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Ras Al Khaimah

Updated on 09.06.2018

In this article we will explore Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) by reviewing its history and main tourist attractions to visit. Some featured sites are the subject of another more detailed article with information for the visit.

Night View of Ras Al Khaimah Museum, United Arab Emirates ©Odyfolio

History of Ras Al Khaimah

The first traces of settlement in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah date back to 5500 BC, as evidenced by the remains of residential roofs discovered along the South coast. Historians assume that Bedouins were the first inhabitants during winter periods. Around 2000 BC, the region was traversed by trade routes that then criss-crossed Mesopotamia. During this period, the so-called Umm Al-Nar civilization built circular tombs. It can be found in various places in the United Arab Emirates, particularly in the north of Ras Al Khaimah. Other archaeological excavations of the Bronze and Iron ages attest to sedentary populations engaged in fishing and agriculture.

In the centuries that followed, Ras Al Khaimah established itself as a major trading port that was coveted by many local powers and tribes. Persians, Portuguese, Dutch and British succeeded one another in Ras Al Khaimah and the city had different names like Julfar, Majan or Al Seer. The fortresses of the emirate testify to being agitated. Sailors traded to Zanzibar, India and China. In the twenty-first century, Duarte Barbosa, who became a navigator companion to Magellan, told of a prosperous port where great navigators and merchants were established.

Al Qawasin, the reigning family of Ral al-Khaimah, are the direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. They greatly extended the influence of the emirate as far as Persia and Karachi in Pakistan. In the nineteenth century they had setbacks with the British authorities who called them pirates. The reputation of pirates long remained associated with the inhabitants of Ras Al Khaimah wrongly, since the British had abused this pretext to control a commercial rival on the road of India. Fragilized by the capture of Egypt by Napoleon Bonaparte, who then controlled the Red Sea, the British approached the power of Muscat, the rival of the Qawasim. In 1806, under British firepower, the Sheikh is forced to surrender. Until 1820, year of signing a peace treaty with all the Arab tribes and Britain, the navy of his majesty will lead several raids on the city. Ras Al Khaimah never recovered and Dubai took the leadership of the trade in the Persian Gulf.

RAK in the 21st century: Fiscal paradise and tourism

Today Ras Al Khaimah is developing its economy by offering exceptional conditions to foreign investors. Contrary to the rules in force in the rest of the United Arab Emirates, foreign investors can own 100% of the companies and are not obliged to have a local activity. Their capital is totally exempt from tax, as well as the transfer of dividends. A tax haven that appeals to Asian and European investors, with opportunities for discretion and virtual offices.

Unlike Dubai and Abu Dhabi where life is expensive, especially real estate, Ras Al Khaimah is less expensive which appeal to many service companies and industry. Combined with access to cheap labor mainly from the Indian subcontinent, RAK has developed a dynamic economic fabric. The city's flagship company is RAK Ceramics, world leader in high-end ceramics. Note the French glassmaker Arc International which has impressive facilities.

Ras Al Khaimah also develops tourism. While it is difficult to coexist next to Dubai's reputation, the emirate has invested in high-end hotel facilities and relied on seasonal charter flights landing directly at its airport, and targeting a European clientele, including East.

Visit Ras Al Khaimah

Like everything in the north of Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah is disdained by expatriates residing in the emirates. While it is true that the city is not full of tourist and cultural attractions, it is an interesting city in a tourist circuit with some unique sights and a quiet seaside destination.

Coming from the south from Dubai, along the coastal road, and twenty kilometers before entering the city center of Ras Al Khaimah, is Al Jazirah Al Hamra, a former fishing village today abandoned, and that it is said it's haunted.

A few hundred meters down the road is Iceland Water Park, a water park that promises an ice pack in the middle of the desert.

Then having crossed the southern suburbs of the city, taking a look at the facilities of RAK Ceramics, an important local ceramic industry, enter the city center. Ras Al Khaimah is a rather conservative city. Its beautiful beaches are not frequented by tourists in swimsuits with the exception of seaside hotels. Nothing remarkable in the city, with mainly small stalls selling spare parts for cars. A few shopping malls that look provincial. We advise you to visit the National Museum (RAK National Museum) located in Al Hish Fort, the former residence of the Sheikh. It traces part of the history of this maritime power led by the Qawassim family and exposes some archaeological objects discovered in the region. If you have already visited several forts-museums of the small emirates of the coast, the visit of this one may seem to you repetitive....

If Ras Al Kaimah is for you a stopover town before you go to Mussadam or Fujairah, we recommend you to stay in a small hotel along the corniche and there you walk in the evening. Some restaurants including a pizzeria with terrace and music in the evening, one of the only pleasant places to dine outside hotels.

About twenty kilometers east of the city are the Khatt springs. These thermal waters at 40 degrees Celsius are rich in sodium bicarbonates. To enjoy it you can pay a ticket to 15AED to public baths. Men and women are separated. For more comfort, head to the Golden Tulip hotel at the top of the hill, but do not expect luxurious amenities (it's a four-star hotel that's long ago finished its heyday - there's very often promotions approximately 500AED per night).

In the North East of the city, three archaeological sites of small importance will be able to interest you. They are all located within a radius of 5 kilometers, the junction for access to the first site is 10 kilometers north of the city on the main road.

Continuing much further north on the main road, you will reach Dhayah Fort. Unlike the archaeological sites mentioned above, the fort of Dhayah is very well preserved. Located on a rocky promontory, it offers a beautiful point of observation of the coast and palm groves.

Ras Al Khaimah Hotels

Map of Ras Al Khaimah

Map of Ras Al Khaimah emirate with major sights (United Arab Emirates) ©OpenStreetMap contributors

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