Sharjah, UAE: A Family-Friendly Vacation in a Land of Cultural Wonders

Sharjah, the third-largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, is known as the country’s cultural hub. Art spaces, museums, festivals, and fairs abound in the city and the central and eastern regions. This, along with its pristine white beaches, vibrant waterfronts, mountain parks, forts, and several nature reserves, are just a few reasons to add Sharjah to your travel bucket list!

Sharjah is a city on the coast of the Arabian Gulf that is rapidly stretching further into the desert. Its many lagoons mean it has an extended coastline with many beautiful spots to enjoy. The Central and Eastern Regions are home to deserts, plains, oasis towns, mountains, beaches, mangrove forests, forts, and archeological sites dating back over 100,000 years. There is even a tiny enclave within an Omani enclave!

Being the only alcohol-free emirate in the UAE makes it the perfect destination for the latest sober travel trend, allowing for more immersive and meaningful travel experiences. However, you can easily nip across the border to neighboring emirates.

Best Time to Visit Sharjah, UAE

Al Noor Island in Sharjah, UAE
Photo Credit: [@CreativeFamily/DepositPhotos]
The best time to visit Sharjah is in the winter, between October and April, and ideally between late November and March. The summer months are very hot, up to 45C near the coast and up to 50C inland, and humid in coastal areas. 

The temperature between late November and March generally ranges from 24C to 35C. It gets colder in the mountainous areas, and the wind can get chilly near the beach, so pack an extra layer. 

There are many fairs, festivals, and other events during the winter months, so you may want to time it with one of these. My favorite month for events in Sharjah is February when the Sharjah Light Festival is on. 

Another thing to remember when choosing your dates is Ramadan, which is now in the winter months. It can be a fun time to visit, with shopping festivals and lots of iftars (evening meals to break the fast) to eat at, but life is generally quieter, and opening hours may change.

Heart of Sharjah, UAE

Sharjah, UAE
Photo Credit: [@yykkaa/DepositPhotos]
The Heart of Sharjah is the old town with restored merchants’ homes, souqs, or bazaars. These are now museums, calligraphy centers, boutique hotels, artist associations, etc. In the souq are old silver jewelry, Pashmina shawls, and souvenirs. You can learn more about the city’s history and emirate at Sharjah Fort. 

For art, head to Al Mureijah Art Spaces, the Art Area with Sharjah Art Museum, and smaller galleries in restored houses. The Rain Room is an art installation that shows rain falling in a dark room, with sensors keeping you dry. 

Central Souq offers gold, carpets, old silver daggers, traditional clothing, and souvenirs for shopping. If you don’t want to shop, stop by to see the beautiful architecture of this iconic landmark.  

Al Noor Island

Qanat Al Qasba in Sharjah, UAE
Photo Credit: [@Manowar1973/DepositPhotos]
At Al Noor Island and Butterfly House, the varied landscape includes meadows, silk floss trees, and cactus gardens, and you’ll forget you’re in a city! Children can enjoy the rope playground and trampoline pathway.

Several species flutter around the Butterfly House, and after 15 minutes inside, you can relax in the elegant cafeteria. Art pieces and large fossils are dotted around the island. It’s an excellent place for photographers and has some fabulous selfie spots. 

From there, walk around the lagoon to Al Majaz Waterfront, which offers a choice of restaurants and cafes, great views, a children’s splash park, and gardens to sit in. You can rent a kayak or pedal boat or take a boat ride around the lagoon in a traditional wooden dhow for a more relaxing option. 

Continue around the lagoon to Al Qasba, a canal lined with restaurants, cafes, play areas, a theatre, and an art gallery. You can also rent a dhow or pedal boat here. 

Beaches in Sharjah

Al Mamzar Beach in Sharjah, UAE
Photo Credit: [@philipus/DepositPhotos]
Al Khan Beach is a popular choice, known for its water sports and family-friendly facilities, making it ideal for relaxation and adventure. Khorfakkan Beach, nestled in Sharjah’s east coast exclave, presents a stunning natural setting with clear waters and opportunities for snorkeling and diving.

For a more serene experience, the Al Corniche Beach is perfect for leisurely strolls and picnics, with well-maintained facilities and great views. Al Mamzar Beach, between Sharjah and Dubai, is a gem known for its beautiful sandy shores and lush parkland, making it a favorite spot for beachgoers.

For more aquatic adventures, visit Sharjah Aquarium on the coast or head to Wasit Wetlands to see and learn about many kinds of birds.

Museums in Sharjah, UAE

Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
Photo Credit: [@mathes/DepositPhotos]
It’s hard to choose from over 25 museums, but these are my top picks. Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization offers fascinating insight into Islamic scholars’ contributions to science, mathematics, and other fields. It also has Islamic art exhibits and visiting exhibitions. Mahatta Museum in the old airport offers a glimpse into the history of aviation and Sharjah. Climbing into the cockpit of an old passenger plane is pretty cool! The Sharjah Science Museum engages families with interactive exhibits, making science fun and educational, particularly for children.

Festivals and Fairs in Sharjah

Sharjah Light Festival
Photo Credit: [@clicksbyabrar/DepositPhotos]
The Sharjah Light Festival (February) transforms the city into a luminous canvas. Innovative light installations and projections illuminate its architecture, drawing visitors into a magical nocturnal spectacle. This festival uniquely blends art, technology, and heritage, creating a mesmerizing experience celebrating the emirate’s cultural richness.

