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THE SOCIAL AXIS

AN ANALYSIS AL KHAN FISHING VILLAGE, AL KHAN CORNICHE, AL QASBA, AL MAJAZ WATERFRONT AND AL MAJAZ ISLAND

BY

RENGI J.K. TAUSIF IQBAL Master of Urban Planning American University of Sharjah Sharjah, UAE

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Abstract This is a study of a selection of 5 nodes distributed around the Al khan lagoon and Khalid Lagoon in Sharjah that function as a centre of major social, cultural and recreational activities in Sharjah. This study will help demonstrate the role of this axis in enhancing the image of Sharjah as a cultural capital. The main focus of this study is to understand the spatial distribution and function of the nodes and the immediate urban fabric surrounding it. An analysis of the axis and the nodes is made using certain select urban design analysis techniques. The first section gives the background information regarding the city of Sharjah followed by the overview of each node. The next section will analyse and reflect upon the study area with the help of maps, views and sections.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


1. Table of Contents 1.

Sharjah – a brief overview

5

1.1

Climate:

6

1.2

Political Framework:

7

1.3

Population Dynamics:

7

2.

Methodology

8

3.

Defining the Urban Form

9

3.1

Urban form – the lagoons

3.2

Understanding the site

3.2.1 4

9 11

The ‘Social Axis’

11

An overview of the study area 4.1

13

The Social axis

13

4.1.1

Al Khan fishing village

13

4.1.2

Al Khan Corniche Street

15

4.1.3

Al Qasba

17

4.1.4

Al Majaz Waterfront

19

4.1.5

Al Majaz Island

21

5. Analysis 5.1

23

Spatial Analysis

23

5.1.1

Figure-Ground relationship

23

5.1.2

Serial Vision

24

5.1.3

Permeability

25

5.1.4

Sections

26

5.1.5

Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes and Landmarks

27

5.2

SWOT

30

5.3

Social Anaylsis

32

5.4

Policy Analysis

33

6. Conclusion

34

7. References

34

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


List of Figures Figure 1 Satellite image - Map of Sharjah ............................................................................................... 5 Figure 2- Map showing emirate of Sharjah distribution across UAE ...................................................... 6 Figure 3 - Satellite image of the three lagoons ....................................................................................... 9 Figure 4 - Satellite Image (a) 1973, (b) 1987, and (c) 2000 (Bee'ah, 2009)........................................... 10 Figure 5- Lagoons Defining the form of the 'social axis' ....................................................................... 12 Figure 6- Lagoons, Five nodes and the social axis (in yellow) ............................................................... 12 Figure 7- Map showing various districts in the study area ................................................................... 12 Figure 8- Maps showing evolution of the study area ........................................................................... 13 Figure 9- Map showing prominent features of Al Khan village area .................................................... 14 Figure 10- Restored mosque in Al Khan village .................................................................................... 14 Figure 11- Restored watch tower in Al Khan Village............................................................................. 14 Figure 12- Artists' sketch of restored Al khan area............................................................................... 15 Figure 13- Map showing the prominent features of Al Khan Corniche street ..................................... 16 Figure 14- Map showing prominent features of Al Qasba Area ........................................................... 17 Figure 15- Map showing Al Qasba in 2001 ........................................................................................... 17 Figure 16- Map showing Al Qasba in 2000 ........................................................................................... 17 Figure 17- Map showing prominent features of Al Majaz waterfront ................................................. 19 Figure 18- Map showing Al Majaz Waterfront in 2013 ......................................................................... 20 Figure 19- Map showing Al Majaz Park in 2007 .................................................................................... 20 Figure 20- Image of Sharjah fountain (Shah 2012) ............................................................................... 20 Figure 21- Image showing Al Majaz island. Sharjah Grand prix in progress (Nowell 2003) ................. 22 Figure 22Image showing the proposed amphi theatre (Leijen, Sharjah reveals new tourist attraction: Al Majaz Island 2013) ............................................................................................................................ 22 Figure 23- Figure-Ground Map ............................................................................................................. 24 Figure 24- Serial vision along the chosen path ..................................................................................... 25 Figure 25- Permeability sketch ............................................................................................................. 26 Figure 26- Sections ................................................................................................................................ 26 Figure 27- Paths in and around Al Qasba .............................................................................................. 27 Figure 28- Landmarks, Paths, Nodes in Al Qasba ................................................................................. 28 Figure 29- Landmarks in and around Al Qasba ..................................................................................... 28 Figure 30- Al Majaz - Paths, Landmarks, Edges and Nodes .................................................................. 29 Figure 31- Paths in and around Al Majaz .............................................................................................. 29 Figure 32- Date palm in a high rise tower in Al Khan Corniche Street.................................................. 30 Figure 33- Round balcony building near Al Majaz Island ...................................................................... 30 Figure 34- Pedestrian density in the morning and evening .................................................................. 33 Figure 35- Al Khan corniche Street acts as a retreat from the city, in the city ..................................... 33

List of Tables Table 1- Table showing average temperatures in Sharjah ..................................................................... 6

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


1. Sharjah – a brief overview The Federation or UAE is comprised of seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Ras AlKhaimah, Umm Al-Qaiwain, and Fujairah. Sharjah (called ash-shaariqah in Arabic) is part of the Arabian Peninsula and the third largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Sharjah is the only one to have land on both the Arabian Gulf (and Persian Gulf) to the west and the Gulf of Oman in the Arabian Sea to the east. The southern border is formed by Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman (Bee'ah 2009). The Emirate covers an area of 2,600 km2, equivalent to 3.3% of the UAE's total area, excluding the islands. Sir Abu Nu’ayr Island and Abu Musa Island (claimed by UAE, controlled by Iran) located in the Arabian Gulf belong to Sharjah. Sir Abu Nuair Island is a protected area and is valued for its coral reefs (Wikipedia 2014).

