Following on from Wednesday morning’s opening ceremony at the Book Fair, we were whisked off on a tour of some of the cultural buildings commissioned by the Sultan, with which he has strong connections.
We got a quick look at Sharjah’s newest public library, just six months old – you can see pics on Lisa Dempster’s blog for theEmerging Writers’ Festival. It was a massive, palatial building in a traditional style of architecture, and still felt very new.
It had a well-used children’s room, open until 8pm, facilities for the visually-impaired to read and use the internet and even Linguaphone stations, to learn everything from business English to Swedish.
The HH Dr Sultan al Qasimi Centre for Gulf Studies
Another massive palace set in the desert in landscaped gardens, this time dedicated to the life and collections of the ruler of Sharjah.
The Centre contained a wing showcasing the academic awards of the Sultan, displaying his graduation gowns from his doctorate ceremonies and images from throughout his life: from school high-jump competitions to his days as an actor and his time studying in Cairo.
Most interesting to me was the wing devoted to the Sultan’s private collection of rare maps of the Gulf, made by travellers and scholars. My personal favourite was one carefully inscribed around the coast of the Gulf the legend “this coast dangerous, and chiefly inhabited by pirates.”
A brief trip to the University showed us the scale of investment in higher education: the many individual colleges (Engineering, Law, Arts and so on) had their own grounds within the wider University sector, and the medical school held a place of especial pride.
The University opened officially in 1999, set in acres of wide open space, with the grounds made up of carefully cultivated gardens.
Food and Accomodation
Dinner was in al Qasba at Shababeek restaurant, near the ferris wheel, and comprised of more food than I have ever seen in one place. Sara Grady and I foolishly believed it to be meze style, and ate our fill of what turned out to be merely the starter.
Here’s two slightly different views of Sharjah, looking in different directions from my hotel balcony:
A tour around the heart of Sharjah and a trip to the souk; panel discussions on women’s literature; a trip to the Sharjah Art Museum; dinner in the desert and a camel ride.