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Ras Al Khaimah - pros and cons


Page update - Sep 14, 2022

Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost emirate in the UAE, located between the scenic Al Hajar Mountains in the east and the Persian Gulf in the west. Now Ras Al Khaimah is actively developing its tourism industry and is becoming increasingly popular among tourists. We will talk about the pros and cons of vacationing in the hotels in Ras Al Khaimah and tell in detail about the emirate on this page.

At the moment this page was updated in September 2022, the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is open to tourists. Almost all the hotels are operational. The local airport receives flights, but flights with tourists are rare, and most tourists get to Ras Al Khaimah via Dubai and Sharjah airports.

The latest news from Ras Al Khaimah

The tourism industry of the emirate is actively recovering after the pandemic. The emirate plans to reach pre-pandemic figures already by the end of 2022. In particular, they expect 1.1 million tourists, which corresponds to the figure in 2019.

On July 29, 2022, there was a big press conference of the Tourism Development Authority. Executive director Raki Phillips said that already in the first 6 months of 2022 the emirate was visited by 521,085 tourists, and the figure of 1.1 million by the end of the year will be achieved.

Most likely, Ras Al Khaimah will become the first of the emirates in the UAE to fully restore the tourist flow. Our congratulations! Why has Ras Al Khaimah succeeded? What pros of the emirate made the quick recovery possible? Read below on this page.

Facts and figures

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is not large. The area is 650 square miles (1,684 square kilometers), it is 4th among the 7 emirates of the country. The population in 2021 was about 390,000 people (estimated figure), it is the 5th place among the 7 emirates.

The capital of the emirate is the city of Ras Al Khaimah, where 90% of the population lives. The emirate is divided into two almost equal areas. The first is the main part in the north with the capital on the coast. The second is the southern part, almost no population, with only a few villages. The emirate includes several islands in the Persian Gulf.

See the map near, and click on the map to enlarge to full screen.

The city of Ras Al Khaimah is divided by the bay into two parts. The western part is called Old Ras Al Khaimah, the eastern part is called Nakheel.

Interesting facts and important to know for tourists

- The name is often shortened to the abbreviation RAK as it's easier. And it occurs even in postal addresses and official company names.

- The name is translated from Arabic as "cape of small huts". So called this coast due to the developed fishing industry and the large number of fishing villages.

- RAK is the youngest emirate in the UAE, it was formed in 1909, separated from the Emirate of Sharjah.

- The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah was the last of the seven to join the UAE state.

- It is home to 97,500 Arab citizens of the country, i.e. 25% of the emirate's population. This is a record high concentration of citizens among all the emirates, usually it's only 10%. Read more about this in our review "The population of the UAE".



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- Among all emirates, Ras Al Khaimah has the most fertile soil, thanks to precipitation from the Hajar Mountains and underground mountain springs.

- On February 17, 2006, the name of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah "rumbled" in the news around the world. The company Space Adventures announced that it would build the world's first spaceport for space tourism there. The budget of the project is 265 million dollars. The project was never realized.

- Despite its location in the north of the country, the weather and beach season there is the same as in the rest of the emirates. Read more in our review "Weather and season in the UAE".

- There is no public transport system in the city. There are only buses to other emirates and other towns and villages in Ras Al Khaimah. You have to take a cab to get around the city, and a cab can be very expensive for tourist's wallets. Read more in our review "Taxi prices in the UAE".

- Some websites and tourist guides say that there are no alcohol prohibitions in Ras Al Khaimah. We do not know who came up with this. Don't believe it! In fact, drinking alcoholic beverages in public places is punishable by a fine or even imprisonment, the Penal Code article "Violation of public morals". Being drunk in a public place is punishable under the same article. See our review "UAE Laws" for more details.

- You can drink alcohol in hotel bars. There are several stores selling alcohol in the city. The most popular among tourists are Al Hamra Cellar, JMK Cellars, The Cellars RAK, African + Eastern. Read more in our review "Alcohol in the RAK and UAE".

The main advantage of vacationing in Ras Al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah is not the cheapest option if you're choosing for tours in the UAE. In the Emirate of Dubai you can find hotels even cheaper.

The advantage is not the price itself. If you compare the tours of the 4-star hotels in Ras Al Khaimah and Dubai, the prices are comparable. The question is what is offered for the money?

