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Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is one of the UAE’s lesser-known emirates, and rarely does it receive the credit it deserves: while visitors line up to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi, this natural wonder is often overlooked. In fact, the picturesque city is home to a wide selection of activities ideal for active travellers, as well as UAE residents looking for a quick staycation. Here’s why you should make your way to the ‘forgotten emirate’.
Ras Al Khaimah is the perfect weekend getaway from Dubai. Only a hour and a half away from the city centre by car, the emirate offers quiet and pristine beaches, as well as mountains with scenic views of the emirate. Not only is RAK picturesque, it is also peaceful: still relatively unknown, this is the perfect place escape Dubai’s notorious crowds.
Populated by hiking trails suited for all levels of expertise, Ras Al Khaimah boasts nature walking as one of its most popular activities. Some of the best places to hike in RAK are the Hajar Moutains and Jebel Jais, the latter best known for being the highest mountain in the UAE, standing proud at 1,934 meters (6,345 feet) tall and offering a breathtaking view for adventurers.
Ras Al Khaimah has recently opened doors to the longest zip line in the world, certified by Guinness World Records. Located in Jebel Jais, those looking for a thrill can head here and fly through the mountains for a distance longer than 28 football fields, at 2.83 km (1.76 miles). The zip line can accommodate 250 people a day, and slots can be booked online.
When it comes to going off the grid and getting pampered in a luxury resort, Ras Al Khaimah has no shortage of options. With beach resorts including the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa, The Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, and the Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, the city is home to some of the biggest names in hospitality, all offering high-end services that include spa days and watersports. These luxury venues are ideal for families, couples and solo travellers alike – you can’t go wrong.
For those shorter on budget and looking for adventure, Ras Al Khaimah is still an accessible spot. The city is a favorite among UAE campers, as there are plenty of caravan-friendly beaches, deserts and mountains. RAK’s varied natural scenery is open to campers of all levels – from amateurs looking for a beach spot to crash on, to experts who choose to set up camp atop the sky-high Jebel Jais.
One of the most intriguing locations in RAK is Jazirah Al Hamra, an abandoned village located south of the emirate. Jazirah Al Hamra is rumoured to be haunted by jinns, spirit-like creatures of Islamic folklore that roam the dust-covered 14th century houses and mosque. This off-the-beaten-track destination is often overlooked by tourists, despite its stunning orange hue and eerie appearance that has attracted photographers from across the globe.
Ras Al Khaimah’s history is as diverse as it is rich: many acknowledge that the emirate played a substantial part in the development of the modern-day UAE, but its archaeological finds are often overlooked. History buffs should head to the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, a local gem that houses artefacts dating back to the 14th century, as well as pieces that range from ancient tribal artefacts through to exhibits that showcase work from the late Islamic period.
Not satisfied with the thrill of being atop the UAE’s highest mountain? Then try your hand at Via Ferrata, which offers adventurers the chance to get involved in a protected climbing route through Jebel Jais while attached to an iron cable on the side of the mountain. The kilometre (0.62 mile)-long route sees peaks of 120 metres (394 feet), and includes three different ziplines for maximum adrenaline. The entire adventure takes four hours to complete and visitors can book online.
Animals are a rare sight in the UAE’s major cities. With the exception of domesticated camels and falcons found in tourist attractions (and, of course, Dubai Safari), free-roaming animals are a rarity. In RAK, nature lovers are more likely to find camels and goats, and even the incredibly rare Arabian oryx, which was recently saved from the brink of extinction.