The new kid on the block
An hour’s drive from the glitz of downtown Dubai, popular with footballers’ wives and reality TV ‘stars’, lies the new and exciting holiday destination of Ras Al Khaimah – RAK to its friends. It’s one of the seven Emirates that make up the UAE. The capital, also called Ras Al Khaimah, is where most of the population of around 400,000 live, making it the sixth-largest city in the Emirates.
In the early 1800s the area was known as the Pirate Coast, due to many raids on British shipping, although the then Sultan, Al Qasimi, denied this. It was also the springboard for the launch of two British led campaigns in the Persian Gulf in 1809 and 1819.
With its wide, unspoiled landscape of vast desert, 40 miles of perfect beach and majestic mountains, RAK has so much to offer. With evidence of human habitation stretching back seven thousand years, the Emirate is a fascinating mix of ancient and modern, beaches and mountains, and activities ranging from total relaxation and exploring historical sites to adrenalin sports and the world’s longest zip line. The focus is on nature, leisure, adventure, sustainability, accessibility and authenticity.
The Emirate, currently the Gulf Tourism Capital for 2021, was the first destination in the world to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) Safe Travels certification, and since October has been offering free Covid PCR tests to inbound travellers, the first in the world to do this. Efforts such as these, with costs absorbed by the tourism board rather than passed on to visitors, have resulted in it being classed as Covid-safe, including all 46 of its hotels.
Ras Al Khaimah has recently announced a £96m investment to develop its tourism industry, focussing on over twenty exciting and sustainable developments. They include paragliding and a fixed hot-air balloon viewing platform at Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak. Jebel Jais is also home to the world’s longest zip-line. Adventure seekers reach speeds of up to 75 mph on this amazing ride. The mountains also host the Bear Grills Survival Academy, teaching the skills necessary to enjoy the mountains and desert in safety.
Work is underway on several hiking health and safety improvements on Jebel Jais, including the installation of markers and reflectors, implementation of Hikers Safety & Registration gates, lower trail restoration, a new trail development, safety and information boards as well as a hiker’s shower room and shaded picnic benches at vantage hiking spots.
Set in the dunes of Ras Al Khaimah, the Bedouin Oasis camp offers guests the chance to spend a night in a traditional setting under the clear starry sky. Guests can also enjoy a variety of fun-filled activities and explore the desert terrains of Ras Al Khaimah on a desert safari with the thrills of a quad bike ride. For more traditional means of travel, camel trekking delivers an authentic experience and a chance to see the desert flora and fauna. In the evening, there’s live entertainment and a mouth-watering buffet dinner.
Back on the beach, where most of the hotels are situated, you’ll find a scallop-ranch at Al Hamra Marine, offering oyster and scallop diving, live cooking, family and kids’ experiences, and cultural marine ecosystem with seagrass and sea cucumber species within the farm.
In the small fishing village of Al Rams, the Suwaidi Pearls farm sits at the bottom of the majestic Al Hajar mountain range. Created by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, this is the first farm of its kind in the region, offering visitors a chance to experience the Gulf region’s long history of pearling. The farm cultivates the Pinctada Radiata, otherwise known as the Gulf pearl oyster, using locally sourced molluscs that live in the natural creek in Al Rams.
There’s accommodation to suit all tastes with three, four and five-star hotels, suites and villas, a Bedouin oasis camp, desert village and more.
If you prefer mountains, then the new Base camp Jais will suit you. It offers affordable accommodation for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers as well as a range of activities such as yoga and Emirati live cooking, and acts as a leisure hub at the base of the rugged mountains.
There’s no doubt that Ras Al Khaimah is set to become a major destination for visitors of all ages.
Although it has its own airport, many international visitors fly into Dubai and then travel the sixty miles north to RAK by road transfer.