The Times: An innovative emirate in touch with its heritage
Business, education, culture… Planning for the future while respecting the past has placed Sharjah at the centre of the Arab world, says Nigel Kendall
The Times, March 21 2018
Sharjah, the third largest of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is blazing a trail as a clean-energy pioneer, seat of learning and cultural Arabic powerhouse. The first humans are known to have arrived in the region more than 120,000 years ago, so it can lay claim to being one of the true cradles of civilisation.
Its storied past has inspired Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi, the ruler of the emirate since 1972, to oversee an innovative programme of cultural and business development that has run hand in hand with improved access to education, health and information for his people.
The emirate is welcoming and forward-thinking, but it also desires to preserve its culture and traditions. It takes a conservative attitude to dress and alcohol is banned, but it remains a very safe place to visit. An increased emphasis on education, culture and heritage has brought numerous accolades, including being named Arab Capital of Culture by Unesco in 1998.
Awards for past work are welcome, but the eyes of Sheikh Sultan remain fixed firmly on the future. “Building the future relies on building the human being, whereby the human resources compose the most vital factor in the process of development,” he has said. It is a theme that is reflected in the world-class cultural initiatives that are now established here, such as the Sharjah Biennial, which showcases the best of contemporary Arab art, but also in real-estate developments that point to a new way of city living in the 21st century.
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