Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization

Page update - Oct 23, 2022

The Emirate of Sharjah is a place of record concentration of mosques and museums in the United Arab Emirates. The Museum of Islamic Civilization is not the largest or the most popular of the Sharjah museums, but it is certainly the most impressive for tourists. It is worth spending a few hours of your vacation time in the UAE.

Now (October 2022) the Museum of Islamic Civilization is open to visitors. Starting September 28, 2022, the UAE abolished the requirement to wear masks in shopping malls, stores, and restaurants. However, nothing was said about museums. As a result, museums now determine the rules themselves. At the Museum of Islamic Civilization, masks are still mandatory. Opening hours in 2022 have changed slightly, as you can read about later on this page.

Where is located and how to get

The Museum of Islamic Civilization is located on Corniche Street on the Sharjah Creek promenade. All the other main museums of the Emirate of Sharjah are concentrated there, they are the Heritage Museum, the Museum of Art, the Museum at Fort Al Hisn.

Dozens of hotels are within 1500 feet (500 meters) of the museum. For example: Radisson Blu Resort, Rayan Hotel Corniche, Al Hamra Hotel, Al Jazeerah Hotel, Sama Hotel, Aldar Hotel, Dana Hotel, Sophin Hotel.

Look at Google.Maps, and maybe your hotel is near so you will probably be able to get there by foot. If you are far away then take a cab. The cab ride should cost from 13,5 to 25 dirham (AED), depending on the distance of the hotel from the center of Sharjah. For the latest exchange rates please see our review "The UAE Dirham", for more information about the cab fares see our review "Taxis in the UAE".

Finding the museum buildings is very easy because it is impossible to confuse with anything else. It is a long, about 300 feet (100 meters) long, building with a large gilded dome in the center. See the photo above, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.

Ticket price

For adult (13 years and older): 10 dirhams;

For child (from 2 to 12 years old): 5 dirhams;

Children under 2 years old: free of charge;

For all visitors during the month of Ramadan: free of charge.

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Opening hours

All days except Friday: from 8am to 8pm (8-00 to 20-00);

Friday: from 4pm to 8pm (16-00 to 20-00).

During Ramadan. Saturday through Thursday: from 9am to 2pm & 9pm to 11pm (9-00 to 14-00 & 21-00 to 23-00). The museum is closed on Friday.

For the exact Ramadan schedule, see our detailed review "Ramadan in the UAE".

A little about the museum

The building used to be one of the city's souks, called Souq Al Majarrah. According to Gulf News, "Here you could buy all sorts of trinkets, such as clock radios and low-quality souvenirs".

The Sharjah Islamic Museum had been operating since 1996 and the collection grew larger and larger until there wasn't enough space for more exhibits. It was decided to rebuild the market building and open a renovated museum in it.

The new Museum of Islamic Civilization was opened on June 5, 2008. The ceremony was presided over by Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the Ruler of the Emirate of Sharjah. Read more about him on our page "Rulers of the UAE". See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.

The exhibition contains about 5,000 items telling the history of Islam and Islamic countries from the 7th to the 20th century. The museum's exhibition area on two floors is divided into 7 sections (galleries).

Abu Bakr Gallery of Islamic Faith

The first section talks about Islam, the Quran, and the five pillars of Islam (the five actions a faithful Muslim must perform). The section shows the importance of the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca).

Some of the exhibits talk about the architectural styles of mosques in different regions of the Islamic world. Tourists stay for the longest time to take a picture near models of the famous mosques.

Ibn al Haitham Gallery of Islamic Science and Innovation

The second section is about the scientific achievements of Islam. For many European tourists it comes as a surprise what a huge number of inventions and scientific achievements belong to Islamic scientists: the digit 0, the decimal point, the fountain pen, the main trigonometric functions, the distillation and the strong alcoholic drinks and perfume essences as the result.

Art Gallery 1

This section contains ceramics, engraving, clothing, woodwork, decorations, jewelry, tiles, and manuscripts from the earliest era of Islam - the 7th-13th centuries. This was the era when the Arabs, who had already absorbed elements of the ancient cultures of the Greeks and Persians, obtained a monotheistic religion (Islam) and began to spread their possessions and religion from the Arabian Peninsula westward into the Mediterranean and eastward to the borders of China.

