A group fo adult friends drinking and eating on a beach at sunset. There is a big palm tree directly behind them and another couple seen in the distance.

A beginner’s guide to Ras Al Khaimah

Ras Al Khaimah feels like a world away from the fast-paced hustle and bustle that the United Arab Emirates coastline is famed for. Instead of cosmopolitan city-types, Ras Al Khaimah attracts all types of holidaymakers thanks to its intricate forts, sun-baked desert, and the UAE’s highest mountain. If this sounds like your kind of Middle Eastern holiday, then we’ve rounded up some must-know information.

Things to do

Ras Al Khaimah has rejected the theme parks and sky-high towers of its neighbours and has instead decided to enhance its beautiful natural surroundings with outdoor activities and tours of historic sites. Here’s our top suggestions for your itinerary.  

The World’s Longest Zipline

On top of the UAE’s highest mountain, Jebel Jais, you’ll find the World’s Longest Zipline – Jebel Jais Flight. It travels at speeds of up to 120kph to 150kph at a height of 1,680 metres above sea level!

Spend a day on Al Marjan Island

Al Marjan Island is a collection of four man-made islands extending 4.5km into the turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf. The islands are home to quality hotels and resorts, marinas, leisure, retail and recreational facilities.

During the day, you’ll find water sports on offer at all the resorts, kids clubs, and evening entertainment. Along the coast you’ll find a wide boulevard dotted with coffee shops that’s perfect for a sunset stroll, as well as a running track and a cycle track.

Then at night, head to Rixos Bab Al Bahr where there are several bars. If you would prefer a nightclub: head to Inferno, or Xclusive at the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa.

Stand on top of the Dhayah Fort

Dhayah Fort is the most visited archaeological site in Ras Al Khaimah and a prime example of heritage site conservation in the Emirate. Built during the 19th century on the foundations of much older structures, it is the only hilltop fort still existing in the UAE and offers a fantastic view of the lush palm gardens, the sea and the dramatic mountains.

Explore Al Jazirah Al Hamra

Al Jazirah Al Hamra is the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the United Arab Emirates. It has been empty since the 20th Century, when the UAE was modernised after the oil boom. In this well-preserved town you’ll find a fortress for defence purposes, a small market, several mosques and a variety of house-styles. It is also considered one of the best places to study traditional coral-stone architecture.

Take a peek into the incredible era of pearling

Take a journey back in time with an immersive trip to Al Suwaidi Pearl Farm. Owned by Abdullah Al Suwaidi, the grandson of one of the country’s last remaining pearl divers. It is the only pearl farm in the UAE that provides locally sourced pearls to jewellers around the world. Learn about the Emirate’s coveted pearling industry in the past, and immerse yourself with pearl diving, an oyster opening experience, kayaking, and a traditional lunch.

Go shopping at Al Hamra Mall

Al Hamra Mall is a 37,000 m² two-storey shopping centre set amidst the stunning residential development of Al Hamra Village, offering a perfect blend of shopping, entertainment, and dining. It’s well worth a visit if you’re after some designer goods.

Food & Drink

Ras Al Khaimah is historically a port town, so many exotic plants, spices and recipes from all over the world were welcomed to its shores. This has resulted in a delicious blend of Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Turkish flavours that are guaranteed to delight (and surprise!) the taste buds. Here’s the culinary adventures that you must add to your list.   

Brunch

Start your day at one of Ras Al Khaimah’s brunch spots. We recommend the Beach BBQ Brunch at Al Hamra Residence and Village, where you’ll be greeted with the finest deli meat, BBQ, grilled fish, a variety of salads, and an unlimited selection of drinks.

Coffee Shops

Coffee addicts will find several places to fuel their addiction in Ras Al Khaimah. Be sure not to miss a “kadak chai” or ‘masala chai’, which is a cup of strong tea that is popular amongst locals.

Arabic Cafés

For traditional Arabic cuisine during the day, head to one of the city’s Arabic Cafés. There you can indulge in tasty finger food and platters, with your favourite shisha flavour on the side.

Dining under the stars with traditional Arabic food

There are several restaurants that specialise in traditional Arabic food, but if you really want something special how about an Arabic BBQ under the stars? You’ll be swept away to Al Wadi Nature Reserve, where a personal chef and butler await at your private dining area.

Where to Stay

Authentic and generous hospitality is an essential element of Arabian culture. This sentiment is very evident in Ras Al Khaimah’s diverse collection of hotels and resorts, ranging from boutique hotels to luxurious five-star resorts.

Luxury Resorts

Some of Ras Al Khaimah’s most luxurious 5* Star Hotels & Resorts include the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah, Al Hamra Residence & Village, and Hilton Al Hamra Beach & Golf Resort.

Traditional Campsites

Ras Al Khaimah is also home to many scenic camping spots. For something extra special, visit one of the traditional Bedouin camps and discover a fascinating way of life that hasn’t changed much over the last few centuries. Bedouin Oasis Camp is a very popular choice.  

Hotel Apartments

Hotel Apartments that come with a separate dining/kitchen area are also common in Ras Al Khaimah. Two popular choices are City Stay Beach Hotel Apartments, and Jannah Hotels and Resorts.

Getting there and getting around

Dubai International Airport is just a 45-minute drive away from Ras Al Khaimah, where international airlines such as Emirates, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia, offer direct flights from the UK.

Once you’re in Ras Khaimah you can get around using the bus system or taxis. There are also buses that can take you directly to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Etc.

  • UK Citizens can obtain a visa on arrival
  • Shoulders and knees should be covered while walking through public spaces
  • Ras Al Khaimah has a desert climate, which is hot in the summer and mild in winter

Morag Lee

Morag is the resident blog writer at Barrhead Travel. Can usually be found exploring a cruise ship or on a city break.