20 reasons to visit the UAE’s adventure Emirate, Ras Al Khaimah
Ras Al Khaimah is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism destinations and it’s in the UAE. Juxtaposed between the Hajar Mountains and the Arabian Gulf, the destination remains a hidden gem despite its accessible location, just 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport.
The destination is known as being the adventurers’ Emirate and is situated at the northernmost tip of the United Arab Emirates. Its pristine beaches and hotels offer a wide variety of activities from water sports to cookery and arts classes and temperature controlled outdoor pools, while the desert and mountains are ideal for safaris and nature trails for a true Arabian experience.
The World’s Longest Zipline
For travellers with a quest for adrenaline fuelled adventure, the Jebel Jais Flight is a must. Located on Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE, Jebel Jais Flight is the Guinness World Record’s longest zipline at 2.83km long. Adventure seekers are propelled at speeds between 120 and 150kph from a height of 1,683m above sea level.
Bear Grylls Survival Academy
Visitors in 2020 can learn the tricks to Bear Grylls survival, with a new brainchild Bear Grylls Survival Academy scheduled to open in Ras Al Khaimah at the end of January 2020. The academy on Jebel Jais, the highest mountain in the UAE, will offer participants a wide selection of courses suitable for individuals of all ages and fitness levels. The courses include half-day (five to six hours), 24 and 48-hour courses designed for families and adults. Participants will be exposed to practical and extreme survival techniques necessary to survive some of the toughest terrain in the wilderness such as: how to make a fire in the wilderness, build emergency shelters, learn best ways to use a knife for survival, remote medical trauma, training on navigation techniques, rock climbing and extreme weather survival. The Academy will be run by highly trained professionals.
Five-star luxury at four-star prices
The Emirate is home to two five-star luxury Ritz-Carlton properties. Whether a digital detox in the middle of the Arabian Desert is the order of the day or a sun-soaked beach break looking out on the Arabian Gulf, guests can sit back and relax knowing that everything is taken care of at either one of these incredible, first class properties:
- The Ritz-Carlton, Al Wadi Desert amid the beauty of the Arabian Desert, invites guests to connect with nature and culture in an entirely unique way. The resort is equipped with an Equestrian Centre offering guests’ horse and camel rides to experience the desert in true style along with plenty of activities including archery and biking, four dining venues and a spa. Luxury here has no bounds, especially when it comes to the villa suites. Inspired by traditional Bedouin tents, each villa has a private pool and deck, lounge area and, of course, stunning desert views, guaranteed to create an unforgettable experience for the entire family.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Al Hamra Beach is the ultimate luxury coastal retreat. Located on an isolated stretch of beach beneath the Arabian sun, this five-star resort offers guests exclusive activities and features in a secluded oasis such as snorkelling amid the coral reef, afternoon paddle boarding and owl and falconry shows for the entire family to enjoy. Guests can relax in the sun in one of the 32 beautifully designed private villas lavished with contemporary amenities, each with its own pool and direct beach access, visit the Ritz-Carlton Spa for a holistic treatment and enjoy signature fresh seafood at Shore House restaurant.
Jais Sky Maze
Visitors to the Emirate can get their adrenaline rushing at a new obstacle maze on the UAE’s highest mountain. Find your sense of adventure 10 metres above the ground as you navigate through several obstacles including rope swings, wobbly bridges, swinging loops and so much more! With two levels of endless fun, the Jais Sky Maze is suitable for adventure seekers of all ages.
Viewing Deck Park on the highest peak in the UAE
As observation decks go, it doesn’t any grander than this. Opened in early 2018, the landscaped and manicured viewing terraces at 1250m have sublime vistas of the craggy surrounding Hajar Mountains peaks and panoramas that tumble and dip down to the Gulf far below. There are binoculars, for close-up viewing, and plenty of shade provided by sails, on each of the several terraces while the main deck offers parking, toilet facilities and two cafe-kiosks for refreshments.
The Dhayah Fort
Amongst the magnificent landscapes of Ras Al Khaimah lie beautiful ancient ruins rich in history and cultural significance. Situated in northern Ras Al Khaimah amid the Dhayah oasis, is the famous Dhayah fort. This piece of architecture is steeped in historical importance and is certainly worth a visit and was originally built as a defence structure. With plenty of hiking opportunities on offer, visitors can climb the only hilltop fort still existing in the UAE to explore its history and witness the stunning backdrop of the steep dramatic mountains, surrounding palm gardens and the sea – the perfect opportunity for a quick snap and the fort is free of charge to visit.
