If you haven’t been to the Sharjah Natural History Museum, Botanical Museum and Wildlife Center, I highly recommend a trip out there. If you have kids, I doubly recommend it.
Scotch and I made a visit out there a couple weekends ago. I had seen an ad about the museum in a local publication and it caught my attention because it had two dinosaur skeletons amidst a dark background. It also said:
“Prehistoric and living creatures come alive in an exciting exhibit of films, collections, interactives. Witness the formation of land and enjoy the beauty and diversity of the fauna, flora and wildlife in the Gulf region. Visit Sharjah Natural History Museum and be inspired.”
So I’m a sucker for dinosaurs (who isn’t?) and decided that the museum would be worth a visit and it’s a shame Dubai doesn’t have anything of the sort. And I also miss the likes of visiting the Natural History Museum in New York.
Sharjah is a neighboring emirate of Dubai and the drive door-to-door from my apartment in the Marina was only 50 minutes.
Upon arriving at the guard’s gate, we paid the 15 Dhs entry fee per person and then drove into the parking lot to find a spot. It was a Saturday but didn’t seem to be too many people there. The museum grounds were nicely landscaped and there were even a some picnic tables which were being utilized by a few families.
There appeared to be three buildings in the museum grounds: (1) the Natural History Museum, (2) a Children’s Farm, and (3) a Wildlife Center.
I don’t have any pictures of the exhibits as photography wasn’t allowed. But here is the run-down of our visit:
(1) Natural History Museum – a small but nice exhibit about local flora and fauna, geological history of the Middle East, a small planetarium, some dinosaur skeletons, an exhibit on ocean wildlife, real life specimens of frogs, toads, snakes, lizards, scorpions, black widow spider, Omani blind cave fish and their babies. There were probably more things to see but I kept getting knocked over by little kids so avoided some areas to keep my sanity. The botanical section was still due to be open – shame as it would’ve been nice to put a name to the local fauna.
(2) Children’s Petting Zoo – we skipped this as it was nearing closing time.
(3) Wildlife Center – this was by far the best part of the trip. This truly is a wildlife center as there were live specimens in a (quasi) natural environment of Middle Eastern wildlife. The Aviary was the coolest (so I thought at that point). The birds weren’t behind a cage where you watched from the outside. You actually walked INTO the aviary. The birds were kept from flying out by large-diametered rope barriers.
We saw birds gathering twigs and building their nests, birds sitting on their little eggs. Rupell’s Weaver was my favorite – a little yellow bird that was quite territorial and would fly over to any other bird that was in it’s tree to chase it away. Also in the aviary were Lesser Flamingos, Fat Bruce’s Green Pigeon, and Caracals, among many other species. There was also an Egyptian fruit bat exhibit.
Next was the nocturnal animal section. Each animal was in it’s own (contrived but spacious) diorama of sorts. You could observe them behind a glass partition. There were Indian Gray Mongoose, White-tail Mongoose, Small-spotted genet, Desert Wild Cat, Arabian Red Fox, Ruppell’s Fox (image below), Asiatic Jackal, Indian Crusted Porcupine, and Ethiopian Hedgehog.
After that was the rodent section with Jirds (kept thinking they were misspelling “birds”), rats, mice, gerbils, an owl and even a desert eagle.
I thought the rodent exhibit was the end of the tour but as we walked into the “cafeteria” I noticed that the open space outside of the building was another natural exhibit with roaming herds of Sand Gazelles, Nubian Ibex, Arabian Oryx, and a few Ostriches all mingling together.
As I enjoyed my newly ordered and freshly squeezed mango juice, I headed towards the exit thinking it was time to go back to Dubai. Surely this must be the end of the wildlife center?
But no! More live animals – each in their own outdoor area separated by hidden moats – Baboons, Arabian Wolf, Striped Hyena, Cheetah, Leopards, oh my!
By this time, I was definitely tired and ready to head home. There’s only so much museum one can handle. As it was closing time anyway, we skipped the Children’s Petting Zoo and headed back to Dubai, pleasantly surprised that we saw more than just prehistoric skeletons.
Getting there: It took us about 50 minutes door-to-door (we live in the Marina) as there was hardly any traffic on a Saturday. We took SZR to Al Khail to Emirates Road to E-88 and exited at Interchange 9. (Probably could have cut out 10 minutes if we had continued on Al Khail to route 611 instead of exiting early onto Emirates Road as both Emirates Road and 611 intersect with E-88). Check the Sharjah Desert Park website for more info and location map.
Opening Hours: Sun to Thu 09:00 – 17:30, Fri 14:00 – 17:30, Sat 11:00 – 17:30. Closed on Tue.
Admission Fee: Adult – Dhs15; Children (12 – 16) – Dhs5; Under 12 – free.