Sharjah has always been a patron of arts and culture in the UAE, long before Dubai and Abu Dhabi came into the picture. 

Before Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue and Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, artistically inclined residents in the UAE had limited options outside of Sharjah. 

Even now, as the UAE’s art scene is growing, Sharjah’s events keep on surprising everyone.

The region’s Cultural Capital

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The lake nearby Sharjah's historical area Source: Chababs

Sharjah was selected as the Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO as far back as 1998. The Emirate was selected based on its cultural achievements and the successful preservation of local heritage.

Federico Mayor, who served as UNESCO’s director general from 1987 to 1999, reportedly said that “the selection was not only based on the rich heritage of the city, but also on the kind of cultural radiance it emits and the role it plays in cultural milieu.” 

The Emirate, according to Rotana Times - the news website of one of the leading hotel management companies in the Arab world - was named the Capital of Islamic Culture in 2014 due to its remarkable contributions in preserving local culture.

Sharjah Biennial

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One of the exhibitions of Sharjah Biennial 12, 2015 Source: u-in-u.com

The well-esteemed art festival, Sharjah Biennial, was initially launched by the Sharjah Department of Culture in 1993. 

While there is little information about that year's event, the fact that it was held at that time is a testimony to the Emirate’s commitment to arts and culture.

The event was reoriented in 2003 on the initiative of the head of Sharjah Art Foundation, Hoor Al Qasimi, turning towards the presentation of art and engagement with the individual artists themselves and establishing what has proven to be an enduring theme.

Sharjah Art Foundation

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One of the exhibitions displayed at Sharjah Art Foundation last March Source: E-flux.com

Established in 2009, Sharjah Art Foundation holds activities and events throughout the year. Hosting the Biennial and the March Meeting are at the center of the foundation's activities. 

It is also strategically located in Sharjah’s historic Art and Heritage Area.

The organization presents a plethora of Arabic events including live performances. This is exclusive to Sharjah as opposed to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, where most expatriates don’t speak Arabic.

The Book Fair

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The Sharjah International Book Fair Source: Calendarofeventsguide.

The Sharjah International Book Fair is one of the largest literary event in the region.

Almost all Arabic publishing houses can be found at the fair. So if you've ever wanted to converse with some of the managers of your favorite publishing house, this is the place for you. 

This book fair caters mostly to Arab readers, with a small section of English books.

There is even more

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One of Sharjah's outdoor performances Source: e-flux.com

In addition to these big events, Sharjah is dotted with small-scale theaters and art galleries. 

While driving down any road across the Emirate, you are bound to come across some cultural centers, not to mention the large banners advertising art and culture events.