Art Gallery 2

In the 13th century, the Mongols invaded the Islamic world, which was a tremendous shock to the culture of all Muslim countries at the time. The center of Islamic civilization shifts to the west.

Art Gallery 2 contains art objects dating from the 13th to the 19th centuries. There are ceramics, scrolls, and coinage from the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid state, the Mughal Empire, and from the Middle East.

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Art Galleries 3 and 4

This section contains art from the 19th and 20th centuries. This was a time of mass penetration of European ideas into the Islamic world and the emergence of cheap, mass-produced goods. It would seem that local crafts and arts in Islamic countries should have fallen into decline, unable to withstand the competition.

However, craftsmen re-trained, began to make more beautiful things: ceremonial weapons and clothing, beautiful souvenir dishes and utensils, colorful everyday objects. All of these can be seen, and perhaps it is the most beautiful part of the collection.

Coins of Islamic Countries Section

There is a rich collection of gold and silver coins of Islamic countries from the Abbasids and Umayyads to the present day. Many tourists are disappointed, expecting to see portraits of sheikhs, sultans and emirs on the coins, but no portraits on the coins. This is not surprising as Islam forbids depictions of people and animals.

Al Majarrah Temporary Exhibition Gallery

Twice a year there are temporary exhibitions with showpieces brought in from abroad. For example, at the time this page was updated (October 2022) there is an exhibition "Venice and the Arts of Islam" in cooperation with the Fondazione Torino Musei in Turin, Italy.

The most interesting showpieces

In the first hall, you can see the "Sitara" - this coverlet covers the door of the Kaaba in Mecca (a cube-shaped structure in the Al-Haram Mosque). Naturally, it is a copy. Made of black silk satin, embroidered with gold and silver threads.

In the first hall, a copy of the Quran of caliph Uthman ibn Affan (644-656) is exhibited. It is the first Quran made in the form of a book.

In the hall of Ibn al Haitham (devoted to science), you can see a rich collection of astrolabes. It should be remembered that primitive astrolabes were invented by the Greeks, while Arab scholars perfected the device, and the Arabs introduced astrolabes to Europe.

In Art Gallery 1, you can see the masterpiece of Iranian bronze craftsmen, the "Lion Censer" (or the "Lynx Censer"). Burning incense at home has always been a sign of wealth and hospitality in Islamic culture.

Don't miss the toolkit of Al-Zahrawi himself, the great healer and father of the art of surgery. The museum has a collection of about 200 of his instruments.

In the museum, you can find curious ceramic balls into which snakes or scorpions were placed. These balls were thrown at the enemy on the battlefield. Many guidebooks say that these are "the first biological weapons".

Among the exhibits you can find distillers (in fact, hooch machines). It was the Arabs who brought the art of distillation to a high level and obtained almost pure alcohol. They did not drink alcohol as Islam forbade it (haram), but used it for medical and antiseptic purposes. The word "alcohol" is of Arabic origin, literally translated as "datura".

Collections of jewelry are gathered in the halls on the second floor. There you can also see musical instruments, including kemanchas made from turtle shells.

On the second floor, don't be lazy to look up. The interior is striking - high ceilings, vintage-style fixtures, columns, arches, and porticoes.

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Tips for tourists

- There is a dress code in the museum. Knees and elbows must be covered with clothes, underwear should not be visible, clothes are not tight around the body, no deep necklines. We have talked in detail about the dress code in Sharjah in the review "What is not allowed in Sharjah and the UAE";

- In the center of the building, on the inner surface of the dome is a map of the starry sky and the signs of the zodiac. This painting has no great cultural value, but it looks very beautiful and mesmerizing. Don't miss it. See the photo on the near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen;

- There is a cafe in the museum, but the range is meager - only sandwiches. If you get hungry we recommend you to go in the direction of Al Sharq Street 300 feet (100 meters) away from the promenade with stores, cafes and restaurants;

- The museum has toilets, a changing room, a mother and baby room, prayer rooms for Muslims, facilities for disabled people. Free WiFi is available throughout the museum;

- At the entrance you can take an audio guide in different languages. But they only give it against a passport or driver's license;

- Good news for tourists who travel by rented car. Parking is free;

- In the nearby area it is hard to exchange currency. We advise exchanging in advance. Read our detailed review "How to change currency in Sharjah and the UAE".

Enjoy your visit to the Museum of Islamic Civilization and read our interesting pages about the United Arab Emirates (find the list of the links below).


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