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All-in-one destination

Lily B. Libo-on / 1 September 2012

Tens of thousands of families from all over the region have found their way to Sharjah’s unique landmark, Al Qasba, for relaxing and enjoying cultural, entertainment and leisure attractions from the very best in the Arab world and beyond.

Al Qasba has been popular since 2005. From a tour of the lagoons in a traditional wooden boat (abra), which offers a panoramic view of the walkways, bridges and some of the cultural attractions and modern skyscrapers of the emirate to an exciting ride in the Etisalat ‘Eye of the Emirates’ Ferris wheel, everything seems perfect. Many families and visitors simply allow themselves to be lost in Al Qasba Musical Fountain, which combines water cannons and lighting to create stunning effects as arcs of water leap and dance in time to a symphony of sound.

Italian couple, Ambrosi and Alessandra Russi, feels everything in Al Qasba is romantic. “We have our favourite foods while listening to the music and watching the leaping waters. It is simply awesome.”

First opened to the public in 2005 as Qanat Al Qasba. It was rebranded as Al Qasba in 2008, offering an extensive range of activities that cater to the needs and tastes of all members of the family.

Entry into Al Qasba itself is free, but some attractions carry an additional minimum charge such as the Kids Fun Zone, where children can step into a wonderful world of excitement, knowledge and unadulterated fun offered through a wide range of edutainment activities specially created for various age groups.

Main attractions

The Ferris wheel is one of Al Qasba’s main attractions. Standing 60 metres tall, it is the most visible landmark in Al Qasba and one of the largest observation wheels in the region. It is so named after Al Qasba entered into a strategic partnership with the telecommunications company Etisalat, which offered air-conditioned cabins from where visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the city and the surrounding landscape all the way along the Gulf coast to neighbouring Dubai.

Sprawling over 10,000 hectares and boasting of a range of state-of-the-art facilities and attractions, it also has the 300-capacity Masrah Al Qasba - Theatre which plays host to Arabic and international films and plays, concerts and press conferences, the Kids Fun Zone, a musical fountain, the Maraya Art Centre, and excellent business facilities, among others.

The Maraya Art Centre, a three-storey gallery, showcases a range of exhibitions, cultural events and educational activities throughout the year, as well as the Barjeel Art Foundation, Maraya Community and the Contemporary Art Gallery, that form part of Al Qasba, adding to the diverse activities and offerings.

For children specifically, the Fun Zone offers regular educational and entertainment programmes while Multaqa Al Qasba hosts business activities such as meetings and conferences.

Emirati family of Marwan Al Zarooni is among the regular visitors of Al Qasbah’s Fun Zone. “My three sons aged 9, 7 and 5 love this place very much that we regularly come here on weekends,” Marwan said.

Festivals and events

Known as Sharjah’s premier tourist, leisure and cultural destination, Al Qasba was recently ranked 8th among the top ten most authentic Arab brands. It prides itself of a number of annual festivals, as well as a range of exciting events throughout the year.

The major annual events include, among others, Ramadaniat Al Qasba, Eid Al Fitr celebrations, Al Qasba Food Festival, UAE National Day celebrations, Etisalat Eye of the Emirates anniversary, Melodies of the World, New Year celebrations and regular weekend activities.

Adding to its feathers is the successfully concluded host of events and activities in celebration of the holy month of Ramadan and Eid. The 33-day programme included a mix of interactive activities, shows and performances that highlighted Sharjah from an artistic, cultural, and entertaining perspective and attracted tens of thousands of visitors from the UAE and abroad. New events are continuously being announced.

Two million visitors in 2011

Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, Shurooq Chief Operating Officer, says that the Al Qasba Development Office has worked tirelessly to ensure that it is a premier destination that can cater to the needs 
of both the residents and visitors to Sharjah.

“With its multi-faceted offering — it provides world-class leisure, cultural, entertainment and business facilities — Al Qasba has certainly become a landmark destination in the region.”

Al Qaseer says that Al Qasba’s return on investment (ROI) is positive. “In fact, Al Qasba is regarded as a good investment sector for Sharjah as it offers a diverse range of facilities and attractions that cater to the needs of residents and tourists alike. Whether for business or leisure, Al Qasba has it all. It is a popular retail destination, a place where families can spend quality time together, and a cultural centre through Masrah Al Qasba - Theatre and Maraya Art Centre.”

As compared to its first year of operation, Al Qasba has been hugely successful with a steady increase in visitors since it was launched in 2005. Last year (2011), two million visitors made their way to Al Qasba.

It is managed by the Al Qasba Development Authority, an affiliate of the Sharjah Investment & Development Authority (Shurooq). The authority was established by Decree No. 2 of 2004, issued by His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The authority is chaired by Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi and its administration is under the guidance of Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, Chief Executive Officer.

lily@khaleejtimes.com

 
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