A U.A.E. paper said that if progress holds key then Sharjah is galloping. The culturally rich Emirate has ratcheted up its heft of being a major tourist destination in the Middle East with its first water and amusement park, which will be opening its gates to the public next month "The Al Montazah Park boasts a slew of state-of-the-art amenities and top quality services, which will be a delight not just for families of residents living in the emirate but visitors too. The park is expected to draw more than a million visitors during its first year of operations", The Gulf Today, said in its editorial comment on Monday. The project comes under the aegis of Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), whose chairperson is Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi. Sharjah has been making full-frontal efforts in pushing the boundaries of development. Its travel and leisure sector is likely to hit Dh1.49 billion by 2016, while its tourism's contribution to Sharjah's GDP is expected to touch around 12 per cent the same year. For its part, Shurooq has been a key driving force in the exponential progress of business in the emirate. Last week, Shurooq was named The Banking Awards 2013 - FDI Agency of the Year in the MENA region in The European's Global Banking and Finance Awards. Marwan Bin Jassim Al Sarkal, CEO of Shurooq, points out that Sharjah maintains a unique position in the U.A.E., with the most diversified economy in the country. Last month, the Sharjah Media Centre unveiled the Al Majaz Island project, to be launched by Sharjah as part of the Sharjah Capital of Islamic Culture 2014 celebrations. The island, the official venue of the Sharjah Capital of Islamic Culture 2014 Celebrations, interestingly will have an open-air Roman-style amphitheatre. "All these ventures would not have seen fruition but for the generous guidance and inspiring leadership of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah", added the paper. Sheikh Sultan has not just been instrumental in spearheading economic growth in Sharjah, but also provided the afflatus for putting the emirate on the global cultural map. He has been a scintillating beacon for firmly establishing the Sharjah International Book Fair as a major academic draw. More than a million book lovers from the U.A.E. and around the globe flocked to the SIBF last year. Sheikh Sultan ushered in the new year by issuing an emiri decree establishing the Arab Forum for Publishers of Children's Books. He has just not focused on fostering intellectual growth. He has also paid considerable attention to conservation of natural habitat which has become a priority for the Emirate of Sharjah. The establishment of Sharjah Seed Bank and Herbarium Research Laboratory (SSBH) at the University of Sharjah last month is a crucial step forward towards the conservation of the natural ecosystems of the entire region. Sheikh Sultan has also his pulse on the needs of the people. This month, he settled 456 debt cases out of 800 cases in which Emiratis were convicted in courts. Sharjah has also played a key role in humanitarian services around the globe, be it in alleviating the suffering of Syrian refugees or Bangladeshi children badly in need of treatment for heart problems, To help the Syrian refugees cope with the harsh, biting cold of winter, the Big Heart campaign has given a $2 million donation for life-saving shelter in October last year. The donation was presented on behalf of the campaign's donors by the patron, Sheikha Jawaher Bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of Sheikh Sultan and UNHCR eminent advocate for refugee children. It will help put roofs over the heads of 600 families, or about 3,500 grateful beneficiaries. The Sharjah Charity Association (SCA) has organised a "Small Hearts" campaign in Bangladesh to provide medical treatment to children suffering from heart problems. "Sharjah's role in all-round development of the nation is very significant. It has served to beef up the U.A.E.'s image as a shining template of not just economic growth but also charity and compassion all over the world", concluded the paper.