Travel Guide
Ras al Khaimah Travel Guide
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Travel Guide

Ras-al-Khaimah (RAK) is a mysterious, ancient desert abode, endowed with a fascinating history that spans 7,000 years. RAK is one of the UAE’s 7 Emirates, located towards the north, bordering Oman. The words Ras-Al-Khaimah stand for ‘Top of the Tent’ in Arabic, owing to the northern location of the Emirate. RAK is comprised of the city of Ras al Khaimah in the north, a large southern exclave (near Hatta), and several small islands scattered in the Gulf.

Population and Government

RAK’s population is approximately 300,000, with equal percentages of Emiratis and expats. The RAK Creek divides the city into two parts - Old Ras al Khaimah and Nakheel. RAK is ruled by Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi.

Lifestyle and Indigenous Culture

RAK is located only 45 minutes from the UAE’s most glamorous city, Dubai. Still, it’s like the two Emirates are worlds apart. RAK’s quiet mountains, ancient cultural sites, mangroves, beaches, and endless deserts vibrate to a different tune. The people of this Emirate love horses, camels, the desert, simplicity and, contrarily, fast-moving vehicles! RAK works from Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend being Friday and Saturday.RAK’s Arabic and nomadic origins are felt in its folklore, folk dance and music. Each of these represents the aesthetic, social and ethical values of the people. Traditional Arab and Islamic cultural influences infuse all forms of life. RAK offers the truly unforgettable Arabian experience. Sunshine year around, white beaches, plenty of adventures, world class resorts and ancient heritage - more than enough reasons to visit RAK!

The official currency is the same as the rest of the UAE, which is ‘Dirham’. RAK has plenty of banks, money exchange counters and ATMs where tourists can exchange their currency.

Tourism

In recent years, RAK has become a popular tourist destination. Ras Al Khaimah offers the best mix of culture, relaxation, quaint charm, history and entertainment. Add to that miles and miles of absolutely alluring coastline – literally 27 miles of it. The majestic Hajar Mountains is a beacon that pulls naturalists, archeologists, trekkers and climbers of all sorts to it. The Hajar Mountains are dotted with rocky pools, waterfalls, and many scenic spots that beg visitors to camp near them. The Pearl Museum offers a slice of the pearl industry that once thrived in RAK. The Banyan Tree Al Wadi puts on falcon shows and even allows tourists to pet them. Iceland Waterpark offers endless water fun and thrills. People visit this beautiful Emirate for health benefits as well – RAK’s famous Khatt Hot Springs is known for its healing mineral waters which rejuvenate and energize one’s body. There is already a growing body of expats in RAK, who find the city’s laidback, relaxed atmosphere very soothing. RAK’s nightlife and entertainment options are also plentiful.

Cement and Ceramics

RAK also produces most of the UAE's cement, and supplies it to the other Emirates for construction. Apart from cement, RAK is one of the world's biggest ceramics producers.

High-Tech Industry

The Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries produces high-quality pharmaceuticals for world-wide export. Falcon Technologies International (FTI) produces optical storage media devices such as DVDR, CDR and others. Innovative Composite Engineering manufacturers parts for construction and aerospace engineering.

Service Sector

RAK’s service sector is growing, with its advent into banking and insurance. Today, there are several prominent Bank and Insurance companies in RAK.

Agriculture and Fisheries

RAK produces enough crops and fish to satisfy the needs of the entire UAE.

RAK was founded by Persian Armenians who escaped the Mongol invasion, and was named ‘Julfar’. Various tribes ruled the region for centuries, fighting amongst themselves for power. RAK was part of Sharjah for many centuries, until it was absorbed into the UAE.

The Al Qasimi Dynasty

The Al Qasimi dynasty established itself in the early 18th century, occupying both Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah. This dynasty grew into a formidable maritime force, reckoned on both the Persian and Arabian coasts. The British navy and the RAK maritime forces clashed over piracy charges, affecting trade routes along the Strait of Hormuz, the Persian Gulf, and the Indian Ocean.Battles continued till 1820, when the General Maritime Treaty was signed by Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi. Both slavery and piracy came to an end after this. On 10 February 1972, RAK joined the UAE, under the able leadership Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad al-Qasimi. The present government has achieved a great deal in a short while, in its effort to turn RAK into a major tourist destination.

