Looking for an eco friendly alternative to Dubai, the city of bling? Look no further!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
For many travellers, Dubai is lots of fun. It’s got 7 star hotels, cars literally plated with gold, and skating rinks in the middle of the desert. But if you’re looking for an eco friendly alternative to Dubai, you’ll be happy to know we’ve found one.
Sharjah is one of the lesser known, smaller Emirates, yet it has managed to establish one of the liveliest contemporary art scenes in the region. The Sharjah Art Foundation has given life to a broad range of contemporary art programs, like the Sharjah Biennial. This is an art festival held every two years, where many pieces are displayed in courtyards, inspired by Islamic architecture, where elements of both public and private life intertwine. It doesn’t surprise me that UNESCO has named Sharjah the ‘Arab Capital of Culture.’
The Emirate prefers to focus on nurturing the mind and intellect with beauty and culture, rather than stimulating our more base desires for extreme luxury, as Dubai does. But art and culture isn’t all the Emirate is known for – it’s also an eco friendly alternative to Dubai, for several reasons.
First of all, the beaches of Sharjah are among the most popular places to visit in the UAE. They’re broad, tranquil, and very clean. While the beaches may look a bit bare, you’ll be surprised to know that they’re teeming with life.
The waters of nearly every Sharjah beach host thriving ecosystems that include turtles, rays, sharks and schools of neon-striped fish. If you take a cruise on a traditional dhow boat, you may even spot a dolphin or two!
Waterskiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and swimming are all popular seaside activities, but one of the most interesting options is to go diving near the coral reef in Khorfakkan. Find a nearby diving centre to rent equipment or get certified to dive by PADI instructors.
For those more interested in land animals, the Sharjah Wildlife Centre houses a few major venues. Arabia’s Wildlife Centre, the Natural History Museum and the Botanical Garden count as some of the most important parks in Sharjah for ecotourism. Each one offers visitors a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna in the Arabian Peninsula.
Stay In Sustainable Luxury
One place that offers sustainable luxury accommodation in Sharjah is the Mysk Kingfisher Retreat. Set on the East Coast of the Emirate, the resort was the winner of the Luxury Lifestyle Awards in the category of The Best Luxury Eco Retreats in the Middle East.
Instead of the glassy tower hotels that take so much space up in Dubai, this secluded resort provides something unique: state-of-the-art tents. Each one boasts plenty of space for you to spread out, with lushly decorated sitting areas providing all the modern amenities that our contemporary society can’t do without.
The Al Qurm restaurant at the resort offers both buffet style and à la carte meals, as well as picnics on the beach, and private BBQs. All their produce is organic, and blends international and local foods and flavours.
Enjoying The Great Outdoors
The Mysk Kingfisher Retreat encourages guests to engage in outdoor sports like archery, kayaking, hiking, cycling and diving, and is happy to help arrange these for you. You can also enjoy sunset yoga, and get some traditional henna decorations painted on your skin.
If you’re in the mood for a day trip and want to explore the surroundings beyond, Mysk Kingfisher Retreat provides plenty of options! Start with a mountainous hike, mountain bike tour, or go kayaking through the nearby mangroves.
If you want to spend some romantic time with your beau or belle, you can ask for a beach cabana dinner to enjoy with your sweetheart under the stars. If you’re on a family trip, you can tend the organic garden, attend a class about the most popular fruit in the area, the date, or go fly a kite.
To bequeath a sustainable message to your offspring, why not participate in a beach clean-up? Guided by one of the resort’s eco-experts, you’ll also learn how to protect marine life and keep the coastline safe and pristine.
Sure, Dubai is an interesting place to visit. But in all honesty – aren’t shopping malls and luxury hotels more or less the same all over the world? If you’re going to travel all the way to the Middle East, the best way to immerse yourself in a completely different environment is just that – to enjoy the outdoor environment!
And Sharjah, along with its sustainable Mysk Kingfisher Retreat – is the perfect destination for conscious travellers immerse themselves not only in culture and art, but nature, too.
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