History and Heritage of Ras Al Khaimar

Mountains near Masafi

Ras Al Khaimar, better known as RAK, is the northernmost of the emirates that make up the UAE. To the north lies the country of Oman and to the north and east are the rugged Hajar Mountains. Thought to have been inhabited since the 3rd millennium BC, this area is rich in archaeological artefacts, many of which can be seen at the Ras al Khaimar National Museum. The area is littered with historical sites, semi-derelict fortresses and abandoned villages.

Historically known as the city of Julfar, the settlement changed over time due to the harbour channels silting up. In the early 18th century the area was settled by the Al Qasimi dynasty and was known as a powerful maritime force with a history of piracy. In 1819 the British forces arrived to quell the attacks and the ensuing Battle of Ras Al Khaimah saw the destruction of the fleet along with damage to the 16th century Dhayah Fort which can still be seen. The ensuing treaty made the area a British protectorate from 1820 until 1971 when the newly independent emirate joined the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Ras Al Khaimar Districts

RAK can be divided into a number of different areas, each with their own character and history. The Old Town of Jazirat al-Hamra area is one of the most popular tourist sites. It gives insight into the life of the pearl divers and fishermen who lived simple lives in this area prior to the oil boom in the mid-20th century. The busy port and industrial zone is at Khawr Khuwayr while Al-Rams is a typical fishing and pearl diving village which is worth visiting.

Diqdaqah is the main agricultural area in RAK while the southern town of Masafi near the Fujairah border is famous for its supply of drinking water. The mountain village of Khatt has thermal springs and health spas along with palm gardens.

Modern-Day RAK

The emirate or RAK covers 650 square miles (1,684 km2) and has a population of around 270,000 mainly Emirati citizens. Boasting a modern international airport, it has 40 miles of sandy beaches bordered by the Arabian Gulf. It is a popular winter sun destination due to its warm dry climate.

Ras Al Khaimar is not an oil-producing area and instead focuses on industry and tourism. Visitors will find that RAK is a pleasant mix of ancient and modern. Luxury five star hotels and beach resorts have sprung up along the coast bearing well-known names including Hilton, Rotana and Banyan Tree. The emirate also has affordable 3 and 4 star accommodations.

Located just 45 minutes’ drive north of the glittering high-rises of Dubai, Ras Al Khaimar has plenty of its own attractions to entertain visitors. White sandy beaches, watersports, golf courses, rugged mountains and desert experiences are all available to visitors. The Awafi Festival attracts many motor fans to the area while families enjoy attractions such as Iceland Water Park and the RAK Mall. Although the RAK has changed dramatically over the last 40 years, it is now a growing tourist destination that is well worth considering for a sunny winter break.