If you’re looking to have a visit to the UAE, but are perhaps wanting to find some hidden gems, then we have two options here for you to consider, Sharjah and Ajman! It’s no secret that popular Emirati cities such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi can be expensive places to stay, so these options are also lighter on the pocket.
Sharjah and Ajman are also rich in tradition and culture, so they are fantastic places to check out if you love to explore the heritages of the places you visit.
For the comparison, we looked at location, things to do, places to visit, culture, shopping scenes, hotels and beaches to see which is the best. In our face off between the two, we found that Sharjah was the best place to stay outside Dubai, however each section was incredibly close!
Dive in to it below to see why Sharjah pipped Ajman by a cats whisker to become our best place to stay outside of Dubai.
Sharjah or Ajman – Location
First, we take a look at where each emirate is actually located. Even just a brief glance at a map will reveal that both cities are direct neighbours to Dubai, both being located to the north of this luxurious city.
Sharjah is probably best known for its cultural sites and history, which can be enjoyed through the various museums. It’s also the third largest emirate after Dubai and Abu Dhabi and overlooks the Persian Gulf to its West.
As for Ajman, it’s the 5th largest city in the UAE and the smallest emirate. However, despite its size, it has a variety of lifestyles to offer from urban to beaches to mountains and mangroves.
Which is Closer to Dubai?
We have just established that both Emirates are located just above Dubai, but if you were planning on visiting, you will find that Sharjah is located directly above Deira with Ajman being north of Sharjah. Sharjah is a nice and easy 30 minute drive from Dubai, and Ajman is a slightly longer drive at around 45 minutes.
Let’s take a look at how to get to Dubai by public transport from Sharjah:
- First, catch the E307 bus at Al Wahda Rd, Subway 1 2, which arrives every 30 minutes.
- Ride the bus for 25 to 30 minutes to Deira City Center Bus Station 2 and change to the Deira City Centre Metro Station 1.
- Catch the MRed which arrives every 10 minutes and ride the subway for just under 20 minutes into Dubai’s city centre.
- The trip should take in total around 45 minutes and will cost between 7 AED and 10 AED.
Ajman is a longer journey, but you can catch a taxi for around 65 AED which will get you to Dubai quicker. To get to Dubai from Ajman by public transport, follow these steps:
- Catch the E400 bus at the Crown Palace Hotel 2, which arrives every 30 minutes.
- Take the bus for just under an hour to Union Square Bus Station 8 in Deira and change to the Union Metro Station 1.
- Catch the MRed subway which arrives every 10 minutes into Dubai’s city centre.
- The trip should take around 1 hour and 10 minutes, costing between 9 AED and 14 AED.
Overall, there is no doubt about which location is closer to Dubai! Sharjah directly borders Dubai and takes between 30 minutes and 45 minutes to get to, although there isn’t too much difference in it compared to Ajman.
Where Has Better Things to Do?
With Sharjah and Ajman being smaller and quieter emirates compared to the giants of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, we will now compare the two to see which has the better attractions and things to do. We will also take a look at the average adult prices to get a sense of which is more affordable.
Things to do in Sharjah
- Desert Safari – Approximately 100 AED
- Sharjah Aquarium – Up to 25 AED
- Arabian Wildlife Centre – 15 AED
- Sharjah Classic Car Museum – 10 AED
- Al Montazah Parks – 150 AED
- Sharjah Art Museum – Free entry
- Rain Room – 25 AED
- Maritime Museum – 10 AED
- Wasit Wetland Centre – 15 AED
- Sharjah Science Museum – 10 AED
Things to do in Ajman
- Aqua Bounce Ajman – 200 AED
- Hot Air Balloon – Approximately 1,247 AED
- Al Zorah Golf Club – From 195 AED
- UAE Pygmy Zoo – 10 AED
- Funtastico – From 50 AED
- Ajman Dhow Building Yard – Free
- Al Zorah Nature Reserve – Free entry
- Mangrove Kayaking – Approximately 150 AED
- Nayana Spa – From 300 AED
- Al Tallah Camel Race Course – Free entry
The average cost of Things to Do in Sharjah comes to 36 AED, whereas Ajman’s total is 215 AED.
Overall, Sharjah generally has the better things to do overall as a lot of Ajman’s attractions will rely on excursions, hence the higher average price. Sharjah has a good variety of things to do and at reasonable costs. There are plenty of museums and wildlife centred attractions, which is ideal if you are wanting to look at some culture and learn a thing or two on your holiday. Ajman is similar, but overall the attractions are not as varied or big.
