Sharjah (shärjäˈ) [key], sheikhdom (1995 pop. 400,339), c.1,000 sq mi (2,590 sq km), part of the federation of seven United Arab Emirates, SE Arabia, on the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The modernized town of Sharjah (1995 pop. 320,095), on the Persian Gulf, is the third largest town in the federation, and has been developed especially as an art museum, cultural, and educational center as well as a commercial center. Oil has been produced in Sharjah since 1961. Formerly a British protectorate, Sharjah was the site of a British base until 1971, when the British withdrew from the Persian Gulf and Sharjah joined the United Arab Emirates. Its ports have long been important both strategically and commercially.