In Dubai, this inexpensive 4-star hotel will be far from the sea (somewhere in Deira or Bur Dubai), you will have to take a cab or bus to the beach. In Ras Al Khaimah, a 4-star hotel for the same price will be on the 1st beach line.

In the photo near you can see the hotel BM Beach Resort 4*, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen. The hotel has its own beach, first line. At the time this page was updated (September 2022), the tour for 2 people for 7 days cost USD 950. You won't find a hotel with a beach near for such a price in Dubai.

That is, on the price/quality ratio Ras Al Khaimah hotels are among the leaders in the UAE. We will talk about hotels in detail later on this page.

Here the advantages end, the disadvantages begin.



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The main disadvantage - far from Dubai

Tourists in the UAE primarily want to see the famous sights of Dubai: the Dubai Fountain, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall. The way from RAK to Dubai is a long and expensive, a distance is over 60 miles (100 kilometers).

It is very expensive to take a cab. The ride will cost 220-250 dirhams (AED). See the current exchange rate of dirham on our page "Money of the UAE".

But you can get to Dubai by bus that run every hour from Ras al Khaimah Bus Station in the city center. It takes 1.5-2 hours to get to Dubai, the ticket costs 25 dirhams. Add the cost of a cab to get from the hotel to the bus station, and you get a very unpleasant sum.

The bus services are available to Umm Al Quwain (Dh10), Ajman (Dh15) and Sharjah (Dh25). Buses run from 7am to 8pm. Read our detailed review "How to get from Ras Al Khaimah to Dubai and back".

Some hotels provide their own buses to Dubai, usually twice a day - morning and evening. The trip in such a bus is either free for all hotel guests, or is included in the All Inclusive system. Read about other benefits of the all-inclusive in our review "All Inclusive in the UAE".

How do you find out if the hotel of interest has such a bus? The only reliable option is to read reviews of the hotel by tourists who have already been there. It often happens that few hotels share one such bus. Always check the timetable at the hotel reception.

Ras Al Khaimah is great for tourists who have been to Dubai and have seen all its attractions. Then you can focus on the local tourist attractions we will talk about at the end of this page.

Another disadvantage - far from the airports

Ras Al Khaimah has its own international airport, called Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (code: RKT). The airport is small. There are two terminals for passengers, one runway is 12,336 feet (3,760 meters) long. The airport is located 12.5 miles (20 km) south of the city.

Charter flights with tourists from European countries often land there. But the airport is more often used for the arrival or departure of guest workers from India, Pakistan, Iran and other countries.

The emirate has its own airline, RAK Airways. They are based at the local airport and fly to India, Pakistan, Nepal, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Their fleet is a total of 11 aircraft, see the aircraft photo on the right, click to enlarge. Ras Al Khaimah airport is also the second base for Air Arabia.

Most of going to RAK tourists fly to Dubai airports and drive 1.5-2 hours (60 miles, 100 kilometers) to the hotels. Or the tourists fly to Sharjah airport and drive 1.5 hours (50 miles, 85 kilometers). By the standards of the UAE it is very long and inconvenient.

Hotels

There are about 30 hotels in total. Of these, ten have 5 stars, including hotels of famous brands Hilton, Rixos, Golden Tulip. At one time, the local authorities actively attracted hoteliers by providing the coast land on profitable terms.

Half of the hotels offer an All Inclusive system. We can say that the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is a pioneer in the field of an All Inclusive system in the country.

An important point! Hotels are not concentrated in a certain area, but are scattered throughout the city and even outside it. There are beach hotels and city hotels. Tours are sold in any of them. If you want to have a comfortable rest on the beach then you should definitely check if the hotel you are interested in is a beach hotel.

The most luxurious hotels are Rixos Bab Al Bahr and Waldorf Astoria. Rixos offers an Ultra All Inclusive system.

If you choose the BB (breakfast only) or RO (no meals included) system, be sure to check the location of the hotel. Make sure there are stores, eateries, or restaurants nearby. That way the vacation will be much cheaper by reducing the cost of food. Read more in our review "How much money to take on vacation in the UAE".

Now let's talk about the emirate itself, it's interesting.



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History of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah

Read the main page "History of the UAE".

Until recently, it was considered this area to be almost deserted and there was no civilization there in ancient times.

However, in 2012, archaeologists in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah have found the remains of the settlement of Umm al-Nar culture from the 3-2 millennium BC, that is, 6-5 thousand years ago.

