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Learn about Sharjah's history, from the first traces of human life to modern developments

The Story of Sharjah

First settled more than 7,000 years ago, Sharjah has long been a centre of trade and culture. Here’s a quick summary of the emirate’s history through the centuries.

Early history

The first evidence of human life in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was discovered at Jebel Fayah in Sharjah and dates back to 85,000 BCE. Many of the items unearthed during archaeological excavations in the 1950s date back to the Stone Age and are on display at the Sharjah Archaeology Museum.

Around 7,000 years ago, the milder climate and increased rainfall transformed the barren desert into fertile plains where nomadic communities thrived. Over the millennia that followed, Sharjah (which means ‘east’ or ‘rising sun’ in Arabic) relied upon the ocean for its prosperity through fishing, dhow-building and trading.

Growth and conflict

In the 1720s, the Qawasim tribe, whose descendants now rule Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, became the major power in the region. They ruled over the Musandam Peninsula as well as towns such as Bandar Abbas and Bandar Lengeh on the northern Gulf coast, thus establishing a strategic foothold in the Strait of Hormuz, which saw Sharjah become the most important port on the lower Arabian Gulf. Alongside fishing, trading and dhow-building, pearling was an important industry that lasted into the late 1940s.

A booming nation

The 20th century was marked by rapid development, including the establishment of the UAE’s first international airport in Sharjah in 1932 and the introduction of modern schools, hospitals and telecommunications. In 1971, the federation of the United Arab Emirates was established, comprising the emirates of Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Fujairah, Umm Al Quwain and, in 1972, Ras Al Khaimah.

Sharjah’s present ruler, His Highness Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, became the ruler of Sharjah in 1972, the same year that oil was struck in Sharjah’s offshore Mubarak field. Revenues from oil and gas have sustained Sharjah’s development, creating a prosperous and modern state that retains the traditions of its Islamic culture.