Figure 1 Satellite image - Map of Sharjah

The Emirate’s main territory is situated on the Arabian Gulf, while three enclaves are located on the east coast, bordering the Gulf of Oman, namely Kalba or Khor Kalba, Khor Fakkan and Dibba Al Hisn. Sharjah has an exclave called Nahwa inside the Omani enclave of Madha which borders Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah and Sharjah (Wikipedia 2014).

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 2- Map showing emirate of Sharjah distribution across UAE

Sharjah also encompasses some important oasis areas, the most famous of which is the fertile Dhaid region, where a range of vegetables and fruits are cultivated (Wikipedia 2014). The Emirate can be divided into three zones: the large low-lying zone (coastal plain), which is most extensive on the west coast, the desert interior, and the mountain zone (Hajar Mountains, rising to 760 m above sea level) on the east coast. The coastal plain is characterized by large sabkhas or salt flats, while the desert consists of vast tracts of sand, changing into gravel near the mountain range (Bee'ah 2009). Sharjah’s modern development is based on a major urban plan drawn up by Halcrow, the engineering and environmental consultants (Bee'ah 2009). 1.1

Climate:

Summer climate is hot and humid with temperatures reaching 50ÂşC and humidity near 100%, making Sharjah one of the hottest regions on earth. Winters are much dryer and cooler, with spring-like weather and clear, sunny days. It rarely rains, depending on the region, and does so mainly in winter (January, February). Events are of short durations and heavy intensities. In the Arabian Gulf coastal area (west coast), average annual rainfall is of a low 100 to 200 mm, while the desert interior receives less than 100 mm. The

Table 1- Table showing average temperatures in Sharjah

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


mountainous areas and east coast (Hajar Mountains) receive between 350 mm and 500 mm annually, far more than the desert interior and west coast.

1.2

Political Framework:

The UAE were created on December 2nd, 1971 from the existing sheikhdoms under British protectorate, the Trucial States. After signing the 1820 peace treaty, British maintained relations with the nine individual rulers (including Bahrain and Qatar) for almost 150 years. After British withdrawal in 1968, the rulers of seven sheikhdoms (now excluding Bahrain and Qatar) created a united federation, the United Arab Emirates. Abu Dhabi became the capital and seat of the government. Its ruler was elected president of the UAE and Dubai’s ruler, the Vice- President and Prime Minister (Bee'ah 2009). Sharjah is a constitutional monarchy, ruled by the Wahhabi Al Qasimi dynasty since the 18th century, and a part of the United Arab Emirates. It is ruled by Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi of the Supreme Council of the UAE and Sheikh of Sharjah (Wikipedia 2014). 1.3

Population Dynamics:

Most of the pre-industrialized emirates’ population was of Arabic origins and archaeological evidence suggests the region has been inhabited for over 7000 years. Immigration from Arabic countries such as Lebanon, Palestine and Syria began in the 1950‟s. By 1960, the UAE’s population was estimated at 100,000 and by 1968, it had risen to 180,000. The construction boom and rapid development during the 2000s, attracted large numbers of workers from Pakistan, India and the Philippines. White-collar workers arrived in increasing numbers from Europe and North America, while trade and commerce saw many Arabic and Asian expatriates. Population in the UAE is between 4.5 and 5 million, with a 5% growth rate, this includes 1 million Indians and 750,000 Pakistanis. Nationals count for less than 20% of UAE population, this percentage being somewhat higher in Sharjah (Bee'ah 2009). The Sharjah Emirate contributes to about 19% of the overall population of the UAE, with 85% of Sharjah’s 946,000 residents living in Sharjah city (figures provided by the Ministry of Economy – 2008) (Sharjahtourism 2010). Inflow of expatriate combined with high birth rates among the Emiratis has significantly increased population. Nationals count for 20% of total population and the remainder mainly being South-East Asians. Due to restrictions on family relocations for expatriates, the ratio of men to women is 2:1. Average age of nationals is low, with 20% under age fourteen. This trend seems to continue with Sharjah’s thriving economy, and the UAE will attract even more expatriates (Bee'ah 2009). 1.4

Economic Development:

Prior to the discovery of oil in 1959, the region’s major economic activities were pearl diving, maritime trade and fishing. Hunting and farming were minimal due to desert conditions. Oil and natural gas have become primary resources in the UAE, making it the world’s seventh largest producer, with over 90% coming from Abu Dhabi. With revenues used for infrastructure development, the emirates’ have undergone rapid development and expansion, in particular since 1970. Urbanization at an accelerating

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rate gave rise to the modern cities of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah. This boom has attracted the highest number of expat workers in the world. Over 3,113,000 individuals from over 200 nationalities employed by 20,000 enterprises can be found in the UAE. Not only does Sharjah have important natural gas reserves, accounting for 5% of the UAE reserves, but also the third largest oil reserve in the UAE. Offshore reserves are situated in Mubarak field near Abu Musa Island in the Strait of Hormuz, and in Al Saja’a oilfield outside Sharjah Municipality. Within the UAE, 46% of small and medium-sized enterprises are based in Sharjah (Bee'ah 2009). In order to decongest the Sharjah city, specialized industrial sectors and free trade zones have been created (Airport International Free Zone and Hamriyah Free Zone). Industries are concentrated in the new Saja’a industrial area, while the areas around Al Khan and Al Khalid lagoons area restricted to residential and commercial development (Bee'ah 2009). Sharjah is the only emirate to have ports on both the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean (Arabian Sea) and Sharjah International Airport is the UAE’s major cargo handling and transit hub (Bee'ah 2009). Economic development and diversification will remain a priority for Sharjah, without compromising cultural and religious heritage. In 1998, Sharjah was designated by UNESCO as cultural capital of the Arab world, for preserving cultural heritage while developing businesses and tourism. Today, sustainable development is recognized as the only viable way for the future, and environmental concerns are now part of all new projects in Sharjah. In 2009, Shurooq was founded to oversee social, cultural, environmental and economic development in Sharjah on the basis of the emirate’s distinct Arab and Islamic identity. With a dedicated and highly skilled team, Shurooq provides all possible facilities and incentives to investors to the emirate (Shurooq, Our Story 2014).

