Consistently outshone by Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the modern history of the UAE, Sharjah is finally showing signs of wishing to make itself more attractive to visitors (and of improving the living environment of its 800,000 inhabitants) with the ambitious Heart of Sharjah project (wheartofsharjah.ae). Launched in 2013, the fifteen-year project aims to remodel the entire city centre, demolishing eyesore modern buildings, restoring the various heritage houses and old-style souks, constructing new buildings in traditional style and landscaping the entire area in order to release Sharjah’s considerable, but at present rather muted, historical and cultural appeal. The biggest ever urban regeneration project in a country still obsessed with constantly building new toys, Heart of Sharjah will hopefully transform the looks and reputation of this rather ugly duckling destination, and perhaps even succeed in its ultimate ambition of having the entire city centre inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List (having already been registered by UNESCO on the list of “tentative” sites in 2014). Phase 1 is already well under way, with several museums in the throes of renovation and the recently reopened Al Hisn Fort now restored to its full glory.

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