At the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival (December and January), artists from around the world exhibit works that reflect Islamic art’s beauty and diversity. This event showcases traditional and contemporary Islamic art forms through exhibitions, workshops, and lectures, fostering a deeper appreciation of Islamic cultural heritage.

Heritage Days in Sharjah (late February to early March) celebrates the emirate’s rich cultural history and traditions. It features folk dances, traditional crafts, and authentic Emirati cuisine. This festival offers a journey into the past, providing insights into the people of the United Arab Emirates’ lifestyles, customs, and heritage.

The Sharjah Book Fair (November) is renowned as one of the largest book fairs in the world. It attracts a global audience of readers, writers, and publishers. The fair provides a platform for cultural exchange, literary discussions, and reading promotion and features thousands of titles across various genres and languages.

Xposure Photography Festival (November) in Sharjah is an international event that exhibits a stunning array of photographic works, from breathtaking landscapes to powerful photojournalism. The festival showcases renowned photographers’ work and offers workshops, competitions, and panel discussions for aspiring photographers and enthusiasts.

The Sharjah Biennial (March or April) is a globally recognized contemporary art exhibition that brings together artists, curators, and critics from across the world. This event provides a space for experimental and innovative art projects, encouraging dialogue and exploring contemporary issues through artistic expression.

Emirati Food and Restaurants

Legemaat of Luqaimat Emirati Food
Photo Credit: [@sablinstanislav/DepositPhotos]
No trip to Sharjah would be complete without trying Emirati food. Al Fanar at Al Majaz Waterfront serves traditional food and has a great view over the lagoon. 

The Arabian Tea House near The Heart of Sharjah has a mixed menu, including Emirati cuisine. Its sister restaurant, The Arabian Fish House, offers similar with extra fish dishes. It is located on Al Hira Beach and has a gorgeous view over the white sands and azure sea. 

For breakfast, I recommend chabab, which are like pancakes and served with cheese spread and honey or dhibs, date syrup. Ragag is wafer-thin bread often filled with egg and cheese and folded into a triangle. At any time of the day, order Arabic coffee and legemaat, deep-fried dumplings drizzled with date syrup. 

For a main, try fresh fried fish and rice or machboos, rice cooked in sauce, with chicken, meat or fish. Another local dish is thareed, stew poured over wafer-thin bread. 

Mleiha Day Trip

Photo Credit: [@cleop6atra/DepositPhotos]
Mleiha is an excellent place for a day trip with a variety of things to do. The Archeological Center explores the history of the Sharjah Central Region, which goes back millions of years. Outside is a restored Bronze Age tomb, and next to it is a great bistro. 

Once you know the history, you can tour the various archeological sites, including ancient caves, camel and horse graves, and tombs. 

For some adventure, ride a 4WD or Unimog over the dunes, or go on a hack if you love horse riding. Book an evening with barbecue and stargazing, or treat yourself to glamping at the foot of the mountain. 

Sharjah Desert Park Day Trip

Sharjah Desert Park
Photo Credit: [@Photos123456/Shutterstock]
Sharjah Desert Park is a great place for a family day out. The Arabian Wildlife Center, Natural History and Botanical Museum, Children’s Petting Farm, and Islamic Botanical Gardens are all in one. You can easily spend a whole day here. 

As the Wildlife Center is indoors, it’s perfect to visit during hotter months or the hotter part of the day. You can see animals indigenous to Arabia, many of which are endangered, such as leopards and hyenas. Indoors are smaller species like hedgehogs, jerboas, sand cats, and birds. 

The Natural History Museum explores the region’s development over millions of years. The botanical section includes topics such as how plants were used and types of trees. Displays include dinosaurs, fossils, and interactive exhibits.

The Islamic Botanical Garden has small gardens with plants referenced in Islamic sources and a prominent Islamic garden with water features.

You can have lunch at the cafeteria in the Wildlife Center or have a picnic on the grass. 

Khorfakkan Day Trip

Khorfakkan, UAE
Photo Credit: [@philipus/DepositPhotos]
A trip to the Khorfakkan region takes you through the desert, plains, farming areas, and mountains to reach the east coast. The drive alone is worth it to see the many different landscapes. 

In Khor Fakkan, you can stop off at Shees Park in the mountains and then Rafisah Dam, with its beautiful lake. At Rafisah, you can kayak or hire a pedal or doughnut boat. A hiking trail goes up the mountainside, while a more leisurely walk leads down from the dam. Rafisah Lounge restaurant has views over the lake and mountains.

In Khorfakkan, visit the souq, the Fort Museum, the Portuguese Fort, and the Resistance Monument, a museum shaped like a helmet. Next, visit the mountainside amphitheater, artificial waterfall, beach, and corniche.  

For a bit of adventure, hire a boat to take you to Shark Island for snorkeling or hike up Rabi Trail for some stunning views. 

Visiting Sharjah, UAE

Sharjah Desert Park
Photo Credit: [@Asifgraphy/Shutterstock]
That’s a wrap on Sharjah. With so much to see and do, from art galleries to nature reserves and hacks across dunes to snorkeling in the Indian Ocean, it’s a fabulous destination for solo travelers, couples, and families. Beautiful beaches, mountains, desert, city lagoons, and a vibrant city await. Start planning your Sharjah itinerary now, or add it to your Dubai vacation!


Sharjah, UAE: A Family-Friendly Vacation in a Land of Cultural Wonders
Alison Watt

Alison Watt lives in the UAE and loves to blog about the country she calls home. Her focus is on the northern emirates, which are often missed but have so much to offer. Every week, she's out and about exploring somewhere new and shares the hidden gems she finds at