2. Methodology The bellow matrix shows the basis on which the classification of various nodes and regions are made derived from Sharon Zukin’s idea of authenticity of spaces.

Authentic Inauthentic

New New authentic New inauthentic

Old Old authentic Old inauthentic

Sharon Zukin argues the notion of old spaces and structures being considered authentic. Age of a building does not define its authenticity but it is the experiential quality that determines the authenticity of spaces. Taking this idea, the spaces are classified based on the nature of spaces and nature of spaces. In addition to this, the study is centred on three broad criteria that define culture – spatial, social and policy.

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3. Defining the Urban Form 3.1 Urban form – the lagoons Central to Sharjah’s identity are three lagoons: Khalid, Al Khan and Al Mamzar lagoon. They are located in the heart of the city surrounded by commercial and residential skyscrapers, cultural centres, recreational areas, parks and scenic routes. The lagoons are subject to tides which range from 1.0 to 1.5 m in amplitude, depending on the phases of the moon. The lagoons‟ ecosystem is essentially marine as there is a direct connection to the open sea by way of the creeks or khors. The lagoons in their present form are manmade. Their formation is linked to naturally occurring khors or creeks which connected the sea with inland coastal plains. Sabkhas or coastal salt flats were formed and sea water invasion resulted in the formation of shallow embayments.

Figure 3 - Satellite image of the three lagoons

The lagoons did not exist prior to the 1970’s. The area consisted of sabkhas and two tidal creeks: Khor Khalid and Khor Khan (Figure 3) which was subject to sediment silting brought in by the tides. Khor Khalid was therefore practically closed off in the 1950’s. Since they were mooring sites for trading dhows and fishing boats, dredging took place in 1975 and Khor Khalid was created in its present form. The inland extremity or embayment was dug out to form Al Khalid lagoon. The Buheirah corniche,

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which loops around the lagoon, was also built during that time.

Figure 4 - Satellite Image (a) 1973, (b) 1987, and (c) 2000 (Bee'ah, 2009)

As seen in the 1987 satellite picture (Figure 4), Khalid lagoon configuration was already quite evident, including the creek mouth morphology and port structure. The artificial islands were also already present, the largest of which hosts Al Jazeerah amusement park (Al Montazah Park). The two other islands were not opened to the public as of 2009. Currently, the islands are being developed by Shurooq. In 1987, Khor Al Khan was clearly defined, and so was the branch that later gave rise to Al Mamzar lagoon. The original Al Khan creek was used as a major maritime harbour. Over time, the creek also silted in, as it did to many creeks along the coast, and was finally dredged in the mid 90’s. Around 1995, it was decided to dig out two more lagoons, Al Khan and Al Mamzar lagoon, both connected to

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the sea by the original creek, as seen in the 2000 image (Figure 4). Today, the Mamzar lagoon is divided in two by a man-made sand spit with one section falling within Sharjah Municipality, while the other section part of Dubai Municipality. The Khalid lagoon is located in the new high-rise section of Sharjah Municipality, surrounded by many tall buildings, commercial and residential constructions. Water quality analyses revealed that the Khalid lagoon is the most polluted of the three lagoons. Al Khan lagoon water seems of better quality than Al Khalid, although its visual aspect is indicative of some pollution levels. The lagoon is a major mooring site for small fishing boats and the surrounding area is less developed than that of Al Khalid lagoon, but future urban development is planned. The lagoon receives some water from Al Khalid lagoon during high tides through Al Qasba canal which connects both lagoons. The Al Qasba canal was built between 1998 and 2000 to improve flushing of Al Khalid lagoon. But its quality is degrading as the canal allows polluted water of Al Khalid lagoon to enter Al Khan lagoon. The area around the recently constructed Al Mamzar lagoon is still fairly undeveloped on Sharjah’s side. On the Dubai side, there is Al Mamzar Park, with green lawn and many trees. There is also the residential area of Al Mamzar with its villas and gardens. The visual appearance of the water indicates that it is of fairly good quality, and is similar to the sea water near the beaches. Actually, most of its shore line is sandy beach and part of it is developed for public use with small vendor stalls. Recently, there has been a lot more activity in and around the lagoon. There are rental outfits on the Sharjah side with speed boats; especially personal water crafts (“sea-doos”). Artificial islands in Al Khan and Al Mamzar lagoons are also being planned to be developed by the authorities (Bee'ah 2009). 3.2 Understanding the site 3.2.1 The ‘Social Axis’ This study covers the immediate belt surrounding the Al Khan Lagoon and the Khalid Lagoon. The belt surrounding the two lagoons form the most important social and recreational centre for the city of Sharjah. It consists of the Al Khan fishing village, Al Khan corniche, Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Majaz Island (Amphitheatre) and Al Qasba. Drawing from the analogy ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’, these five nodes perform the function of a cultural axis that contributes to the image of Sharjah as a cultural centre. Moughtin et al (Moughtin, et al. 1999) quote Kevin Lynch in their book who describes cities as cosmos, machines and organisms. This social axis with a wide variety of activities ranging from historically important Al Khan village to socially vibrant Al Majaz and Al Qasba and the serene and undisturbed Al Khan corniche can be described as the diversity that the authors suggest is necessary for sustainable cities. However it is important to understand the function of each of these nodes so that a balance is achieved in terms of experiences they offer.

