|(Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
The idea is to take a fresh look at Sharjah and perhaps delve into the many hidden joys, delights and treasures of The Cultured Emirate, under the tagline 'One city, lots of soul'.
I can hear you Dubai types scoffing as I type, so you can stop that right now, pally. Sharjah's got a great deal going for it - all you have to do is look beyond your brunches, blingy bars and chain stores. And you can get over that wailing about the traffic, while you're at it. At the weekends, when Sharjah's arguably at its best, it's generally a breeze.
Sharjah HAS got soul, lots of it. From the area where I live (whose tribal leader, in the 1920s, invaded Ajman and occupied its fort), down to Al Khan on the Dubai border (where a protracted gun-fight took place between Dubai and a gang of dissidents, which stopped each day to let the charabanc of British travellers on Imperial Airways pass), Sharjah's got history. Loads of it. There are Umm Al Nar tombs, iron age settlements and ancient cities, forts and trade routes that go back - literally - to the dawn of humanity. There's the history of trade, from the lovingly restored (and beautiful) Souq Al Arsah and Heart of Sharjah through to Mahatta, the fort which was built as the Gulf's first airport hotel.
There are sights to see, from Mleiha's world-class visitor centre to the many museums, art galleries and exhibitions. There's loads to do, from dune bashing over fossil rock, chilling out in Khor Fakkan (Sharjah's the only Emirate with coastline on both the Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean) through to wandering around the Sharjah Desert Park with its Natural History Museum, Wildlife Centre and Botanical Gardens.
In Sharjah you can buy diamonds, pearls, oud and bukhour, ambergris, musk and antiques, from old stamps and coins from the UAE and wider Middle East through to khanjars and water jars: you can wander perfume souks, spice souks, old souks, new souks and even gold and blue souks. You can take the kids to the aquarium or to play as you enjoy a waterside coffee at Al Qasba, or Al Majaz. Or let them go wild in the rides, swings and waterpark at Montaza.
If you fancy a full-on Friday brunch without having to fight off hooning, red-faced drunks in Paul Smith shirts and Coast dresses, the Radisson Blu does a family one including pool and beach access, so you can snooze it off - and cooks up some of the best Lebanese food you'll find outside Beirut. The Sheraton Sharjah does a glorious afternoon tea for pennies.
So I'll be looking forward to writing about these things and more - because there is, yes, a lot more. It's all rather fun, I must say!