The Proverbial Ras Al Khaimah
There’s more to this emirate than the flashy makeover that has made it a resort and adventure destination over the past several years. Here are ways to discover RAK’s well-preserved traditions — but with a modern twist.
There’s an Arabic saying “Time doesn’t change, time reveals.” The proverb couldn’t be truer for Ras Al Khaimah, an emirate that has languidly revealed itself over the 7,000 years it has been continuously inhabited. And while the past has left its mark on the region, it also continues to influence its present and embolden its future — from yachting on the high seas to robot-controlled camel racing.
Arabic Proverb: “The fruit of silence is tranquility.”
How to do it: Hike Jebel Jais Mountain
The tallest mountain in the UAE delivers all the stillness and serenity you could hope for from a natural behemoth that stands 6,345 feet above sea level and delivers over 70 million years of history during one hike. Follow in the footsteps of the mountain tribes of Al Shehhi, Al Hebssi and Al Dohoori and perhaps enjoy sightings of reptiles, camels, foxes, birds and wildcats. Hiking options range from the leisurely to the rigorous, while nature provides respite in the oases of Wadi Shawka and Wadi Sham. jebeljais.ae
Arabic Proverb: “Trust in God, but tie up your camel.”
How to do it: Head to Al Sawan Camel Race Track
With racing season between October and March, a visit to Al Sawan is a strictly early morning affair, with Friday meets held from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. The colorfully adorned camels stretching their legs on this lengthy track are marvelous to watch — and so are the racers who control their robot jockeys from the comfort of their air-conditioned 4X4s as they drive alongside the track. Conservative attire is suggested.
Arabic Proverb: “Every sun has to set.”
How to do it: Visit the ghost town of Al Jazirah Al Hamra
For over 100 years, the inhabitants of Al Jazirah Al Hamra, which lies to the south of RAK city, earned their living from the flourishing pearl trade. Following a tribal dispute, one day the villagers upped and left, leaving behind what is tantamount to an open-air museum. It has become famous for the way it showcases a traditional — and lost — way of life, and for the ghostly tales that surround it. Immerse yourself in the coral-stone architecture, fortress and courtyards of this fascinating time warp.
Arabic Proverb: “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.”
How to do it: Dine at Al Fanar Restaurant and Café
This rustic restaurant has long served up authentic emirati cuisine to visitors from across the globe who flock here not just for the food but for the atmosphere. Come for the dishes — highlights include the Beidh wa tomat and the Machboos deyay — and stay for the traditional architecture and ambience, which the restaurant likes to describe as “Dubai in the 1960s.” Here, even dinner beggars can be choosers. Sheikh Mohamed Bin Salem Road, alfanarrestaurant.com
Arabic Proverb: “Ask your purse what you should buy.”
How to do it: Shop the Al Marjan Night Market
As modern as Ras Al Khaimah is ancient, Al Marjan is a series of four interconnected man-made islands in the west of the emirate, which, thanks to the five-star resorts, marinas and boutiques, has become a haven for those seeking to indulge their luxurious side. Here, you will find the locally beloved Night Market, held Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 10 p.m. Created in the style of a traditional Arabic flea market, it’s where you can cut a deal on pieces you won’t find in stores, as well as enjoy nightly entertainment and food from light bites to sit-down meals. Al Marjan Island, Promenade Area
Arabic Proverb: “You can’t change the wind, but you can adjust the sail.”
How to do it: Hit the water with Al Hamra Marina & Yacht Club
As intrinsic to RAK culture as the salt-loving mangrove, sailing is de rigueur in the waters of the Persian Gulf. Eschew the turbo-powered watersports on offer at most beachside resorts in favor of renting a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from The Royal Yacht Club of Ras Al Khaimah, which enjoys the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah. For the most seasoned and saltiest of sea dogs, there’s also the opportunity to rent one of four sailing boats to take to the calm waters yourself. Bern Street, alhamramarina.com
Plan Your Stay in these Destinations
Location Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Beach
Experience A beachfront oasis offering both tranquility and adventure.
- Located on a secluded beach with boat arrival
- Intimate Private Pool Villas with direct access to a pristine beach
- Destination dining in beach private cabanas