The UAE is home to incredible shopping experiences, whether you are wanting to peruse the luxury malls or the cultural souks, and Sharjah and Ajman are no different!
Firstly in Sharjah, you will find the Zero 6 Mall which is sleek and contemporary featuring a cinema, dining options and brands from all over the world. The selection is good as you will find a variety of global chain restaurants such as Wagamama and Starbucks. For retail, you will find a great range including fashion, bath and body, beauty, and children’s toys. While it’s not a giant like The Dubai Mall, there’s a good range of shops and things to do to enjoy a day out.
Another popular spot for Sharjah is the Souq al Jubail, the largest fresh produce market in Sharjah, which has been particularly praised for its cleanliness. This is a great spot to visit to check out plenty of delicious food, especially if you are taken by the culinary arts! Elsewhere in Sharjah, you will find the Sharjah City Centre, Sahara Centre, Safeer Mall, Ansar Mall, Mega Mall, and Souk Al-Markazi.
Ajman generally leans more to the traditional cultural markets, but it does have some malls to offer too. Firstly, there is the Ajman City Centre Mall which is home to Magic Planet, the entertainment centre packed full of arcade games and rides. This alone is worth visiting if you have little ones! In terms of dining, you will find a selection of restaurants, fast food stops, cafés and snack bars, making for a good range! For shops, you will find everything from the likes of fashion, stationary, homeware, sportswear, and jewellery.
Another spot is the Ajman Fishmarket, selling all sorts of fresh catches! Shoppers praise the variety and cleanliness, but note that many traders do not haggle. However, it is a good spot to take a look over the offerings and get a good deal. Elsewhere in Ajman, you’ll find the Ajman China Mall and the Safeer Mall.
Overall, Ajman’s City Centre Mall definitely offers plenty to keep tourists interested with the Ajman Fish market allowing tourists to enjoy some culture, but Sharjah’s offerings are slightly more varied and enjoyed by visitors. Sharjah also offers a total of 6 main shopping spots, whereas Ajman has 4.
Places to Visit
It should come as no surprise that both emirates come with their own cultural places to visit. While we mentioned some in the things to do section, here we will take a look over some free things to do and historical sights in Sharjah and Ajman.
Places to Visit in Sharjah
Sharjah Al Hisn Fort
Sharjah Fort is an already incredibly popular location in the emirate due to its unique architecture and intriguing culture. Here, you can observe the fort which is primarily made out of traditional coral stones, and learn about the history of the fascinating defences here. The fort is located in the city centre of Sharjah. Entry fees costs 10 AED for adults and 5 AED for children aged 2-12.
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
The Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is another grand structure to feast your eyes upon! The museum is a great visit to learn more about the culture and heritage of Islam, with some intriguing artefacts to behold. You can find the museum near the Sharjah Corniche. Much like Sharjah Fort, the museum costs 10 AED for adults to visit, and 5 AED for children aged 2-12.
Al Majaz Waterfront
Al Majaz Waterfront is a great area of Sharjah to visit if you are looking for a lot of activities in one place, therefore making it great for families! Here, you’ll find the lakeside park, the Sharjah Musical Fountain, boat and smart bike trips, a splash park, and plenty of dining options. You can find the Al Majaz Waterfront along the Khalid Lake Trail. Prices will vary depending on your activity, but entry is free.
Mleiha Archaeological Centre
If you fancy something different, the Mleiha Archaeological Centre is worth a visit. Located a bit out of the way from the main area of Sharjah, the archaological centre is based on the site of a Bronze Age Tomb. At the site, you can find a contemporary archaeology exhibition plus plenty of activities to do nearby including desert tours and stargazing. The Mleiha Archaeological Centre is located in the desert of Sharjah and is approximately a 45 minute drive from the main city. Entry costs 25 AED for adults and 15 AED for children aged 3-12.
Al Noor Mosque
Back to incredible architecture, the Al Noor Mosque certainly is a wonder. The mosque is a popular destination for Muslims, but is also a hotspot location for tourists due to its design. Although, the mosque is open to the public, you are required to wear traditional Emirati attire to enter, but this can be offered at the entrance. You can find Al Noor Mosque next to Khalid Lagoon.
Places to Visit in Ajman
The Ajman Museum offers a traditional appearance, with an intriguing insight into Ajman’s history, complete with plenty of artefacts. One section features items dating back to as far as 3000BC! Therefore, it is a great visit for any history fanatic. Adult entry costs 5 AED, but family deals of any size cost 15 AED. You can find the Ajman Museum in the central square of Al Bustan.
