Tuesday 3 December 2019

#SharjahSaturday - The Heart of Sharjah

Al Hisn Sharjah

Soooo, here's the scheme. Wandering back from Rain Room and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilisation, we find ourselves walking past Al Hisn Sharjah - Sharjah Fort.

The old fort of Sharjah was recorded as a significant building on the coast of the Trucial States and so it would have been - the Al Qasimi stronghold of Sharjah was part of the alliance - a Federation, really - which tied Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and many holdings on the islands and southern Persian coast together under the seafaring Huwala tribe and their rulers, the Al Qasimi.

The fort was almost entirely knocked down by the-then Ruler of Sharjah, Khaled bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, in the late 1960s. The current Ruler, HH Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, rushed home from his studies in Cairo to try and stop Khaled from destroying the fort but was in time to save a single tower, called Al Qubs. Reduced from a major fortification to a effectively a single 'Murabbaa', or defensive tower, Al Qubs gave its name to the square in which it stood - Al Burj, or tower, square. It was colloquially known as 'Bank Street' in the 1990s because all of the buildings around the square, funky early 1980s jobs designed by a Spanish architect (and now much celebrated, although due, at least in part, for demolition) towering over the little burj housed banks.

Why did Khaled want to erase the fort? The reason was to lead to his untimely and tragic death - I'll tell you all about it on the day or you can read about it in (altogether now) Children of the Seven Sands!!!

Dr Sheikh Sultan preserved many of the original materials from the demolished fort, including window frames and other fittings, as well as a detailed plan of the old building. In the late 1990s, he started the huge restoration project, rebuilding the Sharjah Fort in a faithful reconstruction that used traditional materials and followed every line and crenelation of the old fort. And there it stands today, dungeons and family rooms alike, a fine example of an Arabian fort.

A wander down the shaded walkways of the traditional Souk Al Shanasiyah

Of course, you could skip the fort and just dive towards Al Bait - in my humble opinion one of the most beautiful hotel properties in the Emirates. Sharjah's development company Shurooq spent some Dhs 27 million transforming three old merchants' houses and a goodly lump of the 'Heart of Sharjah' traditional old town and souk areas into an achingly funky hotel that screams good taste, oozes tradition and whispers luxury, modernity and chill-out sensuality around every leaf-dappled, quietly murmuring corner. The hotel is managed by Asian uber-chill hotel chain The Chedi and it's not only insanely expensive, but blindingly gorgeous. We're planning to nip in for coffee and perhaps, management permitting, a tour of a hotel that truly stands out as unique and glorious.

The Al Bait Mercedes. Rest of hotel not pictured...

And then we'll maybe take a walk through the Urban Garden as we make our way back to the car park outside Fen Café, where we'll say our farewells or perhaps plan to meet up down the road in Ajman, where evening entertainments abound - Ajman's fast-emerging hotel businesses include a number of beach-side properties along the Corniche, from the very Russian and luxurious Ajman Saray, to the seafront terrace of the Fairmont Ajman or perhaps the English-themed Outside Inn, altogether less salubrious. We're not going to the terminally funky Oberoi Al Zorah, easily Ajman's most luxurious hotel (and an outstanding property in its own right) or the Radisson Blu Ajman with its 100-foot-long sports bar but they're there for anyone adventuous enough to go looking...

The Urban Garden. Its urban. It's a garden.

See you there! Jones The Grocer, 9am, Saturday 7th December. As I've said before, come as you are, stay as long as you like, dip in, dip out, cherry pick - just don't feel you're being 'organised' - we're going to play it all very much by ear! The only thing that is constant is #SharjahSaturday on Twitter, where you can share your Sharjah joy (or pain!) with the world!!!

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