Sharjah is one of the lesser known of the United Arab Emirates. Although it is just a 20 minute drive from Dubai, it is a very different city. Known as “The Culture City”, Sharjah is much more traditionally Middle Eastern than the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. This is particularly true of the Heritage Area, with many historic buildings reconstructed with traditional materials. Expats living in Sharjah who are interested in learning more about the city’s history should visit the excellent Archaeology Museum, showing artifacts, coins, jewelry, pottery and ancient weapons. The ancient Blue Souk has some of the best shopping in the UAE, with exotic Arabian and Persian rugs, woodwork, spices and again jewelry. Remember to haggle for anything you buy in a souk – the sellers expect some banter, so you won’t be offending them if you reject their first price.
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International expatriates can get to Sharjah from either Dubai or Abu Dhabi’s international airports. There is little public transport in the UAE (with the exception of Dubai’s Metro system), so expats moving to Sharjah will need access to a car. However, driving in the UAE can be a scary experience for the uninitiated. Make sure you are comfortable with the local driving habits and laws before hitting the roads. Local taxis are not expensive, but make sure your driver uses the meter. Sharjah is a strictly Muslim emirate, and all expatriates living in Sharjah are expected to respect this. Alcohol is forbidden, and the penalties for buying, selling or drinking are high. Women should keep their shoulders and knees covered at all times, and cover their heads when entering holy sites. You can get in touch with and speak to other expats familiar with life in Sharjah or other parts of the UAE through InterNations and can, for example, use the forums to post any questions about life in the Middle East, or Muslim customs that you might have.
Sharjah is by no means as developed as Dubai or Abu Dhabi, but it is fast becoming popular with regional and multinational corporations for its cheap rent and excellent location. The UAE is a particularly expat-friendly country, and in fact it is frequently estimated that there are more expats living and working in the UAE than there are locals. While Arabic is the national language and spoken widely in Sharjah, most businessmen and women have excellent English language skills. However, if you are an expatriate who plans on working in Sharjah you should try to learn at least a few basic words and phrases of Arabic to impress your new colleagues. It is also worth researching local business customs to avoid inadvertently offending anyone. If you have never worked in the Middle East before, why don’t you sign up on InterNations? On our platform, you can use the forums, discussion groups and private messages system to ask fellow members of our large online expat community for advice or simply use InterNations to get in touch, socialize and network with other expats in Sharjah or other parts of the UAE...