Sharjah's Rolla Square set to receive Dh22m facelift

Fenced off for two years, the popular meeting place will be transformed into a park with more than half its area as green space.

Renovation of the park area. Rolla square, Sharjah, 11th January 2011. Duncan Chard for the National
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SHARJAH // Rolla Square, a local landmark which has been fenced off for two years, will be turned into a public park at a cost of Dh22million, officials have announced.

Work on the project will be completed by the start of next year, said Abdullah al Mualla, the Sharjah Municipality director general. Part of an ongoing development project in the emirate, the park will have seven fountains and a cafeteria designed in the shape of a tree.

The square’s nearly 3.7 hectares of land will have 60 per cent of its area set aside as green space and the remainder will be used for paths and facilities. It is situated near a bus station, an outdoor market and the Sharjah historical area, making it the crux of the local landscape.

“Rolla Square has been one of the most historical and major crowd pullers in Sharjah for many years,” Mr al Mualla said. “We want to make it the best and keep its good reputation.”

A complete list of facilities to be included in the development had not been finalised, Mr al Mualla said. The possibilities included a children’s playground, he said. Funding for the project will come from the emirate’s coffers. The development is not part of a recently announced infusion of Federal infrastructure money for the northern emirates.

Architectural consultancy firms consulted with municipal officials to develop a plan for the square that meets modern standards and preserves the emirate’s heritage and Islamic architectural styles.

The square, itself listed among the emirate’s historical sites, was named for the planting of the first banyan tree, or ‘rolla’ in Arabic, by Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqer Al Qasimi in the 19th century, according to the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority.

The tree, which grew wide and tall within a few years, became a popular shady spot for the area for people waiting for cargoes being either loaded or unloaded at the nearby port.

That legacy was later carried on by workers of different nationalities who used to assemble at the square as a meeting point to share news or take shelter during hot weather. It was one of the biggest open spaces in Sharjah until it was fenced off, featuring dozens of banyan trees where local residents could take their ease after a hard day’s work.

“Going to Rolla Square on Friday night had become part of my life,” said Abu Saibal, a Bangladeshi who works in the Rolla Market. “There we would meet with many people from my country to talk about things at home. After the municipality fenced it we struggled to find a place like this one.”

Mr Saibal also voiced concern that the park might become out of bounds to single workers like himself once it was re-opened to the public. He said the authorities should keep in mind that the emirate’s open spaces were for all to enjoy.

“That place belongs to us and I would ask the municipality to give it back to us,” he said.

The square was also popular with vendors before it closed. They sold sweets, foods and toys to the crowd there. It is near a business district featuring shops, supermarkets, hotels, gift shops and branches of local and international banks.

"There are many business destinations in Sharjah but Rolla is unique," said Attallah Mohammed, a shop owner in the neighbourhood. " It offers a huge range of goods and services that caters to all kinds of people, rich and poor."