The city of Sharjah received the accolade of Cultural Capital among the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998, due to its renowned commitment to culture and art in preserving its local heritage. The settlement in Sharjah extends back 5000 years, and it was one of the wealthiest areas in the Gulf region, its wealth deriving from its economic ingenuity. This was comprised of activities which included pearl farming, hunting, fishing, farming, as well as the trading of spices. This was needless to say, a terrific achievement for such a small population.
The Portuguese invaded the area in the 16th century and indeed, conquered an area on the East Coast in their desire to control the trade of spices. The success resulted in the forts at Kalba, Dibba, and Khor Fakkan being built at their command. Later, the Dutch invaded and tried to dominate the area, for the same purpose.
The British arrived in the 17th century, and this was a turning point in Sharjah’s history, as the British started trading amicably with the forefathers of the present ruling family, the area of the Gulf and Red Sea, being ideal for linking principal routes between India and the Mediterranean. The ruling of Qawasim in the early 18th century resulted in Sultan bin Saqr bin Rashid Al Qasimi becoming the Sheikh of Sharjah, where this ancestor of the current ruler of Sharjah, governed for well over 50 yrs.
However, at the end of the 18th century this amicable relationship between the British and Qawasim deteriorated – both blaming each other for their misdemeanors. The initial attacks by land, in the year 1809 by the British were halted, and subsequently in 1820, the first of many peace treaties were signed, thus ensuring maritime peace protection and security of any attacks on the British for 150 years. This coast then became known as “Sheikhdoms of Oman” and “Oman Peaceful Coast” thus as peaceful and reconciled countries. These names were attached to the relevant regions, ahead of the foundation of the Emirates in 1971.
The following years brought many new developments to the city, which flourished further. During 1932, the city became the staging area for Imperial Airways flights which departed from India to England and vice versa. The British RAF was regionally based in Sharjah until 1971, this officially ending with the formation of the UAE in 1971. Indeed, on 2nd December 1971, the country became a founding member of the UAE. The year after, 1972, was a landmark year in Sharjah’s history; Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi prevailed as ruler, and, in addition to this, oil was found. The oil was discovered in the Mubarak oilfield, 80kms offshore and near to Abu Mousa Island. Subsequently, two years later, the production of oil began, followed in 1990 with gas drilling.
Now brought swiftly into the 20th century, and hugely developed, the combination of the wisdom of its ruler H.H.Sheikh of Sultan bin Mohammed Al Quisimi, and of course its strategic position, has resulted in Sharjah being both a traditional Islamic, and exciting modern city, never losing its traditional values.