If you like shopping like me, Sharjah offers so much more beyond its glitzy malls. In fact on this trip I did not visit even one mall and instead opted to explore the local markets. Here are some of my top picks for shopping all things local and even some global!
The first name that came into who ever I asked where I should head for local shopping was “Blue Souq”. So I was quite excited and along with a couple of media colleagues headed out – it helped that it was at a walk-able distance from our hotel Royal Tulip the Act. The souq however is called the Central Souq and has probably earned the name Blue Souq because of its blue coloured structure. The souq itself is designed like a train and has a beautiful beige facade with intricate art work in blue. As soon as we entered the building, that is centrally air conditioned, I saw gold all around! Well I was in the gold section of the souk and was amazed to see the large ornaments on display. And its the sheer number of stores that take your breath away – literally and figuratively. This souk is also connected with another wing that has stores that among other things have some very interesting local handicrafts that caught my attention.Apart from handicrafts belonging to UAE, you will also find some nice Turkish and Saudi artifacts that are great to take back home.
When I insisted on where I can shop for souvenirs, the hotel staff directed me to Rolla Market. This is more like a large market area with several shops and the one I headed to first was one with local dates and an array of nuts. There are several stores here and the one that you can get the most economical souvenirs is called Al Rolla. In fact these are stores that sell everything ranging from either 1 AED to 10 AED or 1 AED to 20 AED.
Al Shanasiyah Souq
A souq that is spread on two sides of a pathway this is where we found a lot of traditional jewellery and coloured stones. I also found some beautiful porcelain wear and incense and perfumes as well. This apart there are stores that sell a lot of handicrafts and souvenirs like swords as well. When we were here we saw a bevy of young girls enjoying shopping and snacking. And here is a tip for you. If you want to get trigger happy, exercise caution as you are not allowed to click the pictures of any person without their permission. The girls were quite concerned that they had been photographed in this case. So take care while you are taking pictures.
Located outside the city, this is a market that comes to life every Friday (it is a weekend here on Friday and Saturday). There are rows of shops on both sides of the road that sell fresh fruits and vegetables, dates, carpets, handicrafts and more. We arrived in the midst of very chilly weather and the hot sweet corn we ate felt most welcome. There are also several nurseries selling all kinds of plants here. From this place you can also see stunning views of the Al Hajar Mountains.
A local market that is housed in a well contained locale with beautiful wooden doors, the Irani market is the place to pick up spices, dates, chocolates and even traditional handicrafts. I suggest you shop for the local spices especially Sumac a dry spice made from powdered berries that has a lemon flavour and Za’atar an ancient spice blend of dried herbs, sesame seeds and sumac. A fellow traveler in fact picked up a lot of Za’atar saying it was very economically prices and of course authentic too!
Souq Al Jubail Fish Market
This is a market with a view. As soon as I walked into the first level of the market and looked to my left I saw boats anchoring, pristine blue water and the beautiful buildings in the distance. This is the place where the fresh catch from the sea is auctioned. So you have all kinds of fish and the din seems a “fishy affair” for sure!
But if the fish gets too much, I suggest you head to the fresh fruit and vegetable market and you will not be disappointed. Rows and rows of neatly arranged vegetables and fruits make for a compelling sight. This is where you can also buy dates that are very reasonably priced.
Al Arssa Souq
Arsa is one of the oldest markets in the UAE and Arsa incidentally means the space between no building areas. Adjacent to the Heart of Sharjah, this market has a collection of small shops that exhibit brass antiques, silver, wood, traditional jewellery pearls, clothes, medicinal herbs, folk games, ship models, dates and more. The Al Arssa cafe is the place to head to to sample traditional UAE cuisine as well as the famed pastries, tea and Arabic coffee.
Traditional shawls of UAE