2023 sees the 16th edition of the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon, famously known for its breathtaking race route that…
With over seven millennia of history, Ras Al Khaimah has an inspiring blend of traditional and contemporary offerings for residents and travellers. Whether you want to discover ancient forts, abandoned shepherd’s homes and time-worn landscapes or adrenaline-pumping activities, spectacular dining, endless nature and state-of-the-art shopping, Ras Al Khaimah offers an inimitable journey of discovery.
Science and geology lovers will appreciate the discovery of the most extensive collection of ophiolites in the Jebel Jais mountains. In the late Cretaceous period, between 145.5 million years to 66 million years ago, there was movement from volcanic action in part of the Tethys Sea that was once part of Arabia. The submarine volcanoes pushed dark, crustal magma over the Arabian landmass, which created a sequence called ophiolite rocks. The ophiolites are the primary type of rock throughout the Hajar mountains giving geologists a rare glimpse of the Earth’s crust; it’s one of the few places scientists can study these oceanic rocks on land.
Fadi Hachicho, the founder of Adventurati Outdoor, is a passionate certified guide and mountaineer from the leading school of mountaineering, ice climbing, and rock climbing in Alaska. Through dialogue and many years of building trust with shy Indigenous mountain tribes and dwellers, Fadi is slowly bringing some extraordinary experiences to small numbers of visitors wanting to explore the Jebel Jais mountains and remote communities to discover rare plants, mammals, birds and other nature. He has sustainably introduced over 100 kilometres of breathtaking world-class hiking to the mountains. His guided tours show the utmost respect for the environment and the unique mountain culture. Walkers and hikers can enjoy overnight homestays in simple lodges owned by shepherds or Bedouins. Fadi works closely with local families and inspires them to share their unique lifestyles with interested travellers. The Adventurati programme sensitively protects their heritage and provides for the future generations of mountain people.
Bear Grylls trained with the SAS, the world’s most renowned and respected special forces regiment. He is skilled in the most brutal combat skills, including unarmed combat, desert and winter warfare, survival, climbing, parachuting, and explosives. His unique background has made him one of the most recognised faces of adventure and outdoor survival. He’s the star of the Discovery Channel’s Emmy award-nominated Man vs Wild TV series, which became one of the all-time most-watched films on the planet. Bear has worked with President Barrack Obama, Julia Roberts, Roger Federer, Will Ferrell, Channing Tatum, and Kate Winslet. Aspiring adventurers will enjoy learning challenging survival skills in the Bear Grylls Explorers Camp. His hand-picked team will equip you with various techniques to survive the challenging terrains in Ras Al Khaimah’s desert and mountains, embrace new experiences and push your boundaries.
Located 1,680 metres above sea level in the cloud-piercing Jebel Jais mountains, brave visitors will enjoy the adrenaline-fueled Jais Flight. The longest zipline in the world will take you to knee-trembling speeds of 120 to 150 kilometres per hour for almost three hair-raising minutes across deep ravines, canyons and jagged peaks. The Warrior Group is the exclusive operator of the Jais Flight. They will fit you with an oversuit and superhero-style horizontal harness that allows you to fly over 2.80 kilometres aerodynamically at high speeds. This flight takes you to a nine-tonne glass-bottomed Instagram-worthy platform suspended 80 metres above the rocks below. Your final flight will be the much shorter and relatively sedate that takes you to terra firma at the foot of the mountains. The Jais Flight can be likened to the remarkable trajectory of a hunting falcon.
The two-seater sleds are designed to seat two people comfortably, one in front and the other in the back, so you can choose to share the exhilarating experience with a friend or family member or go superhero-solo. You’ll reach up to 40 kilometres per hour as you hurtle down the Jebel Jais mountains, swerving through glorious panoramas with spectacular coastline views. The fully-controllable ride takes approximately seven minutes to cover 1,885 exhilarating metres of hairpin curves and undulating waves. The speed seems amplified because you are sitting so close to the ground!
Throughout the year, there are various festivals that you can attend to celebrate the Bedouin and tribal culture and the history of Ras Al Khaimah. If you are lucky, you can experience Al Wahabiyya, a traditional stick dance unique to the Emirate, 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 performed on special occasions by synchronised drummers and dancers. It involves two rows of dancers signifying the unity of the various Ras Al Khaimah tribes. This dance has been practised for many generations. It is rhythmically set to the beat of hand-held drums whilst poetry is recited and repeated like a hypnotic choral chant. The male dancers move in unison as they nods their heads in time to the music. Taghrouda is an form of Bedouin poetry traditionally composed and narrated by men travelling through the desert on camels. The Bedouins believe that this form of lyrical duel and mesmeric chanting entertains the riders and encourages their camels to walk in step.
Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi established The Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival almost a decade ago to encourage and contribute to the cultural development of Ras Al Khaimah. The non-profit platform showcases the talents and expressions of local traditional and digital artists, photographers and filmmakers in a supportive community environment. The festival honours the creative spirit of Emirati, tribal and expatriate artists. Since its launch, the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival has exponentially grown from a small three-day affair to a two-week experience with a well-curated programme of well-attended events and a six-week interactive visual arts exhibition.
