It took almost four hours to enter the skies of the Emirates from Delhi. And the moment we stepped out on the roads of the not so crowded Sharjah airport, the first thing that attracted everybody’s attention was its beautiful intricately designed lampposts. The well-lit lampposts beautifully line the roads of Sharjah, creating a mesmerizing view. Hardly had we finished admiring the beauty of the lampposts, when our eyes were caught by the colourfully-lit mosque. The white-stone mosque (Masjid Al Noor) was so beautifully lit up in multi-colours that it seemed somebody had artistically sprinkled colours on it. And the best part was it changed colours within a minute or two. We were totally engrossed with our cameras, when our Egyptian driver buzzed us: “Welcome to Sharjah. You have come at the right time as the annual Sharjah Light Festival is going on and it is culminating the day after tomorrow. You have two days in hand to enjoy the festival.” His words were like music to our ears and enhanced our expectations manifold of the culture Capital of United Arab Emirates, Sharjah. Then began the eager wait for the next day.
Steeped in history
Sharjah, the third largest emirate of the UAE, is also known as the Cultural Capital of the Emirates. The city has tried to keep its history alive and tradition intact so honestly that UNESCO declared it the Cultural Capital of the Arab World. Once in the city one could feel it was quite vibrant and modern as any other top city of the world or as cultured and full of history as any old city of the world. Its acclaimed art galleries, 20 museums and local architecture, make it a heritage city while its high rise buildings, busy waterfront, artisitic centre and scientific centres are examples of its modernity.
It was almost late night when we reached our abode in Sharjah and then unfolded another surprise. This time it was hotel itself. We checked into the vast and beautiful Sheraton Sharjah Beach Resort and Spa. Overlooking the Arabian Sea, the hotel itself is a destination. Look outside the room and one would get a glimpse of the Arabian Sea. What could be more soothing than walking along the sea early morning, enjoying the cold winds and the waves.
Then we began exploring the city, its culture and food. Craving for local food led us to the restaurant, which was serving delicious local food ~ Biryani and fish. However, the best part was the dessert, which looks similar to the Indian Gulab Jamun. In Sharjah, visit to a souk is mandatory. We began with a visit to the oldest souk, Souq Alarsa, offering shops of cloths and gift items.
Finally it was evening and our guide asked everyone to get ready by six o’clock. Thanks to the traffic, we had to miss the first part of the light show at the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. This was the ninth edition of Sharjah Light Festival, in which Sharjah’s landmark buildings are in the spotlight, with the stunning images projected on to their facades. The 11-day-long festival featured large scale light installations and projections, inspired by subjects like science, creativity and knowledge. It illuminates Al Noor Mosque, Al Qasaba and Al Majaz waterfront, Sharjah City Municipality, Sharjah University City Campus Avenues and others during the festivals. After almost an hour of waiting they started the show. Trust me, it was worth the wait. Once the laser show started, nobody could even dream that it was just a building. Playing with the colourful laser lights, they weaved a story ~ a fairy tale.
Different buildings tell different stories: Chamber of Commerce and Industry showcased trade relations and routes of the old world. The adventure starts in ancient China, crosses India and old Mesopotamia, recounting how it was marked by dangerous glaciers, fertile oasis, graceful horses and pearls. Similarly, the Municipal building showcased the universality of Arabic Culture and singularity of its symbols. The Sharjah University Campus Avenue light show symbolized the bonds between Sharjah’s educational monuments while the American University of Sharjah magnificently reflected the laser show on its aquatic world. The culmination took place at Al Mazaj Waterfront with lots fireworks and pyrotechnics and a drama on water.