My weekend in Sharjah

A typical weekend in Sharjah with Nawar Al Qasimi

A visit to St Petersburg

I recently travelled to Russia’s cultural capital for a few days to speak at a cultural forum. It was my first time in Russia, and I fell in love with the city, its culture and people. It was much colder than I had anticipated, but I was still able to explore the city and see the museums and cultural landmarks. The most impressive building I visited was the Hermitage Museum, an exquisite palace-turned-museum which is one of the largest museums in the world with a collection of over three million objects. Aside from the stunning architecture, I was carried away by its amazing collection of paintings, sculptures, furniture, jewellery and other objects. After countless hours in the Hermitage, I had dinner at Khachapuri & Vino, a café that serves classic Georgian cuisine, and where I got to sample some of the most delicious cheeses I’ve ever had. I highly recommend it. My next trip will be to Pakistan in January to attend the second Lahore Biennale. I’m really looking forward to exploring that city and discovering new artists!

Offroad adventure in Wadi Shees

One of my favourite things to do in Sharjah when the weather is cooler is to spend time in nature and take advantage of all the wonderful and diverse landscapes the emirate has to offer. I set out to explore Wadi Shees, near Masafi in the eastern part of Sharjah, a little over an hour’s drive from the centre of the city. I drove through narrow mountain passes in a 4x4 and arrived at the wadi, which is surrounded by the spectacular Hajar Mountains, it’s breathtaking. I waded barefoot through a small pond that connects to the wadi and spent hours just being in nature, climbing into little caves over the water, taking photographs and enjoying the sounds of the birds, the flowing water and the buzzing of some of the most brightly coloured dragonflies I have ever seen. Hiking is one of my favourite activities, so after swimming through the wadi and climbing some of the rocks, I set out to explore the surrounding area. On top of the mountain are old abandoned homes with brightly coloured gates. I spent hours wandering around the little village and climbing as high as I could. I even tried to out-climb a mountain goat. This is definitely a place that I would highly recommend you visit.

Immersed in art at the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival

An artwork I recently saw and really enjoyed was Chinese artist Li Hongbo’s large-scale commission titled Bloom, which he created for the Sharjah Islamic Arts Festival. He created a huge paper sculpture made of thousands of highly coloured papers which took over an entire gallery at the Maraya Art Centre. It was really interesting to see how he used ancient techniques in a contemporary way and transformed paper into sculptures of weapons, toys, flowers and everyday objects. Another project I loved was by Syrian artist Mohammed Hafez, who recreated miniature scenes of his home city Damascus using discarded wood and metal, showing displacement and a longing for home. One of the things I love most about Sharjah is the variety of art from all around the world, and the many exhibitions, performances and concerts the city has to offer. There is always something exciting happening in Sharjah!

A walk on Sharjah Corniche

I have recently taken up analogue photography and spend most of my Saturday mornings wandering around Sharjah and taking photographs. I spent a day walking on the corniche and took some photos of the boats and dhows that were docked by the main road, and even got to meet some of the sailors to find out what goods they were bringing in through Port Khalid, which is just across the water. You can also get on a small boat, or abra, for only 1 dirham and see the most beautiful views of the corniche, glide past the dhows and get off on the other side of the water. The bustling ports of Sharjah are a fundamental part of the city’s development. Geographically, Sharjah is located on an important trade route to India and to the rest of the world, so it has always been a crossroads for different cultures.

Try a Smokey Mary at The Cafe in Al Bait Sharjah

One of the hidden gems I enjoy, and a place to hide out during a busy day at work, is The Cafe at the Al Bait Hotel, which is located in the majlis of the traditional heritage home, or bait, of Ibrahim Al Midfa in the Heart of Sharjah. It has the only circular wind tower, or barjeel, in Sharjah. The majlis has been turned into a café that serves the most interesting desserts and drinks. My favourite thing to have there is the Smokey Mary, which is a spicy tomato-based drink that is served with smoke! I love walking through the busy souk and tucking into the quiet alleyways that lead you into the hotel. It almost transports me back in time, I can’t help but think of how our families lived in this neighbourhood, and in houses like these, not very long ago. It is so important that this area is still active today. Although the old homes are used very differently, they still bring members of our community together.

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