The Arabian Gulf waters are historically crucial for fishing, pearling, building dhow boats, sailcloth making, camel breeding, reed mats and date growing. Much of the flora and fauna typical of the Indian Ocean have declined due to the high temperatures and salinity. Today the coast is lined with lavish hotels, watersports facilities, pleasure activities, fishermen and bustling waterways.
Ras Al Khaimah boasts 65 kilometres of coastline, much of which is the bird and fish-filled mangroves. Mangroves are woody plants highly recognisable from their visible root systems, giving them the strange impression of being planted upside-down. Mangroves are the first defence for coastal communities by providing natural barriers that prevent erosion and protect shorelines from storm surges and flooding. The densely populated trees provide a nursery environment for thousands of fish, molluscs and crustaceans seeking refuge from their larger predators and allowing them to thrive before moving to other areas as they mature. The Ras Al Khaimah mangroves are home to pastel pink flamingoes, the western reef heron, Kalba collared kingfisher and the greater spotted eagle. Ras Al Khaimah is a pit stop for many migratory birds travelling from the cold Baltic seas to North Africa yearly.
Pearl diving is revered as one of the UAE’s treasured traditions. Historically, communities of men would dive for exotic pearls. Today, the Suwaidi Pearl Farm is in Al Rams, the northernmost neighbourhood of Ras Al Khaimah, encouraging visitors to explore its colourful and perilous history. The pearl farm is located at the foothills of the Jebel Jais mountains. The founder, Abdulla Al Suwaidi, followed in the footsteps of his forefathers before founding the pearl farm. Suwaidi single-handedly works to revive the almost-extinct tradition. He has a deep understanding of the pearl fishing industry and its importance in Emirati culture. There are many folkloric tales that surround these beautiful milk-coloured gemstones.
Visitors can explore man’s history with the ocean, the pearls, and how Ras Al Khaimah became known as ‘the pearl of the Emirates’. Embark on an interesting journey aboard a traditional wooden pearl fishing boat, listen to the fishermen’s courageous stories and diving techniques, and explore the various tools they used from thetrader’s box ‘bish-takh-tah’. Next, you will discover the innovative scientific techniques used in modern-day pearl farming and explore The Suwaidi Pearl farmhouse. Visitors can open their oysters, see if they hit the jackpot, and find their own Arabian pearl to take home and treasure.
Camel racing is an extraordinary sight. The races take place on cooler winter Friday mornings in the Digdaga and Hamraniya areas of the Emirate. Glorious dunes and ancient trees surround the racetrack. Between 50 and 100 camels usually lumber around, waiting for their call to race. The races start at 6.30 am, so be prepared to get there early 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. The early morning sun is very low and casts elongated shadows over the dunes creating leggy doppelgangers.
The United Arab Emirates prohibited human jockeys under 15 from riding in camel races two decades ago. 2002 saw the introduction of lightweight robot jockeys with slightly grotesque mannequin-like faces, sunglasses, traditionally-inspired racing silks and a hat. Each camel is outfitted with a robot jockey; the electronic jockey monitors the camel’s heart rate and running speed. The two-way radio so its owner or trainer can encourage the camel with familiar commands.
Arabian horses have always played an important role in Emirati culture. They are seen as a symbol of pride, wealth and nobility. Ras Al Khaimah’s love of the Arabian horse goes back many centuries with the Bedouins and their impressive horsemanship. Arabian horses are celebrated in poetry, immortalised in myth, recorded in religious books and famed for their endurance, strength and loyalty. The handsome horses are considered one of the purest breeds in the world. They have a wide flat forehead, soulful brown eyes, a broad, slightly turned-up nose, long, erect ears, a slender neck and a gloriously shiny mane.
The Arabian Oryx is the national animal of the United Arab Emirates and the largest mammal that lives in the wild terracotta deserts of Ras Al Khaimah. The Arabian Oryx is a medium-sized desert antelope, also known as W’Dhehi; the males can weigh up to 80 kg. The oryx is primarily white and has dark triangular facial features and leg markings. Their impressive long, straight horns make them easily identifiable. Their broad hooves let them move deftly across the soft sand and rocky outcrops. Oryx have for many years inspired Arab poets.
The Al Wadi Equestrian Centre is not only home to horses, oryx and camels but also a fragile ecosystem home to desert vegetation, flowers and trees. The spiny-tailed lizard, rodents, small mammals, foxes, owls and wild cats also find their place in the natural, protected area.
Ras Al Khaimah boasts an enviable collection of luxury hotels from world leaders, such as Waldorf Astoria, Ritz-Carlton and the InterContinental. The Emirate is conveniently ‘split’ into several areas, including Al Hamra Village, Al Marjan Island, Mina Al Arab, the desert, Jebel Jais mountains, the city and the northern Al Rams area. Explore the comprehensive recommendations to find your preferred style of accommodation in Ras Al Khaimah.