• Culture & History

Culture

Sharjah, where Islamic history has strong roots, a city-state that offers unique architectural wonders to the world, where culture and knowledge are close to people’s heart, won the title of the Islamic Culture Capital for 2014 at the Organisation of Islamic Countries Conference in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan.

The prestigious title of the Islamic Culture Capital for 2014 is a recognition of the emirate’s powerful influence among intellectuals, and provides a boost to Sharjah’s continuous support for cultural development in line with the vision of Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

Sharjah boasts of a long and rich tradition of hosting the most important Islamic art and culture events in the world. As a leader that upholds Islamic identity through cultural and art forms, the emirate plays a key role both locally and internationally, ensuring perpetuation of Islamic expressions through its various forms of brilliance.

Sharjah is a gateway to Islamic heritage, a treasure house of learning, art and craftsmanship. Discover the magnificent facets of Arabic lifestyle and Islamic art through Sharjah’s museums, traditional souqs, heritage sites and mosques.

The Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014

Sharjah was named the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 in recognition of its remarkable contributions in preserving, promoting and disseminating culture at local, Arab and Islamic levels, under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The new title provides a boost to Sharjah’s cultural development and comes as a tribute to the Emirate's offer of its Islamic cultural panorama, in the form of a host of cultural and Islamic events.

The new cultural achievement crowned Sharjah for its leading cultural role at local, regional, Arab and international arenas.

Among the most prominent cultural achievements in Sharjah is the ‘Culture without borders’ project of establishing a library in every home. Based on the directions of The Ruler, 50 books will be distributed to every local family in the Emirate. The organizing committee is headed by Her Highness SheikhaBedourBint Sultan Al Qasimi, and the aim of this projectis to promote and emphasize the importance of cultural development among the families, especially the children.

With a budget for the project of Dhs. 150 million, diverse books in the fields of religion, health, history and children’s stories will be delivered to 42,000 families, until the completion of the project in 2012.

The Cultural Capital of 1998

In 1998, Sharjah was named the ‘Cultural Capital of the Arab World’ by UNESCO, an honour richly deserved. Sharjah has kept the spirit of its history alive by innovatively incorporating tradition into every aspect of contemporary development. The result is a vibrant, modern Emirate that simultaneously looks forward to a bright future as it looksback respectfully to its history.

The idea of the Capital of Arab Culture falls within the framework of the Cultural Capitals Program designed in 1996 and represented and promoted in an Intergovernmental committee for cultural development: the cultural aspects of development, via increased international cooperation; the participation of citizens to cultural life; and urban creative diversity.

In the 11th Summit of the ministers’ regarding the cultural development in the Arab World Sharjah was selected to be the Arab cultural capital for the year 1998 by UNESCO, in appreciation of Sharjah’s cultural achievements and the success the Emirate has shown in preserving its heritage. This qualified Sharjah to be chosen 'The Arab's Cultural Capital' for 1998 by the Arab League. Mr. Federico Mayor, the Director-General of UNESCO, asserted that the decision to select Sharjah as the cultural capital of the Arab World for 1998 was an auspicious one because of its importance to the region. He explained that the selection was not only based on the rich heritage of the city, but also on the kind of cultural radiance it emits and the role it plays in cultural milieu.

UNESCO & the Capital of Arab Culture

(UNESCO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations established in 1945. The short form stands for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. UNESCO pursues its objectives through five major programs: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information. Projects sponsored by UNESCO include literacy, technical, and teacher-training programs, international science programs, the promotion of independent media and freedom of the press, regional and cultural history projects, the promotion of cultural diversity, international cooperation agreements to secure the world cultural and natural heritage (World Heritage Sites).

Sharjah: The Cultural Capital of the Arab World for 1998

On the 11th Ministers’ Summit regarding cultural development in the Arab World, Sharjah was selected to be Arab Cultural Capital for the year 1998 by UNESCO, in appreciation of Sharjah’s cultural achievements and the success the emirate has demonstrated in preserving its heritage. This qualified Sharjah to be chosen the ‘Arab Cultural Capital for 1998’ by the Arab League. Mr. Federico Mayor, the Director-General of UNESCO, asserted that the decision to select Sharjah as the cultural capital of the Arab World for 1998 was an auspicious one because of its importance to the region. He explained that the selection was not only based on the rich heritage of the city, but also on the kind of cultural radiance it emits and the role it plays in the cultural milieu.

