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Cultural Destinations and events

The Sharjah Biennial

Since its inception in 1993, the Sharjah Biennial was able to cause a drastic shift in the definition of visual arts both locally and internationally, and became an important artistic and cultural pillar that contributed in shaping artistic awareness and enhancing the aesthetic palate. Given its dynamism and flexibility, the Biennial had the capacity to accommodate and depict the changes and developments in the world of contemporary visual art, and was able to invent and advance a number of professional programs and projects that augmented the artistic movement in the region and the world. It gave birth to a number of new initiatives aiming to support young artists and unveil hidden artistic talents, and to attract celebrated local, Arabic and international creative minds. In 2003, the Biennial took another step forward after Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi assumed responsibility for its administration and transformed it from a biennial cultural event to an institution that contributes to cultural and artistic productivity. The Sharjah Biennial is an important cultural event that has acquired a prominent position in various art societies around the world.

Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial

Organized by the Directorate of Art at the Department of Culture and Information, the Sharjah Calligraphy Biennial was launched for the first time in 2002 to give strength and shape to various calligraphic arts, such that it encompassed many traditional and contemporary art trends from its very beginning. The Biennial was able to attract renowned calligraphers and practitioners from around the world, and it opened new horizons for the development of Arabic calligraphic arts that express our cultural identity and emphasize its importance and aesthetics. Among the Gulf and Arab countries, it was a forerunner in providing quality exhibitions, capable of showcasing and introducing delightful calligraphic talents on a local and international basis. It has always been open to new experiences that secure its technical and technological advancement, and has also encouraged exploration, experimentation and the promotion of innovative artistic projects. Through its intellectual programs, the Biennial helped deepen critical and aesthetic awareness regarding old and contemporary calligraphic arts.

Sharjah International Biennial for Children’s Arts

The Sharjah International Biennial for Children’s Arts was launched in 2008 under the patronage of HH Sheikha Jawahar bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, Chairwoman of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs in Sharjah, and consort of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. It is the first of its kind among the Gulf countries, and is organized by the Department of Children Centers in Sharjah, an institution under the Supreme Council for Family Affairs.
The Biennial is considered the root of all children biennials in the Gulf and Arab world, and a model for similar exhibitions that can deepen the understanding of children’s art with all its simplicity and ability to create whole new worlds full of dreams and joy. The Biennial seeks to introduce the experiences of others and the artistic cultures of the children of the world, while also shedding light on the vital role played by Sharjah in embracing gifted children and honing their capabilities and talents. It is the culmination of an all-time interest in children’s arts by the Department of Children Centers, these centers which have previously launched the Sharjah Exhibition for Children’s Drawings known as the Arab Childhood Colors. The Sharjah International Biennial is a unique cultural demonstration and an significant gain for children’s culture worldwide.

Sharjah Theatre Days

The event, launched in March of 1984, is an annual cultural and theatrical event in which local theatre troupes compete over the winning title. For the smooth sailing of the event, an administrative committee was established to organize the activities and oversee all preparations, in addition to a Selection Committee – consisting of elite theatrical personalities from the UAE and other countries – tasked with observing and judging the participating theatrical performances.
The Sharjah Theatre Days welcomes theatrical experts from various Arab and foreign countries so they may observe the performances and participate in practical and intellectual seminars, meetings and open discussions. The festival also hosts an international performance (or more) to strengthen communication links between Arabic and international theatre.
The final act of the festival involves the announcement by the Selection Committee of the participating acts and the distribution of awards to the winning performances. The curtains close on the event with honoring the winner of the Sharjah Award for Arab Theatrical Creativity and a pioneer in the local theatrical movement.

Islamic Arts Festival

The Annual Islamic Arts Festival commenced in 1998 under the supervision and organization of the Directorate of Art in the Department of Culture and Information, with the aim of exhibiting various kinds of traditional and contemporary Islamic arts. Over its successive editions, it was able to present various rich styles of Islamic art through relying on the selection of art projects capable of expressing the authenticity of Islamic art and its ability to keep up with current artistic changes and refine itself using all kinds of creative expressions. The festival stresses that Islamic art is a living, breathing art that has evolved along the years and gave prominence to the civilized aspect of our Islamic identity through its aesthetic manifestations, which gave an added value to global artistic achievements. The festival is one of the most renowned Islamic art events in the region, and its activities include local and international exhibitions, intellectual activities and interactive programs.

