Ras Al Khaimah is known for its interesting history and fascinating cultural activities. The Emirate is proud of its heritage, and there is no shortage of events throughout the year that celebrate.

During your time in Ras Al Khaimah, you will see that the Emiratis take pride in their cultural past. The Ras Al Khaimah government and Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority work tirelessly to keep traditions such as song, poetry, literature and art alive. Each Emirate has unique offerings for tourists and residents to explore. Ras Al Khaimah has a particular affinity with performing arts such as dance and Nabati poetry that embraces bedouin traditions and records the changes in civilisations.

 

Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival

The Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation contributes to the cultural development of Ras Al Khaimah. Each year throughout February and March, Ras Al Khaimah hosts the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival (RAKFAF) in Jazirah Al Hamra, the oldest remaining fishing village in the region. RAKFAF is a nonprofit community arts festival that showcases the work of local and emerging artists, photographers, and filmmakers to engage the community through a diverse calendar of cultural and creative programmes. The successful festival showcases the talents and expressions of local traditional and digital artists in a supportive community environment.

 

Dance and Poetry

Throughout the year, you can 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. It involves two rows of dancers, which signifies the unity and cooperation of the various Ras Al Khaimah tribes. This form of dance has been practiced 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 can be likened to a lyrical duel. One poet starts with a catchy line that prompts the other to respond with a similar rhyme and rhythm, so it continues. The poems are linguistically creative with improvised praise and mockery. The poems are often sung at weddings, tribal or national festivals, camel races and around campfires. You’ll often hear Bedouin women composing and chanting their poems as they work. This unique art allows performers to connect to their past through tradition and the rich heritage of the UAE.

 

Crafts

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). Local Emiratis in Ras Al Khaimah still practice 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.

 

Suwaidi Pearl Farm

The Arabian Gulf has always played an integral part in Emirati culture; pearl diving has always been revered as one of the UAE’s treasured traditions. You can embark on a fascinating journey aboard a traditional pearl fishing boat. The Suwaidi Pearl Farm in Al Rams introduces the history of traditional pearl diving techniques and the importance of the surrounding shallow bays and protective mangroves. From the original Al Rams fishing village, a guide explains the importance of the shallow bay and its protective mangroves. It imparts courageous stories of the fishermen and the diving techniques they once practised. Discover the innovative scientific techniques used in modern-day pearl farming and explore the Suwaidi Pearls.

Souqs

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. Prices throughout the markets are impulsive, so it’s a great place to hone your bargaining skills; shopkeepers expect you to try and haggle.

 

Museums

The National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah is housed in an old fort dating from the early 19th century. The displays of ancient pots, hunting weapons, fishing instruments and clothing showcase thousands of years of civilisation. The Department of Antiquities and Museums has undertaken many archaeological excavations, surveys and scientific research projects. The Qawasim family and residents of Ras Al Khaimah donated many artefacts to the museum. The objects found give important information and insight into the area’s culture and traditions.

Al Wadi Equestrian Centre

Across the Emirate, visitors can experience unique nature. The Equestrian Centre is home to pure-breed Arabian horses, symbolising pride and nobility. Arabian horses are celebrated in poetry, immortalised in myth, recorded in religious books and famed for their endurance, strength, and loyalty. Ras Al Khaimah’s love of the Arabian horse goes back centuries with the Bedouins and their equestrian talent.

The Arabian Oryx was almost extinct in the early 1970s, but thanks to a successful breeding programme, the medium-sized desert antelope, also known as W’Dhehi, roam freely around the nature reserve. The oryx is primarily white and has dark triangular facial features and leg markings. Their impressive long, straight horns make them easily identifiable.

Falcons have been an integral part of Bedouin living and hunting; the birds and the Emirati culture have intertwined for thousands of years. The peregrine falcon is the world’s fastest bird and boasts impressive speeds of over 300 kilometres per hour. Bedouins used the falcon’s razor-sharp eyesight and swift flight to capture curlews, bustards and small mammals. Visitors to the Equestrian Centre experience an impressive falconry performance and watch the mighty speeds they reach within the blink of an eye.

Camels

As you’d expect in rolling desert lands, there are plenty of camels. They have been at the centre of life in the UAE for centuries and played essential roles in transportation, food and entertainment. They symbolise Emirati cultural heritage and remain intrinsic to the country’s traditions and cultural practices.

The terracotta Ras Al Khaimah desert is quite simply spectacular. It ranges from moonscapes to captivating ever-moving silent dunes. In 3000BC, the Bedouins lived in the desert and celebrated their nomadic lifestyle; today, they still practice their hauntingly beautiful age-old rituals. For hundreds of years, Bedouin families seasonally moved around the region in search of a cooler climate, water and agricultural land for their camels and goats.

 

Camel racing is an extraordinary sight. The races occur during the cooler winter months on Friday mornings in the Digdaga and Hamraniya areas of Ras Al Khaimah. Glorious dunes and ancient ghaff trees surround the racetrack. There are usually between 50 and 100 camels lumbering around, waiting for their call to race. The races start at 6.30 am, so be prepared to get there early. It’s worth arriving at the crack of dawn to experience the mesmerising energy and excitement of the owners and trainers as they battle for luxury cars, trophies and monetary compensation, adding up to millions of dirhams.

Each dromedary is saddled with colourful tribal blankets and walks silently through the dust-filled deserts. Every day you’ll find trainers trotting up and down the tracks building the camel’s stamina for the big Friday race.

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