It is believed that at that time the climate was milder. These people were engaged in agriculture and cattle breeding, and actively traded with Babylon. They built round-shaped stone tombs which are now shown to tourists. Unfortunately not much remains of these tombs, see the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge.

Do modern Arabs have any relation to these people of the Umm al-Nar culture? It is still difficult to say, studies are underway on this subject.

In the first millennium BC, the Umm al-Nar culture has faded away, probably because of the worsening climate. For a long time the area was almost deserted, and only nomads lived there. Large settlements appeared only during the Arab Caliphate, which was the time of the seaports.

The city at the site of today's Ras Al Khaimah was called Julfar, it was founded by Armenians who fled Persia during the Mongol invasion. The locals fed themselves with fishing, cattle breeding and a little agriculture. An important source of income was the pearls diving which became a major export item.

The city of Julfar was the capital not only of the territories of the modern Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, but also of the lands of the Emirate of Sharjah.

In the 18th century piracy was a great problem in the region. The Persian Gulf was even called the "Pirate Coast". The Al Qasimi dynasty ruled the whole Persian Gulf and commanded the pirate fleets. The Al Qasimi dynasty still rules Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah. Read about them in our review "The seven sheikhs of the UAE".

In 1819 the Battle of Ras Al Khaimah took place, in which the British fleet almost completely destroyed the fleet of Arabs. The city was attacked by the British and many buildings were destroyed, such as Fort Daya, now a popular local landmark.

In the 19th century, the Emirs were under threat of conquest by the Turks and Persians. They entered into protective treaties with Britain, effectively becoming half-colonies of the British. At this point, the region had already become known as the "Treaty Coast". In exchange for protection, the Arabs had to give up piracy and the slave trade. Such a treaty was made with Ras Al Khaimah in 1829.

On February 10, 1972, Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi signed the treaty making the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah a part of the state of the United Arab Emirates.

The economy of the emirate nowadays

There is no oil on the coast of Ras Al Khaimah. Accordingly, there are no huge skyscrapers as in Dubai. The people live much more modestly.

For a long time, the economy of the emirate has been based on fishing, pearling, and agriculture. Nowadays all those economic sectors are still important. Tourists can take part in excursions to the port where local artisans still produce the old technology traditional "Dhow" boats. You can visit the fish market and see all the variety of fish and seafood caught. You can buy delicious local dates in stores. By the way, dates are very popular with tourists as a gift from the UAE. We have written about it in detail in the reviews "What to Bring from the UAE" and "Dates in the UAE".

Of course, fishing and agriculture are no longer the mainstay of the emirate's economy.

In 1920, iron ore was found in the local mountains, and industry began to develop. The UAE's first cement factory was opened there, and the emirate has been leading in the field ever since. There is the famous RAS Ceramics company that produces high quality cookware.

Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries (Julphar) is the first and the largest pharmaceutical company in the Gulf. It was Julphar that in April 2021 began producing a vaccine against coronavirus. Naturally, the vaccine was not its own, but a copy of the Chinese Sinopharm.

Falcon Technologies International (FTI) specializes in DVD and BlueRay production. In 2012, Innovative Composite Engineering was founded; it deals with high-tech equipment.

An active construction is in progress in Ras Al Khaimah. Commercial and residential real estate are in great demand, including by foreign investors. New shopping malls are being built.

And, of course, the local authorities are very actively promoting the development of tourism. New hotels, new entertainment for tourists, new infrastructure - all this awaits us in the future.

Ras Al Khaimah aims to become one of the main tourist destinations in the UAE. The potential for this is enormous, with 30 miles (50 kilometers) of almost empty coastline.

Dozens of companies open their doors in Ras Al Khaimah every year. Doing business there is very profitable, because the company does not pay any taxes or duties. By the way, individuals do not pay any taxes. The emirate has a free trade zone called RAKEZ (RAK Economic Zone). It is allowed to open companies with 100% foreign share capital there.

What to see and do for tourists

Ice Land Water Park

Permanently closed in 2018.

Al Jazirah Al Hamra

This is an abandoned village, also called the "Arab ghost town". It was once home to sailors, fishermen, and pearl merchants. In the early 20th century, the pearl trade almost ceased, and the people left the town.

It is as if the city had come to a standstill. The fortress, market, mosques, and many houses remain untouched. The buildings are traditional in style and many are made of coral stone. In Al Jazirah Al Hamra, you can see how the inhabitants of the UAE lived before oil production began.

