Whilst Dubai and Abu Dhabi get most of the attention. Ras alKhaimah, dubbed the quiet emirate by the New York Times, may be the destination to consider for a brilliant holiday in the sun. The northernmost emirate of the country, the name literally translates to mean ‘top of the tent’ and the region is an oasis with mountains, date orchards, beaches, and don’t forget the world-class hotels. Ras al-Khaimah has everything you could want for your next get away.
Why should you choose Ras al-Khaimah? How about adventure. For years, tourists flocked to the tiny emirate for the chance to drive 4x4s across the desert and wadis. One could also experience camel racing first hand. But don’t worry there is a Waldorf Astoria nearby so you can cool down in the opulent hotel after your day in the desert.
Another reason is value for money. You see Ras al-Khaimah is much less expensive that Dubai. This is a big plus for travelers who want their hard earned money to go farther whilst on holiday. This also means that Ras al-Khaimah offers a more authentic experience when compared to Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Yes, the emirate is growing fast, but it has managed to retain the original charm of its ports and soucks – market in Arabic.
Most might not know it but the emirate has a long and storied history. One that can be traced back to the third century B.C. Given Ras al-Khaimah’s position near the Straits of Hormuz, this makes sense and you can still experience some of the historic sites which predate the founding of the UAE. This includes Dhayah Fort, the last dune-top fort in the region, and the National Museum of Ras alKhaimah. The museum is housed in the former palace of the family which ruled the emirate in the 18th Century – the Qawasim family.
Another world-class resort of note is the Banyan Tree Resort and Spa which is 15 minutes from the city in the sands of Wadi Khadeja. Here you can experience the classic Arabic hospitality and the great food. Whilst the original inhabitants of the region were nomadic and the much of the cuisine comes from elsewhere on the Arabian Peninsula, it is exquisite nonetheless.
Unlike other destinations in the region, Ras al-Khaimah is the place to go if you want to be outdoors. Just imagine hiking through the mountains to view a sunset or sunrise over the Persian Gulf? Or you can take refuge from the midday sun in the traditional buildings which dot the city. Or you can go to see visit the pottery studio – the emirate’s traditional industry.
Whilst many believe that you can’t enjoy some beach or drink beer in emirates such as Ras al-Khaimah, this is not true. Just 15 minutes from the Bayan Tree’s resort is a secluded beach where visitors wear bikinis and enjoy a cold one. As mentioned, Ras al-Khaimah is roughly a 90-minute drive from Dubai airport. The road is usually free of traffic and depending on your tolerance, you can make there in less time if needed. However, don’t forget to look out the window to taking in the wondrous views of the dessert.
Contrary to popular misconceptions, the quiet emirate is liberal and welcoming to tourist much of the credit for this is due to the pro-western policies of Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi. During his reign, he has continued the accomplishments of his father to turn Ras Al-Khaimah into an economic powerhouse. The Sheikh is American educated and has helped to pivot the UAE away from the undue influence regional super powers.
What this means is that the emirate is open for visitors who want to experience the charm of a quiet, yet modern, emirate. As one can see the global hospitality brands such as the Waldorf Astoria and Bayan Tree have properties there. This means you can enjoy a truly brilliant holiday without having to worry about the quality of the hotel or the standard of service.
In the end, Ras Al-Khaimah is the place to go if you are looking for a holiday destination which is pro-western, yet quiet and allows the opportunity for adventure. If you go, don’t forget to make your way out to the wadis and to catch an amazing sunset over the Persian Gulf. You will be glad that you did.