The National Museum
Visitors can immerse themselves in the true Emirati way of life and visit the stunning riads of Ras Al Khaimah immersed in cultural heritage. Travel on a journey through time by visiting the historical sites and local museums to gain a glimpse of the Emirate’s culture, history and heritage. Set in a stunning 17th century riad, the former residence of the ruling family until the 1960’s, The National Museum is located in the western part of Ras Al Khaimah city and houses an eclectic collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts. All exhibition rooms are situated around the beautiful inner courtyard garden and can be entered through antique wooden doors with traditional carved design. A beautiful setting for visitors to learn about architecture, pearl diving, date agriculture, farming and fishing in the various galleries, The National Museum is a must-see attraction during a visit to the Emirate.
Uncover gems at the Suwaidi Pearl Farm
Suwaidi Pearl Farm, owned by Abdullah Al Suwaidi, the grandson of one of the country’s last remaining pearl divers. It is the only pearl farm in the UAE that provides locally sourced pearls to jewellers around the world. The farm tour takes you on a 6,000-year journey through the history of Arabian pearl diving, to the days when divers would wear tortoiseshell nose-clips and had heavy rocks fastened to one ankle. Tour participants can select an oyster from a tank; maybe, if you’re lucky, yours will produce a pearl.
Jais Sky Tour
Adventure meets serenity at the Jais Sky Tour. Adventurers can fly over the awe-inspiring cliffs and canyons of Jebel Jais, as you zip from platform to platform in this unique experience. Covering a total distance of 5km via a series of seven ziplines, ranging from 337m to just over 1km, and averaging speeds of 60kph, the Jais Sky Tour will give you a panoramic, bird’s eye view of the towering Hajar mountains. Navigate your way through the sky and find yourself at the UAE’s highest sky bridge, 1,250mts above the sea level and 300mts above the ground. Pause to capture this unique moment before you cross this 15m bridge and continue the last part of your zipline journey. After an hour of soaring through the sky, we guarantee you will want to do it all over again.
Discover the fascinating tribal culture
History enthusiasts travelling to Ras Al Khaimah will find a treasure trove of archaeological sites, including 18 historic fortifications, castles and towers dating back to the Bronze Age, within accessible reach. One of the few places in the world that has continuously had settler’s for over 7,000 years, Ras Al Khaimah has a turbulent history that saw the city occupied or challenged by the Sasanians, Islamic clans of the Arabian Gulf, the Portuguese, Dutch and British Forces. Today, Ras Al Khaimah’s society can still be conceded as a tribal society, where tribes are divided into three main categories: mountain tribes, sea tribes and desert tribes. Folklore, folk music, dialogue and dance play an important role in tribes and local communities and are passed down from one generation to another.
Try the new controlled bungee jump, opening in 2020
Jebal Jais will open the first and only controlled bungee jump in the Middle East in April 2020, which will be suspended 13 metres off the ground and will be positioned 1,500 metres above sea level. Travellers will be able to enjoy the rush of a free fall of eight metres, while having the comfort that the fall is controlled making it safer than a traditional bungee jump.
Relax in the hot springs in the mountains
Located at the foot of Hajar Mountain, the Khatt Hot Springs are perfect for visitors trying to escape the hustle and bustle of the city this year. Located just ten-minutes from the Ras Al Khaimah International Airport, the healing hot springs were discovered on the edge of the desert in the beginning of the 7th century and showcase spectacular views of the valley with its date palms and numerous farms. The springs are today surrounded by wellness centres and resorts, such as the Golden Tulip Khatt Springs Resort & Spa, where visitors can enjoy a relaxing Turkish bath and sauna, spa massages and treatments, swimming pools and Ayurveda healing procedures.
Dare to explore the Ghost Town of Ras Al Khaimah
One of the more unique places to visit in Ras Al Khaimah, Jazirat Al Hamra, is an abandoned pearl fishing village which is as fascinating as it is haunting. The village is like an open-air museum, without entrance fees and audio guides, showcasing abandoned houses, schools, a mosque and marketplaces. The village was abandoned when oil wealth gave rise to rapid urbanisation in the creation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This ghost town which visitors can simply drive through, is also famed as a site for the horror production, Djinn.
