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First Impression: Sharjah

If I am the superstitious kind, I am beginning to wonder if this blogling is jinxed. Back in April, when I started embarking on this project, it was halted after a mere six blog posts. Yesterday, barely 2 posts in following the restart, I had to cancel a trip planned for today due to work commitment.

Oh well, never mind. I’ll just reschedule the trip for another time. Let’s continue with my mini adventures in the UAE.

While most visitors thronged the modern city of Dubai, I made my way to Sharjah, the emirate just to the north of Dubai. The most conservative among the seven emirates in the UAE, I was a little apprehensive on my first trip here. A last minute travel arrangement mix-up meant I would be arriving straight from my summer holiday in Malaysia and I was woefully underprepared wardrobe-wise. I had a suitcase full of shorts, skirts and tank tops. Plus 2 pairs of jeans. Luckily, I also had just that one long sleeve blouse and a pashmina, so they were essential pieces whenever I went out.

Sharjah lacks the glamour and glitter of Dubai, but it makes up for it aplenty by way of heritage. I normally began my exploration in the morning as the museums and baits typically open their doors at 8am. I like to be able to look around while things were still on the quiet side, not that I think these places would be overran by visitors in any case – Sharjah has been underappreciated in this sense. Visitors in the neighbouring Dubai almost never step foot into Sharjah. In any case, it was also cooler to be out early in the morning. By 9am, in July, the mercury registered some 42°C/108°F! Otherwise, visits would be relegated to later in the evening and there were risks I’d run into the after-office traffic of residences in Sharjah returning from Dubai. (Cheaper rent in Sharjah means a lot of workers commute between the two cities.)

My visits had largely been confined to around Al Khan Lagoon as well as the Heritage and Arts Areas. Most of the attractions are small in scale but interesting all the same. In any case, anywhere else beyond these mostly falls within 3 categories – residential housing areas, industrial areas or desert. There are a few shopping malls around too, boasting many brand names not unfamiliar to international visitors. Had it not been for the Arabic name overhead next to the English version, I could have easily been in a mall in Europe. Or South-East Asia.

What was a tad disconcerting was the stares I received everywhere I went. It seems women in Sharjah (or the UAE, or in the Arabian Peninsula for that matter) simply don’t go out on their own, all alone. I must also emphasise, however, that at no point did I feel threatened although I did wish I wasn’t getting that much attention. I like to blend in wherever I go, but I’m afraid I stuck out like a sore thumb even if I was wearing long sleeve blouse and jeans and not showing much skin at all…

Category: Asia, Travel, UAE

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