Ajman Sheikh Zayed Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque also houses some stunning traditional Emirati building design. The mosque is a hotspot in Ajman, and is considered the most famous religious site in the city. You can find the Sheikh Zayed Mosque near Ajman University.
Al Safia Park
If you’re looking for some green space, Al Safia Park is a relaxing area to visit in Ajman. At the park you can find a children’s play area as well as food and drink stands. This has become a popular spot for jogging and exercise due to various pieces of equipment having been installed. The park has been praised by visitors for its cleanliness and maintenance.
Overall, both emirates offer incredible architecture, culture and memorable sites, at affordable prices. However, we would say Sharjah comes out on top again simply for having more options and a greater variety.
Where Has the Best Beaches?
You can’t deny that the UAE has some outstanding beaches suitable for everyone including families, thrill seekers, tourists and those wanting some peace and quiet. For this section, we will look over some of the beaches in Sharjah and Ajman.
Sharjah has a stunning variety of beaches, making for picturesque sunset views and hotspots for a delicious barbecue! Below are some of the best.
- Sharjah Beach
- Al Lulayyah Beach
- Al Khan Beach
- Kalba Beach
- Khorfakkan Beach
- Al Fisht Public Beach
Sharjah’s beaches offer a good mix of settings and functions. You can find blissful relaxation at beaches like Kalba Beach, Al Fisht Public Beach and Al Lulayyah Beach, exhilarating water sports and swimming at Al Khan Beach and Khorfakkan Beach, and admirable views across the board. The beaches are also close to popular attractions so you can rest easy knowing they are accessible.
Ajman is known for its stunning white sands and crystal clear waters, so you can see why that has a lot of appeal on its own! These are a few of the popular ones:
- Ajman Public Beach
- Al Zorah Beach
- Ajman Corniche
Something to note is that a lot of the beaches around Ajman are actually private to beachside hotels. However, Ajman’s beaches also offer some fantastic variety, with Al Zorah Beach being particularly family friendly due to it’s large open area and water sports facilities. Ajman Corniche is a good option if you are looking to be close to dining and other entertainment, therefore having wide appeal. Ajman Public Beach provides a perfect swimming spot, but it is prone to getting busy.
This is a difficult round to call due to both packing a strong punch when it comes to beaches! Sharjah arguably has more variety and generally more public beaches whereas Ajman has fewer. However, Ajman’s beaches are widely known for their beauty.
Sharjah vs Ajman – Hotels
The UAE is renowned for extravagant and larger than life hotels, but in the country’s more hidden gem emirates, does it still stand? In this section, we will compare the top 5 hotels in both Sharjah and Ajman, looking at one 3 star hotel, two 4 star hotels, and two 5 star hotels for average base cost per night and their TripAdvisor rating.
First up is Sharjah
|Hotel||Average Cost Per Night||Tripadvisor Rating|
|Citymax Sharjah – 3*||160 AED||4/5|
|Coral Beach Resort Sharjah – 4*||325 AED||4.5/5|
|Novotel Sharjah Expo Center – 4*||371 AED||5/5|
|The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah – 5*||800 AED||5/5|
|Pullman Sharjah Hotel – 5*||1,067 AED||5/5|
Now let’s look at Ajman
|Hotel||Average Cost Per Night||Tripadvisor Rating|
|Ajman Beach Hotel – 3*||230 AED||3.5/5|
|Wyndham Garden Ajman Corniche – 4*||343 AED||4.5/5|
|Ramada by Wyndham Beach Hotel Ajman – 4*||318 AED||4.5/5|
|The Oberoi Beach Resort, Al Zorah – 5*||1,200 AED||5/5|
|Bahi Ajman Palace Hotel – 5*||540 AED||4.5/5|
After examining a few of the most popular hotels, Sharjah’s average cost came out at just over 544 AED, with an average TripAdvisor rating of 4.7/5. As for Ajman, the hotels’ average cost came out at 526 AED, with an average TripAdvisor rating of 4.4/5.
Taking a close look, we can see that generally Sharjah’s hotels are cheaper with a better TripAdvisor rating, but we must shout out Ajman’s Bahi Ajman Palace Hotel for having incredible hotel rates.
Overall, each round was so close to call! By the end, we had Ajman stealing the show with beaches, but Sharjah wins on Location, Hotels, Things to Do and Places to Visit. That is not to say by any means that Ajman is not worth visiting, as both destinations offer truly unique insights into Emirati culture with their own pristine beaches and things to do.