Here are a few known and some not-so-known facts about RAK that you’d like to read!

  • The highest mountain in the UAE, Jebel Jais, is located within RAK. It stands at a height of 1,910 meters, and is frequented by mountain climbers, bikers, hikers and lovers of mountain views. 
  • The abandoned fishing village Al Jazirat Al Hamra has traditional coral-block buildings and artifacts from the time before the oil boom in the UAE.
  • RAK has 64 kilometers of white sand beaches, where one can enjoy body boarding, wakeboarding, windsurfing, fishing, swimming, banana boating and more. 
  • RAK’s coastlines are filled with lush mangrove forests that support a wide range of wildlife and marine life. 
  • The Hajar Mountains are dotted with fossil-filled cliffs which are investigated by global archeologists and scientists. 
  • RAK has many historical sites that depict centuries of Sheikhdom in Ras-al-Khaimah – their victories, their lives, their discoveries and greatness.  Visit the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum to view traditional weapons and archaeological finds from the earliest settlers. RAK has more than18 historic fortifications, towers and castles just waiting for the history buff. 
  • RAK produces no less than 18 varieties of dates in its date farms, which rates as one of the UAE’s top 10. 
  • Al Wahabiyyah is one of RAK’s oldest art forms. It involves rows of performers and drum players, who move according to the rhythms of ancient poetry.  This dance is performed only during weddings and special occasions.
  • Ahmad Bin Majid, a 1421 Arab navigator and cartographer is known as RAK’s first seaman. He is credited with helping Vasco da Gama find his way from Africa to India. 

Ras al-Khaimah has a typical desert climate – the summers are hot and very humid and the winters are mild.

Summer

Summer temperatures vary from 29 to 43 °C (84 to 109 °F). Temperatures often touch 45 °C and above during summer, sometimes without warning. One must always be prepared with sunshades, plenty of sunscreen and water to battle the heat in RAK. Humidity levels are usually very high in the summer months, with clothes sticking to the body due to heavy perspiration.

Winter

Winter months are December to February, with winter temperatures varying between 18 to 25 °C (64 to 77 °F). The month of January is considered the coolest. Humidity levels are lower in winter, though there’s never a time when RAK shows zero humidity. Strange though it may seem, it appears to have snowed on the tops of the Hajar Mountains during December 2004, January 2009 and February 2017. Temperatures at the peak of UAE’s tallest peak, Jebel Jais, can go as low as -3 °C during winter.

Rains

Winter months bring not just relief from the unrelenting heat but also some welcome rains and thunderstorms. They are rare, but they do occur five or six times a year during the months of December and January. The rains are usually heavy and tend to last for several hours at a time.

By Air

The Ras Al Khaimah International Airport is fully facilitated to handle flights from around the world, day or night. The airport has state-of-the-art facilities for parking, cargo shifting, multiple-flight handling and everything else you’d expect from an international airport. RAK International Airport is located 20 minutes from the center of the city. From the airport, you can travel to your hotel by bus or taxi.

By Road

You can get to RAK from Umm Al Quwain, Ajman, Sharjah, Oman and Dubai without issues. Buses are available daily from 7:00 A.M. to 8:00 P.M. If you’re unable to land at RAK international Airport, land in Sharjah (80 km), Dubai (90 km) or Abu Dhabi (240 km) airport. You can easily travel to RAK by bus or taxi, via Emirates Road E311. It takes less than an hour to reach Sharjah, and about 1.5 hours to reach Dubai by road. RAK shares a border with Oman, so it is quite simple to exit the country by road.

Transportation Within Ras Al Khaimah

RAK tour operators organize city tours, which are offered via international hotels. The best way to see RAK is to hire a metered taxi and visit the places you want to see. Renting a car is also a good option if you’re staying for a longer duration.

