Things to Do in Ras Al Khaimah
When you think of the United Arab Emirates, it’s usually about sand dunes, towering skyscrapers, or the sparkling Arabian Sea. In the mountains of Ras al Khaimah, however, travelers can venture up the rugged slopes of rocky Jebal al Jais, which at 6,207 feet is the UAE’s tallest peak. Leave the rush of the city behind as you snake your way up the mountain, where the surrounding cliffs and rock-strewn plains make it seem like the surface of the moon. The view of the city from the top is spectacular—particularly at sunrise and sunset—and sleeping beneath the desert stars is a popular visitor activity. So, too, is renting a sports car and hugging the mountainous curves, or booking an afternoon picnic lunch enjoyed right on the mountainous slopes. The last section of the road to the summit has lately been closed for construction, but plans are to not just improve the road, but also create the world’s longest zipline that runs for 1.4 miles. There has also been talk of putting a resort and golf course up on the mountain, but for the time being it’s a desert escape that’s peaceful and undeveloped.
As the northernmost emirate in the UAE, Ras al Khaimah has a fascinating history that’s displayed at this national museum. Housed in an 18th century fort, the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum was the home of the emirate’s ruling family until 1964, and was opened to the public as a national museum in 1987. Once inside the historic fort, enjoy a casual, self-guided tour of artifacts detailing the early history of peoples inhabiting the desert. You’ll also find ethnological displays, as well as documents and treaties from deals with Britain in the 19th century.
The most prominent feature is the old tower, which rises above the two-story buildings and was once an important lookout point for guarding the royal family. Because the museum doesn’t offer guides, it’s good to visit the museum as part of a half-day tour of town, where the local guides who administer the tour can tell you about the artifacts. Favorites include the ancient weapons that were used to defend the fort, as well as equipment that divers used when diving for pearls offshore.
Crowning a hill below the Hajar Mountains in Ras Al Khaimah emirate, the 19th-century mud-brick Dhayah Fort is the United Arab Emirates’ last remaining hilltop fort. Built from the remnants of earlier fortifications, it’s famous for serving as a holdout for the local Al Qawasim peoples when they attempted—but failed—to resist British forces in 1819.
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