Apart from being home to an impressive collection of interesting attractions and places to see, Ras Al Khaimah also has many cultural spots and places of historical significance offering much more to intrigue the curiosity of its visitors. Here are our picks for the cultural spots that tell RAK’s story.
For archaeological enthusiasts, Ras Al Khaimah is a treasure trove of many archaeological sites and one such site that offers a perfect peek into hundreds of pre-Islamic tombs from the Wadi Suq period and the naval past of its first settlers from 2000BC is Shimal. Located north of Ras Al Khaimah city, this small village is just one of RAK’s many landmarks to discover and reconnect with the lost ages of the Wadi Suq culture that predominated the region. The story the ruins of the village tell is part of RAK’s pre-Islamic story. Do not miss the Husn al-Shimal Fort on top of one of the largest hills in the area that offers a vantage point to admire and gaze at the areas far beyond the village.
Ras Al Khaimah National Museum
No visit to Ras Al Khaimah would be complete without visiting the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum. Blending traditional architecture and historical styles, the museum was originally a fortress built in the 1949 as the royal residence of Al Qasimi family. Later on, it was revamped to serve as a cultural facility for the public to enrich them with the cultural heritage and traditions of the emirate. The museum is the wealthiest monumental museum in the country and houses archaeological, historical and ethnographic artifacts and relics from several sites in and around the emirate.
The Hajar Mountains
A sight you should not miss, is the majestic Hajar Mountains that forms an integral part of Ras Al Khaimah’s history. This spectacular landmark and natural wonder can be reached from the city easily in a half-day trip. If you have the energy, you can take a full-day climb to the summit to explore its rugged terrains, or if you prefer your travel experience to be less physical and more relaxed, you can enjoy an incredible mountain view while relaxing at one of the several hotels and spas nearby.
Considered as one of the best hot springs in Ras Al Khaimah and a desert oasis spring with healing properties, the Khatt springs is a must-visit for anyone looking for a perfect spot to unwind in appreciation of history and nature. Located in Khatt, a mountain village surrounded by the Hajar Mountains, the hot spring offers a chance to relax in a beautiful natural setting. Over the years, the Khatt Springs became well recognized for treatment of various skin ailments and rheumatic disease. The springs deserve more than just a short visit as they are also home to Ayurveda treatment and wellness centre and private pools. The place also warrants some very scenic picnic and wadi camping sites for visitors.
Ras Al Khaimah Pearl Museum
For a chance to acquaint yourself with the history of pearl divers and pearl trading merchants of Arabia, head to the RAK Pearl Museum on the Al Qawassim Corniche. The museum, which is the first and the only one of its kind in the UAE, takes visitors on a memorable pearl excursion chronicling the significance of pearl farming in the region, pearl divers and their daily lives, traditional pearl diving gear and offer a chance to open an oyster and take a pearl back home. A large variety of natural pearls are on display in the museum, including the 12mm glittery pearls called ‘Miracle of Arabia’. The museum is open Saturday through Thursday from 10am to 6pm.
Bedouin Oasis Desert Camp
To experience some traditional Bedouin culture, make sure to visit the Bedouin Oasis Desert Camp. It is the first Bedouin-style desert camp in Ras Al Khaimah that offers a chance to experience the region’s past Bedouin culture. In the comforts of the desert camp, you get upclose with the traditional lifestyle of Bedouins, traverse the area on camelback, try on their traditional costumes, spend a night in their goat-hair woven tents, and savour barbequed meat while listening to some authentic Bedouin music under the stars in a campsite environment.
A highly recommend activity when in Ras Al Khaimah is a tour of the Zayed Village. There are three galleries within the village dedicated to the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; the late Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saqr Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi; and the UAE Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi. Zayed Village displays various artefacts, relics, military equipment, a library with more than 5,000 books, unique jewellery and antiquities from the region, and also highlights a range of houses inhabited by the Emirati ancestors of the region.
For a peek into the remains of a unique palace, in both construction style and the period, head to Sheba’s Palace in Shamal region of RAK. Sheba’s Palace, also called as Zenobia’s Palace or Qasar Al Zabba colloquially, is a hill fortress known to have been a summer retreat of the ruler Julphar. Perched on top hill, overlooking the desert environs of the emirate, Sheba’s Palace dates back to the Julphar period and is the only medieval palace in the region that is a reminder of the emirate’s glorious past. Although the palace is reduced to ruins, it still stands tall in the heart of Shamal’s village.
Camel Races at Al Sawan Camel Racing Track
Camel racing is not just one of the largest spectator sports in the country, but also a traditional heritage activity forming an essential part of the early Bedouin life in Ras Al Khaimah. During the winter seasons, you can watch the Camel races at Al Sawan Camel Racing Track every weekend, Friday to Saturday just after sunrise, between 6.30am and 8.30am, and see the locals fraught with tension trying to place their bets on their favourite camels as they are lined up at the starting line. There are places to camp overnight that offer a chance to catch the camel races in the golden ray of sunrise, which makes for a unique Arabian experience.