Ras al Khaimah

رأس الخيمة‎

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The most northerly of the United Arab Emirates, Ras al Khaimah (the head of the tent) was also the last to join the union in 1972. The emirate is capped to the north by the Musandam area of Oman, and is where the Hajar mountains meet the sea. Unlike its bigger neighbours to the south, RAK has a more laid back style, but it's not without its own touristic and property developments, particularly around the Al Hamra area.

As a family we went up to Ras al Khaimah in the 1980s, and I was to return again a couple of times in 2011 whilst living in Dubai. We stayed on one occasion at the Al Hamra Fort Hotel in a villa-style hotel room, and I did a little exploring up in the mountains nearby looking for archeological ruins.

Ras al Khaimah

Ras al Khaimah city has a population of around 200,000, and sits dotted with minarets between the water of the Persian Gulf and the rugged slopes of the Hajar Mountains.

Like many cities in the Gulf, RAK's previous fortunes were based around the pearling industry, commemorated in a Pearl Roundabout in the centre of town, not unlike the one in Doha.

Pearl Roundabout

Old dhow in RAK port

The city is built around a large natural harbour, with small dhows bobbing about on the briney.

Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi became ruler of Ras al Khaimah following the death of Saqr bin Muhammad al-Qasimi in 2010, the last remaining UAE ruler who saw the country to independence in 1971.

Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi

Boats in RAK harbour

Another shot of the boats in RAK harbour, with a mosque on the skyline.

RAK National Museum is one of the emirate's attractions, showcasing local artefacts and history in an old fort building in the centre of the city.

RAK National Museum

Al Hamra Mall

South of old RAK, the new developments at Jazirat al Hamra are fronted by the shiny Al Hamra Mall.

Not to be outdone by its neighbours to the south, Ras al Khaimah has also been building its own offshore island real estate developments at Jazirat al Hamra (Al Hamra Island).

Jazirat al Hamra

Al Hamra Fort Hotel

Al Hamra Fort Hotel sits at a seafront location looking west, affording golden sunsets in the desert heat. heat.

Outside of town, I went exploring to find old archeological remains in the mountains, and was pleased to find that previous explorers had been kind enough to build me a flight of stairs.

Mountain steps

Old fort near RAK

At the peak of the hill sits a ruined fort area, an interesting little site and one of few in the region. The flags had just been put up for UAE National Day.

The man responsible for erecting the National Day flags surveys the village below.

Surveying the land below

Flag painted on the mountain

Further patriotism was evident with the national flags painted on the mountainside - I've also seen this in Hatta and Al Ain elsewhere in the country.

Camels taking shelter from the midday heat by the roadside. Around here there are no camel fences so you have to be careful driving, particularly at night.

Camels taking shelter

Dunes in Ras al Khaimah

Pure sand dunes south of Ras al Khaimah - I took the opportunity for a little off-roading and was able to drag a stuck Corolla out of the sand.

Ice Land Waterpark with its penguins and waterfalls was exactly what was needed in the July heat. It's certainly on a par with other UAE waterparks and was well worth a visit.

Ice Land Waterpark

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2012