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Figure 6- Lagoons, Five nodes and the social axis (in yellow) Figure 5- Lagoons Defining the form of the 'social axis'

Figure 7 shows the districts surrounding the lagoons. Al Majaz (1, 2 & 3) along Buheirah corniche are the most dense neighbourhoods and are synonymous with one of the high income neighbourhoods in Sharjah. All the districts contain medium to high rise residential, commercial and mixed use buildings.

Figure 7- Map showing various districts in the study area

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4 An overview of the study area 4.1 The Social axis The maps below show the evolution of the study area. The first image shows one of the earliest aerial photographs of the lagoons. The lagoons flooded often with rising water levels and remained dry for the remaining periods. It was made permanent later by dredging in 1975 as mentioned above.

Figure 8- Maps showing evolution of the study area

The rapid industrialization of Sharjah during the 1970s led to the dense development around the buheira cornice. The close proximity of the buheira corniche area to the industrial areas in the south may also have led to the early development around the Khalid lagoon. Buheira corniche was oone of the earliest social gathering spaces in the emirate. The yellow area shows the walkable pathway along Khalid lagoon in the year 2000. Notice how the yellow shaded area expands over the years and all the five nodes are connected by a common pathway by 2013. Though perceived individually in the early stages, today it forms an axis concentrated with varying activities such as recreational, cultural, social interactions etc. These activities define the urban function of the ‘social axis’. The most prominent of the five nodes are Al Qasba Canal and the Al Majaz waterfront with thriving social and cultural activities. 4.1.1

Al Khan fishing village

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 9- Map showing prominent features of Al Khan village area

The most prominent features of the Al Khan fishing village area are – the historic village, the aquarium, the boat docking yard and the Sharjah Mall which is under construction. Perhaps the oldest of the five nodes under consideration, this area, as the name suggests was a historic settlement of a fishing community. The area today lies in ruins except for a mosque and few watch towers which have been restored.

Figure 10- Restored mosque in Al Khan village

Figure 11- Restored watch tower in Al Khan Village

The first residents settled in Al Khan were around 1820, and they came in search of better climate and better land (Almarcegui 2001). In 2011, archaeological finds of Neolithic and Medieval times were made at Al Khan. Curiously, it seemed that the tradition of using the shoreline of Al khan for mooring fishing boats and enjoying a cookout, had been kept up for thousands of years from the Neolithic age to the present day. The survey being carried out by the Maritime Archaeology Stewardship Trust, has recovered the remains of houses, courtyards, and remnants, which pointed to the place having roads

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or tracks in the ancient times (Simpson, Ancient settlements detected at Dalma Island and Al Khan 2011). Al Khan village is situated in an area undergoing rapid transformation by the expanding city of Sharjah. The area surrounding the fishing village is being taken over by the building activities. The parts of the village that still remain are abandoned, demolished or in ruins (Almarcegui 2001). Currently, the old houses and watchtowers in the Al Khan area are being restored under the directives of His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. On completion of the restoration project, the area in the Al Khan old city will be the most distinctive areas in Sharjah. The project follows Dr. Sheikh Sultan's initiative to revive the old Sharjah City in the Arts Square, the Heritage area and the Al Shuwaiheen District (Fleihan 2004). According to the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage, the project aims at conserving UAE's coastal heritage (Simpson, Ancient settlements detected at Dalma Island and Al Khan 2011).

Figure 12- Artists' sketch of restored Al khan area

Sharjah Aquarium The Sharjah Aquarium opened in Al Khan Old area in 2008. Covering an area of 6500m², and consisting of two floors equipped with 20 water aquariums, each of which is filled with 1.8 million litres of water, it is the largest government learning centre in the UAE. The mission of the Sharjah Aquarium is to encourage the people of the Emirate of Sharjah and all its visitors to cherish and conserve the beauty and wealth of the oceans. The Sharjah Aquarium opened to offer nature lovers with state-of-the-art display of a host of marine species. The aquarium was built to enable visitors to discover life under the ocean—clown fish, seahorses, moray eels, rays, reef sharks and more (WAM 2008). Sharjah aquarium is home to 30 different species, including sharks, and gives visitors a rare glimpse into the marine life of the United Arab Emirates. The aquarium is strategically placed in an area having close links to the traditional fishing community. Al Khan Fishing village plays the role of a cultural heritage aspect of the social axis. When restored, it will play a significant role in further defining the cultural identity of the axis and Sharjah. 4.1.2

Al Khan Corniche Street

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Figure 13- Map showing the prominent features of Al Khan Corniche street

The Al Khan lagoon (Bay) is a man-made lagoon and is connected to the Arabian Gulf (Sea) by a narrow channel. The lagoon serves as a boundary between Sharjah and Dubai. The lagoon is separated from the sea by a narrow promontory on which Al Khan fishing village is situated (Simpson, Ancient settlements detected at Dalma Island and Al Khan 2011). The Al-Khan lagoon is the smaller of the two with a total surface area of approximately 1.2 million m2 and an average depth of approximately 6 m (Abdallah Shanableh, Maher Omar, Abdul-Aziz Al-Midfa and Anas Dolan, 2003). Al Khan lagoon is not heavily used by commercial boats and ships and the area surrounding the lagoon is not as highly developed as the area surrounding the Khalid lagoon, which also is another man-made lagoon. The Al Khan lagoon is considered cleaner and refreshing than Khalid lagoon and it is a pleasant location close to the city for motorized water sports enthusiasts, but the area is roped off for swimmers. The mornings along the Al Khan lagoon tend to be quite and relaxing and afternoons noisy and active. The lagoon is surrounded by Al Khan district of Sharjah. The Al Khan Corniche Street encircles the Al Khan lagoon. With cooler winds blowing across the coastal areas and temperatures falling down; Expatriates & Emiratis head out to beaches along the lagoon, indulging in BBQ’s to spend some quality time with their families and friends. The Al Khan lagoon contains two islands, both named as ‘Al Khan Island’. Both the islands are proposed sites for future development projects.

