The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has announced the commencement of construction works on the 'Heart of Sharjah' project.
The Heart of Sharjah is Shurooq's first project and was announced in May of this year. As part of phase 1 of the project, the Sharjah Art Foundation commenced renovation work last week in preparation for the Sharjah Biennale 2011. This preparation includes the partial demolition and adaptation of certain previously renovated historic buildings to provide an exciting sequence of art exhibition spaces and workshops for the Biennale. These will also better reflect the original footprint and texture of the old town, incorporating shaded lanes and open spaces for performance, as well as sculpture gardens. The multi-phase project includes ongoing development works with the aim of reviving the historic and heritage areas, re-establishing the link that was there 1950s and transforming Sharjah into a tourist and trade destination with modern contemporary artistic touches. Speaking of the project, H.E. Marwan Jassim Al Sarkal, Chief Executive Officer of Shurooq, said, "The project is in line with the directives of H.H. Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qassimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, as well as with Shurooq's vision for the development of Sharjah and its tourism and economic facilities. Construction on the first phase of the project commenced last week, and includes reconnecting Saqr Souq with Al Arsa Souq by rebuilding Al Shanasiah Souq which disappeared as a result of building extensions; improving air-conditioning and lighting works in the mentioned souqs; and restoring and, where necessary, reconstructing the gates and coverings of these souqs". According to Al Sarkal, the first phase of the Heart of Sharjah project will also include rebuilding the ruling family's houses neighbouring the fort and the houses behind the Al Zahraa Mosque in Al Muraijah; rebuilding the Al Midfaa family house as a hotel; developing the Al Hisn area to reflect its heritage attractions; making modifications to the Corniche road and demolishing inappropriate buildings within Heart of Sharjah project. Mr Peter Jackson, Architectural Advisor in H.H. the Ruler's Office, said: "Over the last few years we have been studying this mega project and planning to restore the historical and heritage parts of Sharjah, with particular focus on placing the life and tourism in the heart of Sharjah". Jackson explained that the first phase of the project will include construction and renovation of houses, cafes and restaurants, with a boutique hotel being constructed adjacent to the Al Arsa Souq, as part of the continuing restoration of the Old Town fabric. The focus here is on bringing life and activity back into the heart of the Old Town, and offering visitors the opportunity to stay in a traditional house, with all the character of the past combined with modern comfort and amenity. He emphasised that the mentioned projects are only a small part of the projects scheduled in the first phase of Heart of Sharjah. Mr Abdul Aziz Musallam, Director: Heritage Directorate at the Sharjah Directorate of Culture and Information, said: "The Heart of Sharjah project aims to add attractive points of leisure and tourism that further develop the heritage of our emirate and enhance its position in the region, based on the historical and promotional significance of heritage in Sharjah". Two committees were set up to supervise the project, the first is chaired by H.E Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairman of Shurooq, and is composed of representatives from the Ruler's Office, the Sharjah Art Foundation, the Sharjah Museums Department, and the Heritage Department. The second includes representatives of the Sharjah Municipality, the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority, the Department of Public Works, and the Department of Planning and Survey.