The largest safari in the world outside Africa, mighty red dunes, rocky mountains, prehistoric archaeological sites – all in one place – make the emirate’s central region a haven for both adrenaline and history junkies who champion sustainable tourism.
Sharjah is the third largest and third most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with a warm and welcoming multicultural population from over 100 countries worldwide. A tourism hotspot in the UAE and wider Arab region, Sharjah has built for itself a formidable reputation of being one of the most culturally rich, naturally diverse and family friendly destinations. In central Sharjah, the emirate’s biodiversity and wide ranging natural terrains spanning breathtaking mountains and unspoiled desert offer incredible tourism hotspots for adventure and nature lovers.
Comprising three areas – Al Dhaid, Al Badayer and Mleiha – Sharjah’s central region has played a formative role in shaping the region’s civilisational past. Ancient caravan routes once crisscrossed Sharjah’s central region, connecting the east and west coasts for the trading of dates and pearls. Today, these sandy and rocky terrains that have been guarding the region’s prehistoric past have been opened to visitors and tourists worldwide – developed by Sharjah in ways that allows both history and adventure seekers to experience these sites in sustainable and responsible ways, providing a shining example of how popular tourist hotspots can indeed be built on the foundations of sustainability and innovation for the growing community of conscious travellers and adventurers around the world.
Al Dhaid, Al Badayer and Mleiha – three jewels of central Sharjah
Less than an hour’s drive from Sharjah city, one will find the country’s most important archaeological sites at Mleiha, mighty sand dunes like Big Red at Al Badayer, and farming towns like Al Dhaid that reflect the rich heritage and history of UAE.
One might delve into pre-Islamic history, or go trekking, dune bashing, or quad bike riding through open desert. The centre of the emirate is also home to small villages, where Bedouin culture is still prominent. There are several desert safari tours that come to Sharjah’s central region, where guides will show their guests the best spots to set up camp.
Adventure and sports
Fossil Rock or Mount Mleiha is a breathtaking vista surrounded by Sharjah’s expansive desert. The nature preserve offers plenty of opportunities to experience the UAE’s natural landscape through mountain trail hikes, dune bashing, desert camping and stargazing. An absolute haven for adventure seekers and sports enthusiasts who like to pursue their hobbies in nature, the Mleiha Fossil Rock Hiking trail is a must-visit. One of the UAE’s most popular hiking trails in Sharjah’s Mleiha region, the scenic 10 km trail offers sweeping views of dunes, rocky formations and the stunning desert and mountains of Mleiha from a distance.
The Mleiha Archaeological Centre, a paramount natural history site, invites tourists on an archaeological journey to a 130,000-year-old Palaeolithic site, offering insights into early human life in Mleiha. Nearby, 1000cc dune buggies await thrill-seekers, with unique experiences like FatBoy desert bike tours, extreme off-road adventures, and horse riding.
Combining paragliding, natural beauty and the thrill of flying at high altitudes up to 5,000 feet, “Sky Adventures” is also one of the Sharjah’s most exciting adventure sport offerings, and a venture that is deeply committed to sustainable tourism.
Nature and wildlife
A unique natural destination in the UAE, Sharjah Safari is a world-class destination that offers a unique adventure of being in the largest safari outside Africa. The principles guiding the development of the project were that it must involve sustainable land use, be respectful of the environment, and have a distinctively African feel.
Located south-east of Al Dhaid, Sharjah Safari is host to more than 50,000 animals, birds, reptiles and mammals representing 120 African and local species. Among them are endangered species like the baby Scimitar-horned oryx Classified as Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN Red List Authority. The safari leads captive breeding programmes for several such endangered species it is home to, which is playing a crucial role in preserving them and supporting reintroduction programmes in their former range. Sharjah Safari offers many family-friendly amenities, including playgrounds, drinking water fountains, and African-themed eateries.
The Buhais Geological Park and Fossil Rock in Mleiha are ideal destinations for history and archaeology buffs. Fifty kilometres south-east of the city of Sharjah in a region of exceptional prehistoric and geological significance, Buhais Geological Park features an abundance of marine fossils from over 65 million years ago, spectacular mountain ranges and ancient burial sites from the Stone, Bronze and Iron Ages. The park features five interconnected pods of varying sizes that accommodate exhibition areas, an immersive theatre, a café offering panoramic views of the dramatic Jebel Buhais ridge rising some 100 metres above, a gift shop and other visitor facilities.
Central Sharjah truly stands out as a prime ecotourism destination in the region, thanks to its distinctive landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and unwavering dedication to sustainable development.