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4.1.3

Al Qasba

Figure 14- Map showing prominent features of Al Qasba Area

The most prominent features of Al Qasba area are Al Qasba canal, Al Qasba mosque and a giant ferris wheel – Eye of the Emirates. The two linear blocks along the canal house restaurants, offices, art galleries, conference rooms and a theatre. To improve the flushing characteristics of Khalid lagoon and consequently improve water quality, a canal (called Al-Qasba) was constructed between the two lagoons. The canal is about 1 km long, 5 m deep and 30 meters wide. The canal was commissioned on 8 November 2000. A gate was provided on the Khalid lagoon side of canal to prevent water exchange between the two lagoons as desired. The major forces causing water circulation in the two lagoons are the wind and tidal activities (Abdallah Shanableh, Maher Omar, Abdul-Aziz Al-Midfa and Anas Dolan, 2003). Three bridges for vehicles and one for pedestrians were built across the canal.

Figure 16- Map showing Al Qasba in 2000

Figure 15- Map showing Al Qasba in 2001

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Al Qasba is a major family-oriented art, culture, leisure, and tourist destination in Sharjah, spread over 10,000 acres, with facilities including the Maraya Art Centre, Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates Ferris wheel, restaurants, cafes, and a canal with abra rides. The facilities are included within two buildings, one each on either side of the canal called ‘eastern palace’ and ‘western palace'. Visitors can enjoy culture, entertainment and leisure attractions representing the very best from the Arab world and beyond, and discover the highlights of contemporary Arabian arts among the galleries and theatre spaces. Al Qasba also offers a range of activities and events to keep visitors of all ages occupied the whole day through, as well as a state-of-the-art Business Centre.

Key Features:               

19 number of Waterfront Restaurants and Cafés 80 number of office in Al Qasba buildings Canal offering cruises on traditional Abra boats Maraya Art Centre 300-seat Masrah Al Qasba -Theatre Multaqa Al Qasba Meeting and Conference Halls 23 State-of-the-art fully furnished Business Centre Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates Ferris Wheel (air conditioned) Al Qasba Musical Fountain Kids Fun Zone / playground Shaded Parking areas Waterfront kiosks Al Qasba Marinas Garden Al Qasba Mosque

Located in the heart of Sharjah along a picturesque waterfront Al Qasba offers a remarkably tranquil atmosphere, attributable in part to the one-kilometer canal that runs through the heart of Al Qasba linking the Al Khan and Khalid lagoons, and the site has been carefully planned to make the most of its waterfront location. With an art centre that regularly hosts a range of art exhibitions, cultural events and educational activities, a theatre that provides a varied program of music, film and theatre throughout the year, a state-of-the-art meeting and conference facility, a brand new business centre, a children’s entertainment zone offering a wide range of edutainment activities specially created for children of all ages, a spectacular musical fountain, a tantalizing fusion of foods and flavors in the form of simple cafés and sophisticated bistros offering the finest Arabian, European and Asian cuisine, and the 60-metre tall Etisalat-Eye of the Emirates Ferris wheel, Al Qasba is a truly unrivalled business and leisure destination in the UAE. Seeing a steady increase in visitors since it was launched in 2005, Al Qasba has become one of the emirate’s biggest destinations, becoming a melting pot of different culture and influences, as well as home to various groups and organizations (Shurooq, Al Qasba 2011).

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4.1.4

Al Majaz Waterfront

Key Features • • • • • • • •

Seaside restaurants and cafes and viewing terraces. Cybernetic fountain with a Circular courtyard overlooking the fountain Shaded and open children’s playground areas. Food & beverages and retail kiosks. Shaded and open festival events and cultural areas. Cycling and jogging tracks. Magnificent mosque with a modern architectural design Mini football, basketball, and tennis courts.

Figure 17- Map showing prominent features of Al Majaz waterfront

• • • • •

Open and shaded picnic areas. Public toilets and day care centers. Local artists Sculptures Park and children’s artwork areas. Skate – boarding playgrounds and festival events areas. Parking areas and pedestrian passages and walkways.

The Al Majaz Park in Sharjah city was opened in 1990. For over 20 years, the park has long been a popular destination for residents of Sharjah and was home to a splendid mosque. The park was exquisitely landscaped and had several concrete monuments, palm trees, a fountain (installed in late 70s) and flowerbeds (KhaleejTimes 2010) (Almajaz 2013).

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The Al Majaz Park Development Project was set to establish the park as a landmark that would showcase the local identity, history and culture of Sharjah while adding various new tourist and recreational attractions, thus creating a unique sense of place. Thus the development project was to create a new waterfront landmark in the emirate of Sharjah by beautifying and extending the existing park. The expansion of the Park was, however, not only aimed at spread the greenery and to craft an ecological setting, but also to enhance this public space by boosting activity and pairing people of all cultures together. As such, the re-development of the park would see the introduction of several new elements such as a musical cybernetic fountain, restaurants, cafes, children’s playgrounds, as well as various cultural venues. (Shurooq, Al Majaz Waterfront 2010).

Figure 19- Map showing Al Majaz Park in 2007

Figure 18- Map showing Al Majaz Waterfront in 2013

The Al Majaz Waterfront Development Project underwent Dh100 million renovation works since July 2010, over an area of 3 sqkm. The waterfront park now includes open and covered children’s play areas, entertainment and cultural areas, the Sharjah Fountain, a waterfront mosque, jogging and bike tracks, a sculpture park, children’s art area, mini golf course, Splash Park and 1,000 parking spaces. The waterfront also boasts seven new restaurants and cafes that overlook the Sharjah Fountain. The Sharjah musical fountain, the largest of its kind in the region, is 220 meters wide. It has two giant water screens, and is equipped with the latest sound and light techniques. The fountain has different musical and laser shows, with laser arrangements and eight video projections on water screens, everyday. The piazza that overlooks the musical fountain can accommodate about 100,000 people (Serkal 2012).