Single visit tourist visas are issued for 30 days at a time. Visa extension is possible if you carry a recommendation from a VIP in RAK. Note that your passport must be valid for at least six months post your travel.

Visa Application Formalities

You can apply for a tourist visa at any of the UAE’s Authorized Visa Centers or Migration Services centers. RAK prefers to issue electronic visas which can be printed and shown to the passport control authorities at the airport.

You’ll need the following documents to apply for electronic tourist visa:

  • A scanned copy of your latest picture
  • Scanned copy of the your passport’s first page
  • Scanned copy of your hotel booking confirmation

The visa authorities will take 2-3 business days, excluding holidays and weekends, to process your application. The processing timelines can increase if additional verification is required.

Visa Withdrawals And CancellationsIf you withdraw your visa application, you forfeit the fee. RAK can refuse your application if:
  • Your passport details are not valid
  • If you fail to provide hotel booking confirmation
  • If you have violated immigration or sharia law or Islamic customs during a previous visit
  • If you have committed serious offenses within RAK
Rules Pertaining To Visas For Children
  • Visa fee is not charged for infants whose details are recorded in the parents’ passports. However, children with their own passports are required to pay the fee
  • If a child is accompanied by someone other than the parent, notarized parental consent is required, along with proof of relation to the accompanying person.
Miscellaneous Rules
  • If husband and wife have different surnames, a copy of the marriage certificate is required.
  • A lady under thirty must be accompanied by a male relative in order to obtain her visa.

Other than RAK, it’s fun to visit Dubai, Sharjah and Fujairah. Oman and the other emirates have not yet developed their tourist potential. Ras-Al-Khaimah is just an hour or so away from Dubai, Fujairah and Sharjah by road. You can reach them via road or flight.

Dubai

Dubai is a glamorous city of many marvels, and many ‘best in the world’ record-breakers. Dubai is especially famous for the following landmarks:

  • The Dubai Fountain, world’s largest fountain
  • The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building
  • The Burj-al-Arab, the only 7-star hotel in the world
  • Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel
Sharjah

Sharjah has various points of interest for the tourist. One main point is that many world cricket matches take place at Sharjah. So if your trip to RAK coincides with a match in Sharjah, get going! Sharjah is famous for the following;

  • Sharjah Art Museum, which has a good collection of modern and Islamic art
  • Adventureland- Water adventure park, which is a children’s delight.
  • Sharjah National Park, known for its excellent landscaping and tropical flower bushes.
  • Sharjah Aquarium, for its excellent collection of marine creatures including sharks
  • Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization contains rare Islamic art and artifacts
  • King Faisal Mosque is a beautiful old mosque that’s worth seeing
  • Eye of the Emirates Wheel – A Ferris Wheel, but much smaller than Ain Dubai
Fujairah

Fujairah is separated from the other emirates by the Hajar Mountains. The city is building up a good tourist profile, with its fine beaches, artistic mosques and laid-back lifestyle.

  • Al-Bidyah Mosque is the oldest mosque in the UAE
  • Fujairah Fort is of great historic value; it was built in 1670 and has since been restored.
  • Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a huge mosque with 100-meter high minarets.
  • Fujairah Museum has a wonderful collection of early Bronze Age artifacts

The food in RAK is incredibly good. All fine hotels have the best chefs and access to global ingredients. While RAK’s restaurants are great, we recommend that you check out some local food haunts as well, to try regional specialties.

RAK is an Islamic state and is very strict about drinking and disorderly behavior. However, you can liquor at several shops, as long as you’re over 21; liquor permits are not required. There are plenty of pubs and nightclubs where the drinks flow freely.