This place is unique in the Arab Emirates, because it is not a reconstruction, but the untouched old Arab city.

Al Hajar Mountains

Located in the east of the emirate. The mountains will be interesting for both lovers of mountain hiking and true mountain climbers.

The highest peak in the United Arab Emirates is located in Ras Al Khaimah, it is called Jebel Jais, the height - 6,270 feet (1,911 meters). An observation deck is equipped just below the top. There is a commercial route via ferrata for climbers and a downhill ziplines for the adventurous.

Dhayah fort and village

The fort in the village of Dhayah was the last stronghold of Arab defense when the British attacked in the 19th century. Now the fort and village have been turned into a big tourist attraction.

Near the village of Dhayah, tourists see the burial grounds of the ancient culture of Umm al-Nar, which is 5 thousand years old. There is a "heritage village" where you can see a reconstruction of the traditional way of life of the Arabs of the Persian Gulf. You can climb the hill and see the fort and the beautiful view of the surrounding area.

There is also the "Stairway to Heaven" track. It is a mountain trail with many ledges. It's very interesting, but very dangerous; it's easy to stumble and the trail is not fenced.

Old Town and National Museum

In the Old Town, there is a market (souk), an ancient mosque and a fishing pier where tourists are shown the process of crafting the traditional Arab "Dhow" boats.

But the main attraction of the Old City is Al-Hisn Fort, the former residence of the emirs of Ras Al Khaimah of the Al-Qasimi dynasty. The same leaders whom the British defeated in the 19th century rule the emirate to this day.

The fort was the police station and prison. In 1987, the National Museum of the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah was founded in the fort. You can see ancient household items, utensils, clothing, weapons, valuable archaeological finds, and much more.

Ticket price: AED 5 for adults, free for children.

Opening hours: 8 am to 6 pm on all days except Friday and Monday. Friday: 3 pm to 7:30 pm. The museum is closed on Mondays.

Malls and markets

There are four main shopping malls in the emirate: Manar Mall, RAK Mall, Al Hamra Mall, Safeer Mall. The most popular among tourists is Manar Mall, which has about 120 stores, many eateries, a children's entertainment center, and a cinema.

In addition to the malls, you can find entire shopping districts in the city. In the Old City there is the Old Souq where they trade in small stalls as is the custom in the Arab tradition. Al Nakhil is called "little India" and is not a market but a whole area of the city with many small stores with Indian products.

What else

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah also has a camel race track, a go-kart track, golf courses, and the Saqr Park, where you can not only walk among the greenery, but also to ride on the rides, electric cars, and play video games.

Jeep safaris in the desert, hot-air ballooning, quad biking, diving, fishing are available for tourists.

For those wishing to improve their health, there are hot mineral springs with water temperatures of 104°F (40°C). Golden Tulip Khatt Springs Resort & Spa has three springs right on its territory.

All the attractions of the emirate cannot be listed on this page, we named only the main ones.

Important to know

- The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah is known for its low prices for first-line hotels. Prices there are comparable only with Ajman and Sharjah. Read about all the hotels in our review "Hotels in the UAE with its own beach";

- There have not yet been any cases of shark attacks on tourists in Ras Al Khaimah. However, in other emirates it has happened and the danger theoretically exists. Read our review "Sharks in the UAE".

Have a great holiday in Ras Al Khaimah and read our interesting pages about the United Arab Emirates (see the list of the pages below).

TIPS

Tips for Tourists in the UAE

IMPORTANT FOR TOURISTS

What to Take for the UAE

What You Should Not Do in the UAE

To the UAE with Kids

Sharks in the UAE

Weather in the UAE by Month

Holidays in the UAE

Are Unmarried Young Women
Allowed to Enter the UAE?

All-Inclusive in the UAE

Power Sockets & Voltage in the UAE

Hotels in the UAE with Own Beach

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The UAE - Info, Facts, Figures

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Sheikh Zayed - Father of Nation

Sheikhs of the UAE

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What to Bring from the UAE

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VAT Refund in the UAE

Shopping in the UAE - Why is Cheap

Date Fruits in the UAE

Camel Milk and Dairy Products

Bakhoor and Oud

MONEY AND EXPENSES

Money in the UAE - Emirati Dirham

Currency Exchange in the UAE

How Much Money to Take to the UAE

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Alcohol in the UAE

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Vape and iQos in the UAE

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Emirati Cuisine - What to Taste

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