muslims.