If you're looking for a close-community ‘feel’ more akin to most regular expat postings, Dubai's low-key and ‘arty’ little brother- Sharjah might just be right for you.
While the city of 1.4 million is ‘traditional’ in the sense there are many more Emirati residents than in Dubai, its more Islamic in architecture and ‘feel’ and of course its conservatism, it’s also more traditional for the expat community living there too. Family life revolves around the international schools’ Winter Fayres, the Girl Guides and sports at the Rugby Club and the various classes at the Sharjah Women’s Club.
Sharjah's proliferation of often free and always low cost (AED 10 or less for entry) museums, galleries, archaeology sites and interactive edutainment options, means there's always something for families to do, regardless of the weather.
Sharjah offers some top class sporting facilities too, these include: the Sharjah Shooting and Golf Club, the Sharjah Equestrian and Racing Club, several world class cricket stadiums and a base for global water sports.
For most expats daily life revolves around the American University of Sharjah campus, the Wanderers Rugby club and Sharjah English School/Wesgreen/Victoria International School/Scholars International Academy, for most playdates, birthday parties and various sports/recreational activities.
Popular residential areas in Sharjah include Al Falj and Halwan where 4 bedroom villas cost between AED 80,000 and AED 150,000 per year depending on the age and condition. The villa area of Al Fisht on the border with Ajman offers both public beach access and only a minimal walk to the shops and hotels of Ajman.
Corniche apartment living is popular, with a three bed overlooking the water costing around AED 70,000 to AED 90,000 per year.
The newer housing districts around Muweilah School district also offer apartments, literally right on the doorstep for most schools and offering a lot of real estate for around AED 50,000 per year.
For many people Sharjah is about the ‘great-outdoors.’ As the third biggest emirate, Sharjah boasts hectares of pristine desert, easy access to the Hajar mountains and of course Korfakan on the Gulf of Oman coast. Camping, cycling, walking and various desert based vehicle sports are popular with residents.
And, while Sharjah does offer more affordable rents, cheaper utilities and reduced shopping bills, it does come at a price, the infamous traffic!
There's no escaping the fact that travelling to Dubai at peak times is more than arduous, and not entirely recommended as a long-term lifestyle choice.
However, if you work from home, in Sharjah itself or in Dubai at off-peak times- the city is a great option for those seeking community and a laid back lifestyle.