Figure 20- Image of Sharjah fountain (Shah 2012)

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Families love to come to the corniche as it is safe for the children since it has aluminium fencing and the pavement area is landscaped with grass and palm trees. Those who want to sit and watch the fountain and the lagoon, there are a number of benches along the pedestrian footpath. The Al Majaz Park development project was aimed at adding authentic, aesthetic and recreational features to the park. The aim was to upgrade this vital facility and enhance its status among the tourist destinations in the country and the region. 4.1.5

Al Majaz Island

Under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, the Sharjah Media Centre (SMC) launched Al Majaz Island Project in December 2013. The Al Majaz Island Project is the first man-made island project that is being developed within the Emirate. The island was previously used as a recreational space and viewing gallery during the annual Sharjah Grand Prix. The event was held annually until 2012 (Figure 21) and has since been discontinued.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 21- Image showing Al Majaz island. Sharjah Grand prix in progress (Nowell 2003)

The destination was dubbed the official venue of the Sharjah Capital of Islamic Culture (SICC) 2014 Celebrations and will house the first open air amphitheatre in the region. Positioned on the banks of Khalid Lagoon, the currently empty plot is tucked between Flag Island in the north and Al Majaz Water Front in the south, and finds itself just opposite Sharjah Hilton Hotel.

Figure 22Image showing the proposed amphi theatre (Leijen, Sharjah reveals new tourist attraction: Al Majaz Island 2013)

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


An open-air Roman-style amphitheatre will be constructed covering 7238 sqm to host the SICC celebrations and venue for other international cultural and art events over the years. The Dh120 million semi-circular theatre will include several terraced seating areas that can accommodate up to 4500 spectators, and a huge stage equipped with a state-of-the-art audio system. It will have conference rooms and galleries, as well as a number of shops, restaurants and green areas that will surround it from all sides along with an outstanding panoramic view of the waterfront. A Dh13 million bridge to the island will be provided from Khalid Lagoon Street, which will make it an architecturally unique landmark capable of highlighting the significance of SICC 2014, said the Sharjah Media Council. The project was revealed at the official launch of Sharjah’s logo as the Islamic Culture Capital of the Arab Region 2014 (SICC 2014) on Sunday evening, 8th December 2013, in the presence of Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Executive Committee for the Sharjah Capital of Islamic Culture 2014 Celebrations, Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and Head of the Projects Committee and Sheikha Hoor bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of Sharjah Arts Foundation and Head of the Events Committee. Elaborating on the role of the emirate, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi said: “Thanks to its abundant intellectual treasures, the emirate has managed to establish its cultural and Islamic identity so as to remain a source of pride for us, as well as for Arabs and Muslims.” Construction on the island has already commenced and the project is set to be completed by Spring of 2014 (Leijen, Sharjah reveals new tourist attraction: Al Majaz Island 2013). Each year, three Islamic cities are selected from across the Arab world, Africa and Asia to represent their region as the Islamic Cultural Capital. Medina in Saudi Arabia is the current Arab capital (Kakande 2013).

5. Analysis 5.1 Spatial Analysis This section will look at the analysis of the study area with respect to permeability, circulation, legibility, authentic-inauthentic spaces with the help of maps etc. 5.1.1

Figure-Ground relationship

The bellow map shows the figure-ground relationship of the study area. The high density around Al Majaz and Al Qasba is apparent. However, Al Khan corniche street and Al Khan fishing village are relatively low density which also contribute to the experiential aspects of each of these nodes as will be explain in the serial vision analysis.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 23- Figure-Ground Map

5.1.2

Serial Vision

To understand the visual clarity of the nodes, a path was chosen along the walkable pathway and points of observation that would include a visual of at least one of the nodes were selected. Figure 23 shows the observations from these points. Since the nodes have a strong physical connection, this exercise sought to understand the visual connectivity of the nodes with respect to each other and observe the presence of any significant visual landmarks that would identify these nodes. Since the study area is fairly large and the nodes constitute mainly of public spaces and not built structures, the visibility of any of the nodes from the points of observations is generally low. In the Al Khan fishing village, the tower has a significant visual access from the pathway. The third image shows the discontinuity in the walkable pathway which causes a hindrance to the pedestrians. The Ferris wheel at Al Qasba is the strongest visual element along the entire pathway visible from at least 4 points of observation including Al Majaz, Al Khan corniche street and the points 5 and 6 as shown in the figure. The most subtle of all the nodes is the Al Majaz waterfront.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 24- Serial vision along the chosen path

There is certainly a lack of way finding mechanism along the pathway. The conscious attempt to direct the user from one node to another is missing. For example a new visitor to Al Majaz would be oblivious to the walkable access to Al Qasba or Al Khan. However, one can feel the varying experiential quality of the spaces along the pathway. The docks at the fishing village provide a sense of seclusion from the polluted visual experience at the qasba canal or al majaz. Same applies to the Al Khan corniche street which pushes the city skyline into the background and brings the user into direct contact with nature. The variations in the experiential qualities of the nodes along the social axis is unique and exceptional. 5.1.3

Permeability

The below sketch shows the permeability of urban fabric surrounding the nodes. The nodes with higher permeability have a relatively low social activity due to lower population density around them and the nodes with lower permeability have a vibrant social life.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 25- Permeability sketch

5.1.4

Sections

The following figure shows the sections at Al Qasba canal, Al Majaz waterfront.

