Al Noor Island: A tranquil destination fashioned by art and nature

The island brings nature, art and architecture together in one fascinating composition inspired by Austrian artist Andre Heller.
Sunday 01/07/2018
A winding pathway on Al Noor Island, with the skyline of Sharjah city in the background.(Shurooq)
A winding pathway on Al Noor Island, with the skyline of Sharjah city in the background.(Shurooq)

SHARJAH - As part of its development vision, Sharjah has sought to create unique destinations that engage people with nature and highlight artistic and cultural values. One of those projects is the 45,470-sq.metre Al Noor Island being developed in the city.

Near Buhaira Corniche, Al Noor Island can be reached via the winding pedestrian bridge across Khalid Lagoon, beside the famous Al Noor Mosque, an architectural landmark of Ottoman architecture characterised with multiple domes.

As one approaches the thick green canopy of trees, the golden structure of the main building on the idyllic island, which features the Butterfly House, looms large. Long before one reaches the island, visitors hear hundreds of birds chirping, a sign that a special tryst with Mother Nature awaits.

The island brings nature, art and architecture together in one fascinating composition inspired by Austrian artist Andre Heller.

The main attractions are spread out but easily accessible. A tourist in a hurry can take in the entire island in about 40 minutes. Those who want to linger can easily spend a whole day there.

On the island, one can find the main nature-inspired, ergonomically designed structure that encloses the Butterfly House and the cafe within a few steps. The Butterfly House, a glass-enclosed aviary that recreates a tropical environment and atmospheric ambience by letting in natural light and retaining humidity, has butterflies of all hues, patterns and designs gracefully fluttering around and transporting visitors into a wonderland of colours.

With its ornamentally perforated shadow roof inspired by ornate Arab windows (mashrabiya), the aviary houses exotic butterflies native to a variety of countries.

Butterfly species include the African Monarch (Danaus chrysippus), the Autumn Leaf (Doleschallia bisaltide) from India and the Common Rose swallowtail butterfly (Pachliopta aristolochiae), which is found across South-East Asia and is known for its bright colouration and unique wing pattern.

The layout aims to provide insight and education into the delicate balance of nature and its living environment.

Al Noor Island’s greenery consists of local and imported plants and trees; tall, medium and small woody and evergreen trees with brown and black spines, low and medium-sized tropical shrubs, cacti, fast-growing and spreading herbaceous groundcover, trees with flowers of various colours, thorny ornamental vines, bushes and roses.

Visitors can take the winding, wooden pathways to every corner of the island at a leisurely pace. At every turn, one can be surprised by native and exotic birds of passage, as well as a carefully curated collection of art installations from around the world.

The egg-shaped “OVO” installation over a water setting combines wood and LED lighting to create a stunning visual treat at nightfall.

The shiny mirror-polished “Torus” sculpture by David Harber distorts its surroundings in reflections and challenges our visual perceptions.

Two Fossil Crystal Rocks, an illuminated rock crystal that is about 300 million years old, and a large amethyst lava blister stand as guardians to the island.

Edgar Tezak’s ornamental, flower-shaped metal sculpture, Susanne Schmogner’s colourfully painted “Columns” sculpture and Monika GilSing’s flag installations titled “Wind Images” embody the harmoniously magical spirit of nature on the island.

Also near the entrance to the island is the Literature Pavilion, a place of quiet and secluded calm. Gently lilting, instrumental music beckons visitors to the pavilion, with its pink-ceilinged, white structure with white curtains swaying in the wind offering a sense of privacy. The soothing sounds of a fountain and curved seating areas, with colourful cushions, provide additional incentive to sit down, write a few lines or curl up with a favourite book.

Many of the trees were saved from destruction from elsewhere. An open photo exhibition of birds on the island by local and international photographers — mounted on tree trunks — on one part of the island makes the winding journey more entertaining and informative.

Not far from the Literature Pavilion is the Cactus Garden, housing an interesting collection of specimens.

In late evening, Al Noor Island comes into its own. Incredible atmospheric lighting displays of twinkling fairly lights, warm glow and bright neon beckon, inviting explorations of nature and art.

The journey of amazement through Al Noor Island is an experience a visitor will never forget.

The exterior view of the nature-inspired main structure of the Butterfly House.(Shurooq)
The exterior view of the nature-inspired main structure of the Butterfly House.(Shurooq)
The egg-shaped “OVO” installation.(Shurooq)
The winding pedestrian bridge across Khalid Lagoon with the famous Al Noor Mosque in the background.(Shurooq)
The winding pedestrian bridge across Khalid Lagoon with the famous Al Noor Mosque in the background.(Shurooq)
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