Learn about the ancient tradition of falconry
Falconry is an ancient tradition of the Bedouins and an indispensable tool for hunting in the tough conditions of the desert. In ancient times, when the falcons migrated to the Emirates, every resident caught one which would then become his partner for the whole season and a part of his family. When the temperature rose in the summer and the free-living falcons started to fly back to the North, the locals let their falcon go. Today, travellers can witness a unique falcon show at many resorts, where the region’s most diverse and interactive displays of falcons, hawks, kestrels, owls and eagles can be found. Visitors can witness the Resident Professional Falconers fly their team of dedicated birds of prey using both traditional Arabic and ‘modern’ Western techniques. A tour of the world class Falconry Mews and Rehabilitation and Breeding Centre also rounds off this one-of-a-kind experience.
Eat a typical local meal
From traditional Arabian cuisine to the finest restaurants, visitors will be spoilt for choice in Ras Al Khaimah. Travellers can dig into local flavours at Al Fanar, known for its machboos (a casserole of meat or fish, rice and onions cooked in spicy sauce) and its seafood dishes such as saloona samak (a stew of fish in a tomato and tamarind sauce).
Experience the Bedouin Oasis Camp
The first Bedouin-style desert camp in Ras Al Khaimah provides visitors with the perfect opportunity to explore desert living. This secret haven has been designed for the discerning customer, desiring a traditional magical experience of the Arabian Desert, fused with indulgence and luxury. The Bedouin Oasis Camp is an authentic reproduction of Bedouin life just as it used to be. Guests can learn how to scale the sand dunes in a four-wheel drive, ride a camel or simply just enjoy an overnight stay under the stars, with a sunset wakeup. Rooms for two adults and two children start at £176.00 per night.
Enjoy all-inclusive luxury at the Rixos Bab Al Bahr
Situated on the pristine white sands of Ras Al Khaimah’s tranquil Marjan Island, Rixos Bab Al Bahr enjoys the beautiful beach, stylish rooms, upmarket restaurants, stunning views, and comprehensive amenities you may expect from a five-star beach resort in the Middle East. With few exceptions, everything is inclusive from the kaleidoscope of cuisine in Seven Heights and the delicious selection of unlimited beverages in See & Sea, Mojito Lounge and Inferno, to the diverse choice of entertainment and nightlife, kids clubs, spa, sports, and recreational activities. Five delectable a la carte restaurants, including a steakhouse and a seafood restaurant, offer a more diverse dining experience.
Eco Mangroves Kayaking in Ras Al Khaimah
Mangroves and salt flats form a large part of the coastal and inland landscape in Ras Al Khaimah. The mangroves, which are home to a variety of wildlife, including flamingos, extend right into the centre of Ras Al Khaimah bringing a rich sense of nature into the city. Visitors can explore the mangroves by taking kayak excursions and literally lose themselves in the natural beauty. Kayaking is fun, relaxing, very low risk and easy to learn and is open to all even if you have never tried it before.
Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival
The Emirate hosts the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival from 31 January – 31 March 2020 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah. The festival takes place at picturesque 17th century pearl fishing town of Al Jazirah Al Hamra. The abandoned and historic town is rumoured to be haunted. The festival will celebrate the theme of Connected Communities, emphasizing the power of art in bringing communities together and creating shared experiences. The open-air gallery, which is free of cost and open to the public, is set to welcome over 100 international and local artists from 33 countries. Furthermore, the festival will offer an expanded program of public art workshops at Al Jazirah Al Hamra and the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, and film screenings at VOX Cinemas in Al Hamra Mall
Relax in a rainforest
Al Wadi Desert also offers a Rainforest Experience which combines European hydrothermal culture with Middle Eastern bathing rituals, creating a rejuvenating sanctuary smack bang the Arabian desert. The experience includes 16 different stations, each traveling one step farther in the journey to relaxation.
Ras Al Khaimah is a welcoming and liberal emirate but it is worthwhile being culturally aware and equipping yourself with essential information that will assist you in planning your trip, including visa requirements. Discover more here.