The Sharjah Mosque during the Sharjah Light Festival in the emirate of Sharjah.
Giuseppe Cacace—AFP/Getty Images

Bordering Dubai on its southern side, steadfastly traditional Sharjah—the emirate recognized as Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in ’98—sets itself apart from its cosmopolitan neighbor with a focus on retaining its Emirati heritage, through its unique architecture and culture. Now, the drive to heighten its global status as a hub for contemporary art and design brings a wealth of venues and newly formed creative communities to the fore.

Responsible for many of this emirate’s artistic endeavors, Sharjah Art Foundation champions creativity through a series of exhibits, such as the Rain Room in which you walk through a downpour without getting wet, while Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council works with female artists and craftspeople across the region to bring traditional crafts into contemporary products.

This year’s Sharjah Art BiennialThinking Historically in the Present—and the second edition of Sharjah Architecture Triennial are both designed to cultivate public engagement. Art installations and performance will be held across 18 venues for the biennial from February to June, and the triennial will bring artists and designers together throughout the year, including talks and tours reflecting on architecture that embraces regional traditions.The increasingly exciting hotel scene draws on the emirate’s creative spirit. The Chedi Al Bait occupies four heritage houses encompassing culturally connected spaces including a museum, and LUX* Resorts & Hotels is set to open two resorts here in 2023—expect chic design paired with a focus on local experiences connecting you to Emirati culture and the desert environment.

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