With a land area of 2,600km², Sharjah is the country's third largest emirate and the site of tremendous development over the last four decades since the discovery of oil deposits on its neighbouring islands. It has emerged as the cultural and sporting heartland of the United Arab Emirates and continues to be a frontline economic force.
Football inspires plenty of passion in Sharjah, but cricket is also very popular and the emirate is a hotbed for the sport. Indeed, its climate attracts athletes from across the globe, and visitors are also sure to enjoy Sharjah's various museums and opportunities for walks along the coast, which is lined by spectacular skyscrapers.
Sandy plains are an omnipresent feature close to its frontiers, and Sharjah shares a border with all the other emirates as well as the Sultanate of Oman. It also has 5km of coastline along the Gulf and, in years gone by, was a thriving centre for imports and exports.
The emirate is additionally reputed for its traditional Arab souks, including Al Majara, Al Arsa, the central souk and the fish market. Sharjah is likewise home to an educational district featuring several institutes of higher learning, such as the American University of Sharjah, the University of Sharjah and the UNESCO Centre, which earned it selection as the Arab Capital of Culture in 1998.
Furthermore, Sharjah is replete with traditional Islamic architecture largely thanks to its numerous mosques, which stand as symbols of a strong attachment to roots and custom. The Al Nour and Ahmed Ibn Hanbal mosques are the two most representative examples of Islamic architecture in the region.
Sharjah burns with a passion for football and boasts a number of clubs, led by the side bearing the name of the emirate itself. Created in the 1960s, Sharjah have won the United Arab Emirates title five times but dropped out of the elite last term. Then there is Al Sha'ab, who have lifted the UAE Cup and Super Cup in the past. Aside from those two powerhouses, Sharjah has a number of teams in the second division, including Al Khalij. Sharjah's stadium, meanwhile, plays host to the home games of Sharjah and served as a venue for several matches at the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003.