What is sustainable travel?

Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority (RAKTDA) and the government continue to provide sustainable travel alternatives encouraging travellers to be more responsible with their choices. Sustainable travel is your commitment to travel with as little environmental impact as possible. It gives you the opportunity to protect Earth’s natural resources, reduce the effects of over-tourism and support local and Indigenous communities. It’s important to remember that sustainability looks different across the globe. RAKTDA work with their local partners and communities to ensure a transparent understanding of the diverse needs of Ras Al Khaimah. They strive to protect their native people and culture, fragile desert-scapes, millennia-old mountains, and delicate coastal mangroves and oceans.

The environment, culture, conservation and livability is at the heart of RAKTDA’s investment and development strategies. The Authority strives to prevent over-tourism by protecting its unique natural environment and creating a destination that resonates with today’s intentionally responsible traveller. Leaders of Ras Al Khaimah understand the need for forward-thinking stewardship of the ancient and unique people, environment, heritage and infrastructure. They ensure that new attractions and hotels have sustainability at their very core.

 

How can you travel sustainably to the UAE?

Here are the top ten tips for sustainable travel in Ras Al Khaimah and further afield;

 

  1. Engage in cultural conservation

Ras Al Khaimah was once an important trade route and is home to four impressive archaeological sites that are tentatively on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. RAKTDA has committed to restoring and protecting the sites to preserve the Emirate’s culture and traditions. Consider visiting Jazirah Al Hamra, the abandoned pearling village, Dhayah Fort located within a date palm farm between the mangroves and the mountains, the megalithic stone tombs and the remains of a medieval metropolis. By visiting these extraordinary sites, you’ll have an insight into the challenging living conditions faced by those living in parched desert lands.

 

  1. Support local attractions

The Emiratis are renowned for their sunny disposition and warm welcomes. Their inimitable culture is steeped in the rich Bedouin history that dates back to 3,000 BC. For centuries, they would move around the region in nomadic cycles to find cooler weather, water and fertile land for their animals. Even though they constantly moved, they would ensure comfortable accommodation, plentiful food, and entertainment. The Bedouins created simple yet beautiful traditions that continue in parts of the Emirate. Experience the soul of the Bedouins and visit one of the nomad-inspired villages such as Bedouin Oasis, Bassata Desert Village, Sonara Camp Al Wadi or for a five-star experience, the Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert.

 

  1. Help protect the environment and natural heritage for future generations

When considering sustainable development, the simplest definition is that the current generation has inherited vast amounts of the environment, including water, land and air. When this ‘environment’ is left to the next generation, they should receive it at least in the same condition, if not better. It’s just within the last decade that tourism has been seen as more than profit; it’s only now that regulations are in place to consider the environment and the impact of tourism. The natural landscape represents the tourism product in Ras Al Khaimah, including the mountains, mangroves, beaches, the Gulf and the desert. Be aware of wildlife and how tourism can be harmful by destroying or disrupting habitats. Make informed choices and consider the impact that you make throughout your journey.

 

  1. Only take part in eco-friendly tours

More and more ‘peaceful’ tours are being added to the smorgasbord of interesting activities already available in Ras Al Khaimah, including;

  • Kayaking through the protected mangroves to discover bubblegum pink flamingoes and a nursery of infant wildlife
  • Hiking the marked trails in the Jebel Jais mountains, exploring shepherd family life
  • Jais Sledder, the adrenaline-provoking toboggan run that speeds you through the mountains
  • Jais Flight, the longest zip line in the world that reaches speeds of up to 150 kilometres per hour
  • Suwaidi Pearl Farm, explore pearl diving, an industry that is still revered as one of the UAE’s treasured traditions
  • Bear Grylls Explorers Camp, learn survival techniques and how to protect the environment whilst camping in the desert and mountains

 

  1. Visit and learn at various nature reserves

Across the United Arab Emirates, various nature reserves have the sole purpose of protecting indigenous wildlife, flora and fauna. Ras Al Khaimah comprises an exciting array of nutrient-rich landscapes. The sandy deserts, coastal plains, salt flats, mangroves, mountains and date orchards make it an extraordinary destination for nature lovers. The various ecosystems contribute to flora categories, including salt-loving mangrove vegetation and mountain and desert plants that flourish after rain. The Arabian sand gazelle, mountain gazelle and the oryx, although very rare, can sometimes be spotted in the wild. The Emirate is also home to numerous reptiles, camels, foxes, jerboas or wildcats and hundreds of bird species. UNESCO inscribed falconry in 2016 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Falconry has evolved and is associated with nature conservation, cultural heritage and social engagement within and amongst communities. It is one of the oldest relationships known between man and bird. Explore the mangroves with sustainably-minded Challenging Adventures and learn about falcons, the sand gazelle, the oryx and other programmes at the Ritz Carlton Ras Al Khaimah Al Wadi Desert.

