Wednesday, February 6, 2013

There is Something About Sharjah

“There is something about Sharjah”, that’s how I usually answer curious questions about the city that is most often referred to as the city next to Dubai. Indeed, there is something about this city that hosts more than 15 museums, the home of Sharjah biennial, and its own little canal.

Sharjah, a city often misunderstood because of the traffic leading to it from Dubai and other northern emirates during rush hours. A city that is somehow left unappreciated and unnoticed, or rather undiscovered.

There is pedestrian life in Sharjah; the kind that sees its locals walking its streets, and running their errands without the need of a car sometimes. A city with so many falafel and shawerma shops in one street, one is often left puzzled on which parlous serves the best sandwich. There is also the Cornish, and the buildings surrounding it, that saw the settlement of many Arab expat families that decided long ago that Sharjah is their home, even if it meant commuting for hours in the early morning to another city for work.

Sharjah is this city, and more.

Al Qasba 

There is so much to say about this city that saw my first steps, and first memories in its parks and busy streets, a city that changed dramatically in the last 15 years but never really lost its essence along the way. It still has its chaotic street structures that see small shops and parlours blossoming organically around the city, without a forced aesthetic standard from the government to abide by. An element of ‘real’ that reminds you of old(er) cities in the Middle East: Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo. You can find elements of resemblance that often leave a sense of comfort within its diverse Arab diasporic groups. Yes, cabs stop randomly on roundabouts sometimes to pick up the random passenger, traffic jams happen for no reason at times and make you wonder. And there are the ports facing the Museum of Contemporary Art, blue and brown ships from East Africa, India and Iran greet artists and curators as they walk the arts area in downtown Sharjah looking for inspiration. Spice and textile markets beside contemporary art installations create a contrast that actually makes sense.

Sharjah is this city, and more.

When Salem Al Qassimi and I started organizing Pecha Kucha night in Sharjah, I knew that the reasons were beyond shedding the light on exciting projects and ideas by Sharjah natives, it was also to stress on the inspiration that this city provokes without the traffic bias that often fogs percpetions about it. Pecha Kucha was always concerned with the alternative underground ideas that often see light in small cozy gatherings of creatives; like Sharjah that is often celebrated intellectually and artistically by people who truly appreciate its urban realism.
The event is set in Maraya Art Centre : A space for the young and old in the city to meet, greet and create. Colorful Majlis-seating on the floor, green walls and blackboards with chalk-documented calendar events; very reflective of the city itself.

This event is my way of manifesting “there is something about Sharjah” into action; through series of 20-seconds slides by participants, almost as long as it takes to truly appreciate this city and what it holds.

The first Pecha Kucha night in Sharjah will be organized in Maraya Art Centre at al Qasba, on the 9th February at 20:20 PM. Come, and see for yourself what I mean.