Sharjah Heritage Days

Sharjah Heritage Days began in April 2009 under the supervision and organization of the Department of Culture and Information in Sharjah. They represent a vital aspect of the cultural heritage in UAE, with its ambience, activities and exhibitions that cater to the tastes of all visitors, enabling them to explore the aesthetics of the past through various activities that fall in line with the wish of UAE citizens to preserve traditions and the popular Emirati heritage.
The event is considered an important cultural heritage project, a focal point that draws everyone to participate and benefit from its lively and entertaining heritage performances. Sharjah Heritage Days is a festival that lasts 15 days and covers the areas and cities of Sharjah, including Khor Fakkan, Kalba, Al Dhaid and Dibba Al-Hisn.

Sharjah International Book Fair

The first Sharjah International Book Fair was held in 1982 under the patronage and direction of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. After many decades of spreading the written word, and many successes and developments, and many programs, events and activities, the Fair has now become one of the most important book fairs worldwide.
As the years passed, this annual 11-day event became a literary celebration in which more than 1000 publishing houses from 62 countries participated and more than 600,000 visitors from around the world attended. Sharjah International Book Fair is a demonstration of the harmonious union between heritage, culture, traditions and contemporary creative thinking. It is a literary venue that offers readers and bibliophiles the unique opportunity to acquire their favorite books at great prices, and allows authors and publishers to exchange opinions, discuss the latest developments and study potential collaborations.

Cultural Neighborhoods

Stained glass windows, teak painted with nutty colors and lacquer, decorated gypsum arches, mashrabiyas (a projected window enclosed with carved wood latticework) overlooking spacious courtyards in old Sharjah houses… they are all indicative, one way or another, of the creative or cultural activities held behind their walls, after the Old Sharjah district – following renovations since 1993 – transformed into facilities for arts and letters in the neighborhoods Al Marijah and Al Shuwaiheen.
In addition to its historical significance, Old Sharjah became even more valued since its houses and buildings were transformed into art facilities, showrooms, calligraphy and decoration museums, and ateliers for calligraphers and plastic artists.
The area, with all its traditional buildings and unique character, became a unique venue tinged with the whispers of the past, where contemporary and folkloric arts are celebrated, and traditional flavors overlap in the old halls redolent with the essence and traditions of the bygone days.

Al Shuwaiheen Neighborhood

Al Shuwaiheen Neighborhood, known these days as the Arts Area, is a venue with facilities hosting artistic and cultural activities that attract many art enthusiasts and tourists who visit the area to soak up its heritage and arts, or view the art pieces produced within the buildings that date back to 150 years.
Al Shuwaiheen Neighborhood includes an art square, Emirates Fine Arts Society, Sharjah Arts Museum, the Sharjah Art Gallery, Bait Al Serkal with its historical and esthetic value, the Sharjah Art Foundation and the Sharjah Art Institute.

Bait Al Sirkal

Bait Al Sirkal (House of Al Sirkal) originally belonged to Essa Bin Abdullatif Al Serkal, the British Commissioner for the Arabian Gulf, before the property was transferred to the late Sheikh Saqr bin Muhammad Al Qasimi. It is a square-shaped house with three floors and twenty four rooms.
Of the house’s unique architectural elements are the round and square columns, column heads, semi-circular and pointed arches, and color-stained glass windows.

Bait Al Shamsi

Bait Obaid Al Shamsi (House of Obaid Al SHamsi), known today as the Sharjah Art Gallery, is a beautiful house that was transformed into a gallery for art pieces and ateliers for artists from different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The house is a two-story building constructed with coral stone, gravel and gypsum and doors made of Indian teak, and it is decorated with intricate carvings and various arches and column heads. It has a spacious courtyard that has witnessed countless poetry evenings, art workshops, theatrical performances and a variety of intellectual seminars that brought life back to the house in a manner worthy of its beauty and historical value.