Home » The Human Story of Sharjah’s Growth and Character Through its Old Buildings

The Human Story of Sharjah’s Growth and Character Through its Old Buildings

by Dubaiforum

Sharjah’s architectural landscape is a testament to the emirate’s rich history and development over the past century. Renowned author and arts patron, Sultan Al Qassemi, highlighted this in a discussion at the Thessaloniki Book Fair, where Sharjah was the guest of honor. Al Qassemi shed light on the 2021 book “Building Sharjah,” a comprehensive collection showcasing the modern architecture of the emirate.

Emphasizing Sharjah’s strategic importance for the British Empire and its role as a regional trading hub, Al Qassemi described how the emirate’s multiculturalism set the stage for the diversity that defines the entire country today. He noted that Sharjah has welcomed people from all corners of the globe for centuries and was home to the first airport, educational institutions, and cultural centers in the region.

“Building Sharjah” features 600 images that capture the essence of the emirate’s architectural evolution, from iconic landmarks to hidden gems. The book explores buildings like the Sharjah Post Office, the Airport Mosque, the Sheba Hotel, The Central Souq, and Al Qasimia Primary School for Boys, each with its own unique story to tell.

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, these buildings offer insights into Sharjah’s history and cultural diversity. Al Qassemi highlighted the case of the first purpose-built cinema in Sharjah, which also housed a Chinese restaurant, showcasing the emirate’s cosmopolitan nature.

The book was a labor of love, taking nearly a decade to compile rare photos and testimonies from photographers, architects, and former residents. One notable structure featured is the Flying Saucer, a brutalist building that has been transformed into an arts and events space in recent years. Al Qassemi recounted his journey to Australia to obtain images of this unique site, underscoring the lengths he went to for this project.

Sharjah’s diverse landscapes have influenced its architectural styles, with buildings constructed using materials like coral, clay, stone, rocks, and teak wood imported from the Indian subcontinent. The blend of these elements is evident in buildings like the Al Mahatta Museum, once the emirate’s airport, showcasing a mix of clay, coral, cement, aluminum, and glass.

Al Qassemi stressed the importance of recognizing architecture’s role in cultural narratives, as Sharjah’s buildings reflect the city’s character and the stories of its inhabitants. From low-cost housing to grand structures, each building symbolizes Sharjah’s embrace of its citizens and migrants throughout the centuries, painting a vivid picture of its rich history and inclusive ethos.

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