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Get the most out of your trip with essential information about the traditions of Sharjah. Learn about customs and practices before you arrive, from appropriate dressing to the holy month of Ramdan, so that you can engage closely with local lifestyles and culture. If you do not see your question answered in our list, send us a query on our Contact Us page.
The UAE is one of the region’s most tolerant states, carefully balancing the needs of tourists from all over the world with the traditions of an Islamic society. Visitors should be aware that, in keeping with Sharjah’s decency guidelines introduced in 2001, revealing clothing is not acceptable for men and women. It’s fine to wear swimwear at the beach or hotel pool, but visitors should dress modestly in public places like shopping malls and hotel lobbies. This means covering up from shoulder to knee and avoiding tight, transparent or revealing clothes. Lightweight summer clothing is suitable for most of the year, with a cardigan, sweater or light jacket for cooler winter nights and air-conditioned premises.
Sharjah is a ‘dry’ emirate where the sale or consumption of alcohol is prohibited.
Among the most beautiful of Sharjah’s 600 mosques, Al Noor Mosque is open to non-Muslim visitors once a week to promote cross-cultural understanding. One-hour guided tours take place every Monday (except public holidays) from 10am to 11am and conclude with a question-and-answer session so visitors can learn about Emirati culture and religion. Visitors should dress modestly (shoulders covered and no shorts or skirts above the knee) and photography is permitted inside the mosque. Private visits can be arranged by contacting the Sharjah Centre for Cultural Communication by email (email@example.com) or telephone (+971 6 511 0060/80).
The newest and largest of Sharjah’s mosques, built at a cost of AED300 million at the intersection of Mlieha and Emirates Road, Sharjah Mosque, also welcomes non-Mulsim visitors from all around the world, with dedicated spaces and paths for non-Muslims, including a museum, a gift shop, cafeteria, fountains and waterfalls. It is also home to a large library full of Islamic and cultural reference material and can accommodate 25,000 worshippers.
For keen photographers, Sharjah offers many picturesque opportunities, from the ornate architecture of the mosques to the landscapes of the east coast. Normal tourist photography is welcome, but it is polite to ask permission before photographing people, particularly women and families. Caution should be exercised when posting pictures of others online, including via social media sites, and it is an offence in the UAE to publish someone’s photo without their consent. As in many other countries, you should avoid taking photographs of government buildings, military areas, and strategic sites such as airports and ports.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar; it begins about 11 days earlier each year, as it is dependent on the sighting of the moon. During the Holy Month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world fast between fajr and maghrib prayers (at dawn and sunset) and focus on spiritual reflection and charitable acts. The daily fast ends with iftar, the first meal after nightfall. The month reaches a climax with Eid Al Fitr (‘festival of the breaking of the fast’), a three-day holiday where families and friends come together to feast and exchange gifts.
During the Holy Month, normal business hours are reduced and the atmosphere around town is more subdued. Many restaurants and cafés close during the day and only open after sunset, although some (including most hotel restaurants) will have a screened-off area for non-fasters to have lunch. Visitors must refrain from eating, drinking and smoking in public from sunrise to sunset, and modest dress is especially appropriate during Ramadan. Visitors are encouraged to join locals for the evening meal of iftar, when the faithful break their fast, and most hotels offer an iftar buffet during Ramadan. Shopping malls are open during the day and stay open as late as midnight or 1am.
The UAE is governed by Islamic law, and moderation is a major principle of Islam. Public displays of affection, such as kissing and cuddling, are not part of local culture. UAE law prohibits any kind of touching among the opposite sexes in public places except the formal handshake, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Swearing and making rude gestures are criminal acts in the UAE and may result in significant penalties.