x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Sharjah takes its turn in spotlight

A cultural celebration will underscore the third-largest emirate's role in the UAE, the region and the world.

As we were reminded during the recent National Day celebrations, the strength of the UAE lies in the union of the seven emirates and their peoples. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai often get the lion’s share of the attention, each emirate plays its role in building the cohesive whole. And each of them has a strength that is all its own.

Sharjah, the third largest of the emirates, has long put an emphasis on culture and sciences. This has been driven by its history – archaeological evidence suggests there has been human settlement within the emirate’s borders for thousands of years – and more recently by the singular energy and vision of its Ruler, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, who is a noted historian and author.

Under his guidance, the emirate has become home to more than 20 museums – including the Museum of Islamic Civilisation and others devoted to art, history, science and natural history – a highly regarded international book fair, theatre and heritage festivals, and the Centre for Gulf Studies. In 1998, Sharjah was named Unesco’s Cultural Capital of the Arab World – the first and only time that title has been bestowed on a city in the UAE.

That Sharjah has been named Islamic Cultural Capital of the Arab Region 2014 is, therefore, no surprise. And, as The National reported yesterday, preparations are well under way to celebrate the title. The centrepiece of activities will be the construction of a Dh120million amphitheatre on Al Majaz Island, designed to host international cultural and art events and incorporating conference rooms, galleries, shops, restaurants and green areas.

When Sheikh Sultan launched the event’s official logo on Monday, he spoke of the emirate’s “abundant intellectual treasures”. Sharjah, he added, “has given joy a different meaning embodied in the knowledge it disseminates to continue to serve as a beacon of science among nations”.

Sharjah has certainly underscored its place in the great mosiac that is the UAE. Its achievements, and the face it will present to the region and the world next year, do the nation proud.