Traditional Arts & Crafts

Sharjah has maintained cultural traditions that date back to the days of desert tribes and the influences brought about by their migration. Such skills and trades have been handed down by word of mouth and are still evident for visitors to discover and appreciate.

Pottery Jars: Discovered at every archaeological dig are earthenware jars used for storing water and grain. Today, these are still fired in man-made wood-fuelled kilns. The various shapes and sizes of the water, grain and later oil jars, are displayed in the Sharjah Heritage Museum. New locally made pots are on sale in the Plant Souk in Al Jubail.

Bridal Chests: These old Arabic chests, which are hard to come by, were made throughout the Gulf, characterized by the solid wood (usually rosewood) with inlaid brass decoration and often secret compartments. Smaller wooden chests, with carved decoration only and many compartments were made specifically for the pearling industry. Pearls would be graded and stored in the boxes according to size, along with scales and other pearling paraphernalia.

Weaving and Embroidery: In the past, girls in the family assisted in the making of their wardrobe, and traditional patterns of embroidery and dress style were handed down from mother to daughter. Arabian embroidery is a combination of rich and harmonious needlework on strong coloured textiles, characterized by a close worked, open chain stitch. Wrists, ankles and necklines are generally embroidered, often with fine gold and silver thread, and sequins added for embellishment. The trim on the trouser is made from a narrow strip of foil to create a decorative edging. These traditional crafts are still popular pastimes amongst national women.

Daggers and Knives: Even up to the middle of the last century men would complete their attire by wearing a broad, silver embroidered waist belt and Khanjar (dagger). The coastal dagger of the emirates (Khanjar Sahily) is made of silver and is highly decorated.  Quite often, the bishak(knife) was worn instead of the dagger, particularly in the eastern area of the UAE. The carved wooden scabbard with chased and stamped silver decoration is further embellished with silver on both the wooden hilt and the iron blade.

Doors: Traditional Arabic doors from the region are unique pieces of local heritage dating back 500 years. As well as being functional, they are one of the most important forms of decorative expression to be found in the region’s forts and houses. The amount and quality of the carving depends on the price of the door and therefore the status of the household.

Date Palm: In eastern Arabia alone there are over 50 different varieties of date palm, bearing many types and qualities of fruit at different times of the year. Here the natural maturation time for dates is in the summer between June and July.

Not so many years ago this precious tree was vital for survival in a land of scarcity.  The fruit provided a major natural source of highly nutritious food that could be eaten (fresh, dried or drunk as a juice) all year round, and all parts of the tree were utilized in various ways; the long thin leaves were dried then woven to make mats, baskets, brushes, bags and bowls and used as roof matting for insulation; the midrib was a vital component in the construction of the Shashahtraditional fishing boat; the trunk was hollowed out to form a mortar with the rest carved for the pestle for crushing wheat. Locally woven mats, baskets, bags and bowls are on sale in Souk Al Arsah and Souk Al Bahar.

Perfume and Incense: These are an integral part of Arab life for both men and women and are usually family run businesses. The three types of perfume and how they are mixed are a closely guarded secret. Attaris the oil based perfume, bukhooris the fragrant burnt incense (formed by burning the wood chips) and the third is a wax sachet, which when burnt gives off a charcoal odour. You will find many perfume shops to explore in the area between Al Bourj Avenue and the Arts Area that sell oils, incense woods, perfume bottles and traditional burners made from clay, porcelain or silver.

Henna: Made from the leaves of the Lawsonia Inermis shrub, Henna has been used for centuries to enhance beauty in the Middle East and India. Traditionally, henna is used to colour hair and to decorate the palms of hands and the soles of the feet, especially for weddings and Eid celebrations. The colouring, which also contains cooling properties, will remain on the skin for several weeks before fading. In addition to Indian and Arab beauty centres, which provide this treatment, you can buy henna in Souk Al Bahar, in front of the Arts Area.

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