Figure 26- Sections

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Note the scale of Al Qasba in contrast to the surround high rises. This distinction in scale functions as an edge that defines Al Qasba and contributes to its unique experience in the social axis. This contrast in scale is more gradual in the Al Majaz waterfront.

5.1.5

Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes and Landmarks

This section will discuss the 5 elements that Kevin Lynch suggests are important for successful urban spaces. Earlier in the urban form discussion, the lagoons and canal as the form giving elements has been discussed. The same concept can be re iterated for the definition of districts and edges for the site. All the five nodes share the edge with the two lagoons and the canal. Therefore these become the key elements of identity for all the nodes. In addition to this the paths, nodes and landmarks inside and around the study areas are marked and discussed below. The below maps shows the paths as defined in Al Qasba.

Figure 27- Paths in and around Al Qasba

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 28- Landmarks, Paths, Nodes in Al Qasba

The edges are clearly defined by the lagoons and canal on three sides and the high rise towers on the fourth side.

Figure 29- Landmarks in and around Al Qasba

Apart from the Ferris wheel which is the most prominent landmark in the entire study area, small sculptor like shown in Figure 28 can be found in and around Qasba.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Figure 31- Paths in and around Al Majaz

Figure 30- Al Majaz - Paths, Landmarks, Edges and Nodes

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


Al Khan Corniche and Al Majaz Island have strong paths that define the spaces. However these are linear paths and lack any significant landmarks or nodes. This may be because these spaces are along the main roads and there is very little buffer of empty space to place any elements that can be easily identified. However, both the sites do have one prominent high rise building that stands out.

Figure 33- Round balcony building near Al Majaz Island

Figure 32- Date palm in a high rise tower in Al Khan Corniche Street

5.2 SWOT The following table shows the SWOT analysis of the five nodes in the social axis. Each of the points are classified into Spatial, Social and Policy. Strengths Al Khan Fishing - close proximity Village to Sharjah Mall, Al Khan corniche and Al Qasba - Traditional occupation still practiced (fishing) Al Khan - Serene, Corniche peaceful Street - Undeveloped surroundings - No built structures

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

- Residential settlement - Restoration deterioration cycle

- Image of a cultural heritage - Unique location (beach)

- Sharjah Mall - Surrounding neighbourhoods urbanizing rapidly - Museumification

- Lack of amenities

- Beach - Close proximity to al qasba - Natural surroundings - City skyline background - Water sports

- Urbanization - Development leading to loss of unique experience in the city – not for broader user group

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


- Sort of a bypass, not on a main road

Al Qasba

Al Majaz waterfront

- Children’s play areas - Ferris wheel - Ample informal parking spaces - Easy to monitor kids - Spaces perceivable to human scale - Thriving social and cultural hub - Balance of different activities

- Sharjah fountain - Children’s play areas - Spaces perceivable to human scale - Dense surrounding urban fabric - Thriving social hub - Balance of different activities Al Majaz Island - Easily accessible from Al Qasba and Al Majaz - Thriving activities in Buheira corniche

- Low density, untouched by development- an asset inside the city - Active social life

- Unsustainable proposals in the vicinity (Mariam island proposal of upscale township)

- Overwhelming scale of the neighbourhoods

- Acts as a - Urbanization centroid to the leading to social axis congestion - Equidistant from all the nodes - Easily accessible - En route to dubai; enroute to heavy traffic in the evening - Mixed user groups

- Lack of adequate parking

- proximity to dense residential areas - proximity to Al Qasba - Strongly segregated as a recreational zone - Mixed user groups

- Lack of adequate parking

- Existing dense social fabric - Mixed user groups

Though this is not a quantitative measure, we can see that the maximum strengths of the social axis lie in its physical attributes. Considering that, it lies in the proximity of a dense urban fabric, the maximum threats too are in its physical attributes. However, the lack of policy aspect from the SWOT table should not be misleading. The policy makers deserve credit for making each of these nodes

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


successful as a single node. Where the policies have lacked is in the consideration of the overall axis. The possible reasons for this are discussed in the policy analysis. 5.3 Social Anaylsis The study area in consideration is a rare combination of various types of activities – historic site, traditional occupations, culture, arts, spaces of social interaction and recreation. Often such activities exist in contradiction to one another and it is a challenge to promote one without affecting the other. However, despite being in such close proximity, and having a strong physical link by means of a walkable pathway, all the activities integrate harmoniously. While doing so, each space retains its unique identity. Authenticity in this context has been defined by both the nature of activity and the nature of spaces. In the case of Al khan fishing village, though no structure stands today, the area can be called old and authentic due to flourishing fishing activity and docking yard still under use in the Al Khan lagoon.

Ros Kasprisin (Kasprisin 2011) quotes Soja who includes politics, science, social issues and interactions along with the customs and skills of a people in defining culture. The ‘Social axis’ forms a perfect nexus of all the contradictions that is Sharjah today. Rapid urbanization and sense of belonging, family oriented activities, recreational spaces and congestion, high rises and spaces of human scale, the heritage areas. It is a reflection of all the different aspects of Sharjah.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


The axis is active at all times of the day. The fishing activity happens early in the morning, Al Qasba and Al Majaz are active in the morning with enthusiastic fitness conscious crowds and later turn into a hub for social interaction during the evening.

Figure 34- Pedestrian density in the morning and evening

One common factor in all the nodes is the user group. The spaces attract families in large numbers and this is reflective of the culture that is being promoted in the emirate.

