Steeped in history, and one of the United Arab Emirates, Ras al Khaimah may not be as well known as the expanding metropolises of Abu Dhabi and Dubai but it is perfect for those seeking a quiet holiday in an Arab setting.
Boasting a diverse landscape, it has rugged mountain scenery with the Hajar mountains in the east while it also features golden sands that are lapped by the Arabian Gulf to the west. Everything in-between is dramatic desert plain filled with history, culture and adventure. It is a delight of warm weather, hidden treasures and seclusion from the more tourist battered destinations.
With natural surroundings, it is a place that is filled with charm and character. While its glitzy neighbours have created new world cities that attract people from across the planet, heading to Ras al Kkaimah gives you the chance to get a taste for the authentic old Arab world.
Gain an insight into the history of the place at the National Museum. Found in Sultan’s old palace, the architecture and courtyard are in classic style and great way to kick off a day in the city. It’s an interesting, well maintained place that houses some items that are 6000 years old. Well worth a couple of hours, and the views from the tower are wonderful. Still got a thirst for knowledge? The Ras al Khaimah Pearls Museum is a recent addition to the downtown area and is a smart place that shows the importance of pearls and how they shaped the culture and economy of the place.
The abandoned and ruined ‘ghost town’ at Jazirat al Hamra has been uninhabited since 1968. It is a touching part of the past with an interesting story. The former fishing village is the oldest historical site in the UAE and will give you a glimpse into pre-oil life when fishing and pearling was the main industry. Walk along the streets and enjoy the atmospheric feel in this town that saw settlers arrive in the 14th century. Be sure not to miss the Dhayah fort and prehistoric Shimal.
Take a short visit to downtown Ras al Khaimah to get a tour of the small city. It will take little more than half an hour but you will see a developing skyline with plenty of construction as well as stunning views of the Gulf and mountains. Prefer a bird’s eye view? Take a flight in the Microlight Airplane for a different perspective. Don’t miss the chance to barter for a bargaining in one of the souks that are dotted around the Old City. A great way to see Ras al Khaimah at its best, you can pick up jewellery, fabrics and spices from local sellers.
Ras al Khaimah gets incredibly warm in the desert sun so cool off in the wonderful Iceland Water Park. It is an artic water park that has been built around penguins and you can enjoy a near-vertical plunge or rides down Polar Mountain.
Looking for something a little more active? The mountain ranges in the United Arab Emirates are stunning and you can take hiking tours with various companies. Along the way you can explore villages, water wells and old houses as well as taking in the stunning scenery and views along the way.
Take time to relax at the Khatt Springs. It is a famed oasis with sulphuric water hot springs that are supposed to have relaxing and therapeutic properties. It has been popular for hundreds of years and, adjacent to the Hajar Mountains and looks like a castle. You drive through the lush town of Khatt during the 20 minute drive here and can choose from numerous treatments within the complex.
When night falls take a tour into the desert and experience live in a village. The tours come in a variety of fashions but are based around the same activities as sand dune riding and camel riding which is finished with traditional Arabic foods and belly dancing. While there isn’t a huge selection of nightlife here, the mix of traditional and international bars along the coastline do make for a vibrant evening. Alternatively, you can hop in a taxi and head down to Dubai and spend the evening dancing the night away in one of their super clubs.
Ras al Khaimah runs at a different tempo to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but it is a great tourist destination in its own right. A short trip from the former, you can enjoy everything from hiking to sun bathing. Although advancing rapidly, this city has more of an authentic feel to it and you can be drawn in by the charm and character of a more traditional emirate.
Ideal if you are looking for a trip to a desert city in the Middle East but don’t want to head to the bustling hotspots, there is plenty to do across the diverse landscape. Relax, explore and discover a classic Arab setting by choosing Ras al Khaimah for your next holiday.
Things to do in Ras al Khaimah:
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Being little more than an hour on Emirates Road from Dubai, packing for Ras al Khaimah is the same as packing for a trip to anywhere across the United Arab Emirates.
Warm all year round, it is always essential to take some high factor sunscreen for the daytime. On top of this, a sun hat will prove incredibly useful to provide cover for your face and neck. With so much heat to contend with, you need to have clothing that is light coloured. Light chinos and shirts are standard staples for day wear, while in the evening you might want a dress short and some trousers for a smart casual look.
Don’t forget your swimwear, along with some appropriate cover clothing, as a lot of time will be spent on the golden sands of the beaches. On your feet, sandals are probably better than flip-flops in the desert and a pair of trainers will be important for any excursions or trips.
As with any popular tourist destination, you can get toiletries and medicines quite easily from the stores but always pack your personal essentials.
Like the rest of the Emirates, Ras al Khaimah has a very hot, desert climate and that gives you two seasons to enjoy – a hot summer and a mild-to-hot winter. The former starts in April as the average temperature rises to 31ºC, in July it shoots up to 40ºC and this is coupled with extremely high humidity with no rain throughout the season. This can be a problem for visitors although the nights are warm yet comfortable.
October marks the start of winter in Ras al Khaimah and this is when the temperature drops. Fluctuating between the high teens and late twenties, it is a lot easier to plan trips around the city at this time. Nights are a lot cooler while you can even get rain from January through March.
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