The Emiratis have adopted various cuisines as their own.
  • Lebanese: RAK chefs cook Lebanese as it should be, maintaining the vibrant flavors, colors and the freshness of ingredients. Must try dishes are rakakat, a cheese filled pastry, lamb meatballs with cherry sauce, and shish taouk which is grilled chicken served with garlic sauce.
  • Brazilian: Do taste the churrasco grill featuring cuts of lamb, beef and chicken, served with a range of sides.
  • Mediterranean: Try the buffalo mozzarella and beef tomato tartare which are top value. Baked salmon with fennel and caviar velouté and wild rice are other tourist favorites.
  • Japanese: Nigiri served with ginger pickle, and the miso black cod with a platter of exotic fruits would be just the ticket.
  • Make your own meal: Visit Old Town and shop at some of the bakeries there. Savory and fragrant Arabic flatbreads are cheap and piping hot. Some cheese and fresh baklava finishes your meal.

If you’re planning to travel to RAK, do take in some of the events listed here that might synchronize with your visit.

RAK Half Marathon

The UAE’s premier running event, held in February every year. The marathon is run to promote global health. All levels of runners are welcome to join – this is the only international event that allows total democracy.

UAE Awafi Festival

This is an annual event held in the RAK desert for three weeks during December or January. Various adrenalin-fuelled activities take place, including sand dune racing by the best 4-wheel drivers in the UAE.

The event concludes every day music, dancing and plentiful food at the nearby heritage village. People can buy souvenirs and handicrafts at the local shops. Children can visit the petting zoo and enjoy special games for children. The entry is free, and everyone is welcome.

Terry Fox Run

This is an annual charity run held on the RAK Corniche, to support cancer research. The event is held March under the patronage of HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, Ruler of RAK. Anyone can join the run, and the money raised is donated to the UAE University in Al Ain towards the Terry Fox Run funded Cancer Research.

RAK’s nightlife is full of friends, laughter and enjoyment. There are plenty of outlets to enjoy a drink by the poolside, watching the stars reflected in the water. For those of you who like to enjoy the cool nights outdoors, a desert safari or exploring the wadis, parks and wildlife areas at night might be an option.

Experience The Bliss Of A Night Desert Safari

A delightful night safari in the desert is just what you need, to relax mind, body and soul. Watch a blissful sunset and snuggle into your tent when the cold wind bites, to be comforted by a full Emirati BBQ dinner. If you want, you can explore the desert at night with night goggles and headlamps. Spending the night under the desert stars is a unique experience.

Enjoy Themed Nights At RAK Hotels

RAK’s major hotels put up themed nights to entertain tourists and expats. You will meet many interesting people, and enjoy listening to their travel experiences. People who meet each other at these themed nights socialize later at beaches or around pools or at someone’s home.

Night-Outs At Bars And Clubs

RAK has several resorts, bars and clubs that offer cocktails and drinks to soothe tired travelers. Several of these bars have in-house music – a band, a guitarist, solo singer, DJ music and so on. Dancing is allowed, though appropriate behavior is expected. You can listen to music and dance all night at these bars, resorts and clubs.

RAK has several wonderful malls that stock a wide range of goods. If you’ve seen more than enough malls in your life, give the malls a skip and hit the streets. Enjoy buying local produce and spices from village markets and small stalls in back alleys. The best way to sample what a city offers is to shop directly from what the local people offer. Arts And Crafts Shopping

RAK has several art galleries, arts centers and even a specialized shopping mall for the arts! You’ll find Islamic art, handmade craft items, local art works, carpets, carvings and much more in these places. You’ll also find items from the RAK Heritage Village, which uses tools and materials from ancient times to create practical and decorative items.

RAK Malls

RAK has several notable malls that have become major tourist shopping attractions. These malls stock designer clothing, shoes and accessories. There are plenty of gold souks as well.

  • Al Hamra Shopping Mall: Has over 100 stores offering furniture, groceries, designer clothing, electronic appliances and more.
  • RAK Mall: RAK’s flagship mall spread over 20,000 square feet offers local and international fashion brands, accessories, cosmetics electronics and jewelry.
  • Manar Mall: Manar Mall is popular shopping and leisure haunt, with a fabulous view of the sea on one side and the RAK Corniche on the other. This mall has 120 retail outlets, cafes, sea-facing outdoor seating at restaurants and much more.
  • Al Noor Arts Shopping Center: Art lovers looking for knick-knacks can drop into this arts shopping center and enjoy the kitschy atmosphere.
  • Lulu Center: Comprises of various departmental stores offering a range of goods in every category, combined with superb sales service.