Figure 35- Al Khan corniche Street acts as a retreat from the city, in the city

5.4 Policy Analysis Despite successfully implementing policies to create individual nodes, there is a lack of comprehensive vision from the policy makers that takes into consideration the unique spatial arrangement of the area under study. It is important to look at the whole rather than the sum of its parts to enhance the cultural experience of the area and the emirate in general. One of the challenges to the policy makers is to identify the various government institutions involved in the planning of each of these nodes and bring them together in their vision for each node. Shurooq is responsible for Al Majaz, Qasba Development Authority for Al Qasba, Sharjah Media Council for Al Majaz Island and the Archaeology department for the Al Khan fishing village. Though Shurooq overlooks all the sites of tourist attractions in the emirate, all the nodes are treated individually in all the policy initiatives.

Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


It is important to understand the unique experience that the area has to offer for all the visitors and create awareness among the general public regarding the various activities taking place in the area and its accessibility from each node. There is also a need to promote, retain and enhance the existing experience rather than proposing new structures and in process destroying the very essence of the area.

6. Conclusion The spatial arrangement of the site under consideration is an important asset and conveys the multiple meanings of culture. It consists of a heritage area, a social and cultural centre, a park for recreation and a retreat. The combination of which generates a unique experience for the user. With Urbanization there is a constant threat of destruction to the quality of spaces. It is important to make planned proposals which take into consideration all the aspects of all the nodes. What is interesting is the visual perception of the spaces. Despite falling in a radius of 1 km from Al Qasba, the visual access to Al Qasba from most of the nodes give the axis a sense of human scale. Identifying the potential of these nodes and exploiting it to further enhance the image of Sharjah as the cultural capital of the Arab world is necessary to retain this unique experience the city has to offer its residents and visitors.

7. References Almajaz. 2013. Sharjah Fountain. Accessed January 2, 2014. www.almajaz.ae/attraction-sharjahfountain.html. Almarcegui, Lara. 2001. Description of the abandoned fishing village of Al Khan. 16 January. Accessed December 28, 2013. http://www.bibliobox.org/index.php?pageid=40&project_id=101&action=project&ref=start. Bee'ah. 2009. State of the Environment in the Emirate of Sharjah, UAE. 15 August. Accessed January 4, 2014. http://www.kleanindustries.com/s/environmental_market_industry_news.asp?ReportID=46 6971. Fleihan, Tarek S. 2004. Al Khan renovation project in the offing. 3 July. Accessed December 28, 2013. http://www.khaleejtimes.com/Displayarticle.asp?section=theuae&xfile=data/theuae/2004/j uly/theuae_july46.xml. Kakande, Yasin. 2013. Sharjah’s Dh140m man-made island to be ready in 90 days for Islamic Culture Capital festivities. 15 December. Accessed January 3, 2014. http://www.thenational.ae/uae/heritage/sharjahs-dh140m-man-made-island-to-be-readyin-90-days-for-islamic-culture-capital-festivities. Kasprisin, Ron. 2011. Urban Design : The composition of complexity. Taylor and Francis. KhaleejTimes. 2010. Sharjah’s Al Majaz Park getting major makeover. 29 June. Accessed January 3, 2014. Master of Urban Planning, American University of Sharjah


http://www.khaleejtimes.com/DisplayArticle09.asp?xfile=data/theuae/2010/June/theuae_J une761.xml&section=theuae. Leijen, Majorie van. 2013. Sharjah reveals new tourist attraction: Al Majaz Island. 9 December. Accessed January 2, 2014. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/sharjah-revealsnew-tourist-attraction-al-majaz-island-2013-12-09-1.530677. —. 2013. Sharjah reveals new tourist attraction: Al Majaz Island. 9 December. Accessed January 2014. http://www.emirates247.com/news/emirates/sharjah-reveals-new-tourist-attractional-majaz-island-2013-12-09-1.530677. Moughtin, Cliff, Rafael Cuesta, Christine Sarris, and Paola Signoretta. 1999. Urban Design : Methods and Techniques. Oxford: Architectural Press. Nowell, John J. 2003. Now and Then : Sharjah. Zodiac publishing. Serkal, Mariam M. Al. 2012. Sharjah gets new giant musical fountain. 25 February. Accessed January 2, 2014. http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/society/sharjah-gets-new-giant-musicalfountain-1.986202. Shah, Zulfiqar. 2012. Al Majaz Waterfront Sharjah exceeded one million visitors in the first half of 2012. 29 August. Accessed January 2, 2014. http://dubaipost.wordpress.com/2012/08/29/1168/. Sharjahtourism. 2010. Sharjah in Brief. Accessed January 3, 2014. http://www.sharjahtourism.ae/en/about-sharjah/sharjah-in-brief. Shurooq. 2010. Al Majaz Waterfront. Accessed January 2, 2014. http://shurooq.gov.ae/en/project/our-developments/al-majaz-waterfront.html. —. 2011. Al Qasba. Accessed January 2, 2014. http://shurooq.gov.ae/en/project/ourdevelopments/al-qasba.html. —. 2014. Our Story. Accessed January 3, 2014. http://shurooq.gov.ae/en/section/our-story. —. 2011. “Sharjah: Prosperous & Progressive.” Shurooq. Accessed December 28, 2013. http://www.alqasba.ae/shared/shurooq_presentation_v15.pdf. Simpson, Colin. 2011. Ancient settlements detected at Dalma Island and Al Khan. 2 November. Accessed December 28, 2013. http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/ancientsettlements-detected-at-dalma-island-and-al-khan. —. 2012. Archaeologists find historical secrets beneath Sharjah. 21 December. Accessed December 28, 2013. http://www.thenational.ae/news/uae-news/heritage/archaeologists-findhistorical-secrets-beneath-sharjah. WAM. 2008. Sharjah ruler inaugurates Sharjah Aquarium. 6 June. Accessed January 3, 2014. http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/uae/environment/sharjah-ruler-inaugurates-sharjahaquarium-1.110592. Wikipedia. 2014. Sharjah (emirate). 7 January. Accessed January 3, 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharjah_(emirate).

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The Social Axis, Sharjah