Sharjah (English pronunciation: /ˈʃɑrdʒə/; Arabic: الشارقة ash-Shāriqa) is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The emirate covers 2,600 km² (1,003 mi²) and has a population of over 800,000 (2008). The emirate of Sharjah comprises the city of Sharjah (the seat of the emirate), and other minor towns and enclaves such as Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn and Khor Fakkan.
Historically, Sharjah was one of the wealthiest towns in this region with a settlement in existence for over 5000 years. In the early 18th century Al Qasimi clan established itself in Sharjah, c. 1727 declaring Sharjah independent. On 8 January 1820, Sheikh Sultan I signed the General Maritime Treaty with Britain, accepting a protectorate to keep the Ottoman Turks out. Like four of its neighbours, Ajman, Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah, and Umm al-Qaiwain, its position on the route to India made it important enough to be recognized as a salute state. On 2 December 1971, Sheikh Khalid III joined the United Arab Emirates.
Sharjah is the third largest emirate in the United Arab Emirates, and is the only one to have land on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Sharjah is ruled by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Sheikh of Sharjah.
In addition Sharjah owns three enclaves on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman. These are Kalba, Dibba Al-Hisn, and Khor Fakkan, which provides Sharjah with a major east coast port. In the Persian Gulf, the island of Sir Abu Nu’ayr belongs to Sharjah, and Abu Musa is claimed by Sharjah, but controlled by Iran. The emirate has a total area of 2,590 square kilometers, which is equivalent to 3.3 per cent of the UAE's total area, excluding the islands.
The city of Sharjah, which overlooks the Persian Gulf, has a population of 519,000 (2003 census estimate). It contains the main administrative and commercial centers together with an especially impressive array of cultural and traditional projects, including several museums. Distinctive landmarks are the two major covered souks, reflecting Islamic design; a number of recreational areas and public parks such as Al Jazeirah Fun Park and Al Buheirah Corniche. The city is also notable for its numerous elegant mosques. The Emirate of Sharjah is also known to be the Cultural Capital of the UAE. The Expo Centre Sharjah is well known for the annual book fair that is famous all over the region. The Emir personally takes keen interest in this event which bring together hundreds of publishers from all over the world and thousands of titles.
Sharjah is popular for its rich and cultural place in the Arab region as it has won the prestigious UNESCO award of being the Cultural capital of the Arab world for 1998.. The seventeen museums in Sharjah played a critical role for obtaining this award.
Links with the outside world are provided by Sharjah International Airport and Port Khalid.
Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is Dhaid where a wide range of vegetables and fruits is cultivated on its rich and fertile soil.
Sharjah has an exclave called Nahwa inside the Omani enclave of Madha which borders Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Sharjah.
Sharjah is a sister city to Dubai and Ajmān (two fellow emirates) on both its borders. The three urban areas have now expanded to each others' borders. Sharjah is about 170 kilometers away from the capital city Abu Dhabi.
Sharjah is the only Emirate in which the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol is banned. It also maintains the strictest decency laws in the UAE, introduced in 2001, with a conservative dress code required for both men and women. Mixing between unmarried men and women is illegal: "A man and a woman who are not in a legally acceptable relationship should not, according to the booklet, be alone in public places, or in suspicious times or circumstances."[