There’s a lot to see and do in RAK; in fact, there’s something for every kind of person to enjoy.

The History Buff
  • The 16th century mud-brick Dhayah Fort has defended Ras Al Khaimah from invaders for centuries. The fort looks out at Sheba’s palace, which has amazing architecture and artifacts.
  • Jazirat Al Hamra, an abandoned fishing village is famous for its original coral-block buildings. This village offers an evocative picture of life before the oil boom.
  • Enjoy the plethora of museums, historical sites, and centuries-old ruins resplendent of ancient nomadic life. The National Museum, once a palace, has 18th-century artifacts that are a must-see.
  • Visit Shimal, a tiny hamlet containing pre-Islamic tombs of great historic significance.
The Adventurer
  • Explore the desert, ride a few camels, camp overnight and watch mountain goats, Oryx, Arabian gazelles, red foxes and other creatures. Witness the most wonderful sunset and sunrise you ever will see in your life.
  • Go sailing or boating along the waters of the Arabian Gulf. Get an eyeful of the coastlines, the desert, the mangroves and the city skyline in one go.
  • Show off your golfing skills in our many golf courses; the hot sun and the perky breezes off the sea will definitely add to your handicap.
  • Hike the mountains and discover fossil caves, lovely waterfalls, lakes and other beauties.
The Wildlife Lover
  • Experience Ras-al-Khaimah’s wildlife by staying at a world-class hotel close to natural reserves. Go wildlife exploring and spot several desert wildlife species.
  • Enjoy a visit to the Falconry Deck in the desert.
Scenery Lover
  • The red desert landscapes, magnificent mountain ranges and the blue seas create a colorful panorama. You will be forever taking pictures.
  • The city center with its amazing skyscrapers and modern architecture presents many Kodak opportunities.
  • The Banyan Tree Al Wadi resort is a beautiful oasis filled with lovely villas, each based on a different theme. Nature lovers adore this place with its incredible wildlife and glorious spa experience.
  • The Khatt Springs mineral hot spring is the perfect place to rejuvenate mind, body and soul.

Various tours and excursions are available at RAK, both during the day and night. Check with local tour operators or with your hotel management for details. There are tours by air-conditioned by or car to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Oman and Fujairah as well. If you want to obtain a scintillating perspective over RAK, sign up for a seaplane cruise. There’s nothing better than seeing the lofty Jebel Jais from up in the sky.

Musandam Khasab Day Trip

A full-day tour to the city of Khasab; visa and exit fees are covered in the tour charge. You’ll be taken in an air-condition car or bus from RAK to Khasab to cruise the sea.

Mountain Picnic - Jebel Jais

Enjoy magnificent views from the top of Jebel Jais, followed by a delectable picnic of dates, fruits, bread and cheese. The tour will pick you up and drop you back to your hotel.

Ras Al Khaimah Half-Day Guided City Tour

Enjoy seeing all of Ras Al Khaimah for five whole hours, accompanied by a certified tour guide. Pick up and drop in an air-conditioned Lincoln car.

Dinner Cruise on Ras Al Khaimah Creek

A relaxing cruise followed by a delectable Arabic buffet dinner on board a traditionally decorated dhow on the RAK creek.

Seaplane Tour to Dubai

A ride to Dubai on a luxury seaplane experiencing amazing views. The seaplane lands on the sea, where you’ll enjoy a fine-dining experience.

Ras Al Khaimah experiences extremely hot summers, as is the case with all the emirates of the UAE. In some months, the mercury can go up to 45 degrees C and more. No matter which summer month you want to visit RAK, it’s going to be hotter and more humid than you’ve experienced elsewhere. The heat is relentless; if you’re not used to it, you could suffer from sunstrokes.

Best Selling Ras al Khaimah Tours

  • Desert Safari Ras Al Khaimah
  • Dhow Cruise Ras Al Khaimah
  • Ras Al Khaimah City Tour
  • Jet Ski Ras Al Khaimah

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