SHARJAH // In the 19th century, the Ruler of Sharjah planted a banyan tree in the heart of what is now the emirate’s city.
More trees followed, and the green space became one of the most popular meeting places in the area – cool, shady and inviting.
New generations of Sharjah residents will be able to enjoy the 3.7-hectare area even more after a Dh22 million redevelopment is completed early in the new year, after almost four years of work.
They have been given a sneak preview as the gates to Rolla Square Park were thrown open for the National Day week, after an inauguration ceremony by Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah.
“The influx of people was unbelievable. The park was packed with families during and after the inauguration,” said Tajamel Mahmoud, a security guard at the site, which is open until the end of the week.
The main fountain in the middle of the square was full of splashing children, while others ran wild in the wide open spaces.
Maciek Zeleszkiewic, a Pole who arrived to Sharjah three years ago, was at the park with his daughter, aged 1.
“It’s so clean and beautiful,” said Mr Zeleszkiewic.
“My girl is enjoying her aimless walk. She refuses to sit, she is enjoying the space.”
“There are not a lot of good places near this area for my daughter, I’m going to try to come here every day while it’s still open.”
The parkland was named after the banyan tree – known locally as rolla – planted by Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi, according to the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.
The tree grew wide and tall, and over time it became a meeting place for workers, who would sit beneath it and talk with friends.
During the summer months they would shelter from the scorching heat in the tree’s shade.
The park, listed among the emirate’s historical sites, is close to the city’s bus station and an outdoor market. It was one of the biggest open spaces in Sharjah until it was closed off, with dozens of banyan trees.
Smitha Sandeep from India watched Sheikh Sultan’s visit on Tuesday from her balcony overlooking the park.
“I’m so excited now that the park is open,” Ms Sandeep said. “It’s close by for our kids, we can monitor them from our balconies.”
“It was overcrowded yesterday. I thought I would bring my little daughter to play here early in the day.”
Angel Abart, from the Philippines, was enjoying a chat with her friend in the shade of the park’s famous trees.
“I heard about this place only yesterday so I came to check it out with my friend,” Ms Abart said. “The trees are amazing and the weather is really good. I will be coming here more often.”
Once completed, 60 per cent of the revamped park will be set aside as green space, with the remainder used for paths and other facilities for visitors.
It will contain seven fountains and a cafeteria designed in the shape of a tree.