 

  1. Support ancient crafts and culture by attending festivals

The United Arab Emirates boasts a range of well-attended festivals throughout the year. You can attend the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) in Jazirah Al Hamra each year. This nonprofit community arts festival showcases the work of local and emerging artists, photographers, and filmmakers to engage the community through a diverse calendar of cultural and creative programmes.

Throughout the year, you can also attend various festivals and special events celebrating the Bedouin culture and the history of Ras Al Khaimah. You can experience Al Wahabiyya, a traditional stick dance unique to Ras Al Khaimah, the lythe movements of the belly and tanoura dancers, and Taghrouda, an exquisite form of Bedouin poetry and mesmeric chanting.

Al Wahabiyya is a traditional stick dance unique to Ras Al Khaimah. It’s usually performed on special occasions by carefully orchestrated dancers and drummers. The ancient form of dance has been practised for generations. The dance is rhythmically set to the beat of hand-held drums whilst poetry is recited and repeated, almost like a hypnotic chant. The dancers move in unison as they move their heads in time to the music. If you have the rare opportunity to see this dance, it’s well worth it.

 

Taghrouda is an exquisite form of Bedouin poetry traditionally composed and narrated by men travelling through the desert on camels. Bedouins believe that this form of mesmeric chanting entertains the riders and encourages the camels to walk in step. The poetry is likened to a lyrical duel.

Embroidery, weaving and pottery have been part of Emirati life since they lived as Bedouins. Pottery has been discovered and dates back to the Paleolithic Age (6000 BC to 3500 BC). RAK-ians still practise the traditional form of weaving, known as Sadu. It is on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s list of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding.

Each year, the Awafi community holds a springtime festival celebrating Emirati ethnic and cultural heritage. There are various sports, arts and crafts so visitors can experience authentic Bedouin and local culture.

 

  1. Cycle, walk and run

Throughout Ras Al Khaimah, there are various walking, jogging and cycling tracks so that you can enjoy the great outdoors. Whether you want to go off-road and enjoy the wilds of the mountains or hire e-bikes and potter along flat tracks with the family, there is something for everyone.

Marjan Island has a glorious 2-kilometre corniche lined with palm trees. The track is popular during the cooler hours of the morning or evening. Visitors or residents of the island can enjoy a healthy and sociable lifestyle by walking, jogging, running or cycling along the wide tracks. You could even join one of the several ex-pat groups that regularly meet for a workout. You can rent Circ e-scooters that provide eco-friendly, affordable and convenient transportation solutions on Marjan Island. RAKTDA partnered with Circ to provide carbon emission-free transport. The eco-scooters support the ongoing objective to sustainably grow tourism offerings and make it easier for visitors to experience the Emirate’s diversity.

 

  1. Shop sustainably

Souqs are at the heart of any community across the Middle East, and none more so than the Kuwaiti Souq in the older part of Ras Al Khaimah. By exploring the traditional markets, you’ll soon learn how to shop the local way! Before you start, set yourself up with a strong coffee made with dark, bitter beans that are cooked, served black and sweetened with cardamon or condensed milk. Prices throughout the markets are impulsive, so it’s a great place to hone your bargaining skills; shopkeepers expect you to try and haggle.

Ras Al Khaimah has a variety of traditional fruit, vegetable, wet and fish markets in the old part of the city. The produce tends to come from local suppliers, farmers and fishermen, so you know you’ll have an almost zero-mile footprint. You’ll hand-pick your products and pack them into your reusable bags, ensuring you use no single-use packaging.

 

  1. Think about your consumption

Waste comes in many guises, and when you travel, it seems almost impossible to be considerate to the environment. With some planning, you can have a positive waste-free travel experience by bringing a sustainable travel kit. The lightweight kit might include essentials such as a reusable straw, fork, spoon,  chopsticks, cup, bowl, or plate. These utensils are perfect for visiting local markets and street food vendors. Always travel with a reusable water bottle as part of your sustainable travel essentials. Bottled water is one of the most significant contributors to waste when travelling. Invest in a quality water bottle that can hold hot or cold water and top up where possible; you can even make tea! Consider your food consumption, particularly at mouthwatering eat-all-you-can buffets. Overloading your plate is wasteful because of the spoiled food and the energy used to ship, produce and dispose of it.

If you are planning to spend some much-needed time on the beach or in the warm waters of the Arabian Gulf, it’s important to invest in reef-friendly, chemical-free sunscreen to protect your skin against the sun’s harmful rays. Ingredients such as oxybenzone and octinoxate are harmful to marine life. Plan ahead and fill a set of reusable containers with shampoos, conditioners and moisturisers from home to prevent the need for single-use plastics that you’ll receive in most hotels.

 

  1. Travel slowly

Slow travel is becoming more and more popular globally, and for good reason. Travelling at a slower pace affords you more time to take everything in and delve beneath the superficial exterior of a vacation. Instead of travelling around the UAE in a week or two, give yourself some time to focus on one Emirate, such as Ras Al Khaimah. You’ll be able to make a much more authentic connection with your chosen destination. Slowing down allows you to hire a local guide to really explore the diversity of a new landscape, culture and people.

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