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What to do in Ra's al-Khaimah
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Ra's al-Khaimah

Ra’s al-Khaimah, the most northerly emirate on the UAE’s Gulf coast, lies on a fertile palm-filled plain overshadowed by the precipitous Hajar Mountains. In the north-east, close to the emirate’s border with the Sultanate of Oman, the sheer rocky slopes seem to rise straight out of the sea.

A winding creek, Khor Ra’s al-Khaimah, divides the city into two distinct areas connected by a large modern bridge. The old fort housing Ra’s al-Khaimah National Museum and the old souq are located in the western section. The port Mina Saqr, lies to the north of the city.

Commercial development continues apace in Ra's al-Khaimah and a number of luxurious five-star resorts have been built along the coast and in the desert. But the emirate still retains a traditional ambience and the people are heavily influenced by their proximity to the mountains.

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1. Enjoy the beach: Ra’s al-Khaimah has a good selection of excellent hotels, great beaches and golf courses. Try Al Hamra Fort Hotel and Beach Resort (with golf course on the doorstep), the Waldorf Astoria or the Cove Rotana Resort

2. Indulge in the Rainforest Experience in the spa at the secluded Banyan Tree Al Wadi , or try your hand at falconry, horse-riding or camel-riding here. The resort is in a spectacular inland setting.

3. There is plenty of opportunity in Ra’s al-Khaimah for fantastic mountain, wadi and desert adventures, but do take the necessary precautions and consult the experts. About 25 kilometres from the city, a new road runs up the Jebel Jais mountain cluster, which rises to 5,700 feet.

4. Behind the Police Headquarters in the Old Town, the National Museum is in a truly delightful fort, residence of the ruling family until the early 1960s. The museum houses an intriguing collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts – a visit here will give you a real sense of time and place, particularly the maritime past of the region and its role in the pearling trade. At one stage, in the early nineteenth century, these shores were controlled by the Qawasim, who had built up a fleet of over 60 large vessels and could put nearly 20,000 sailors to sea. Their activities eventually provoked a British offensive to control the maritime trade routes between the Gulf and India. The fort and harbour were bombarded by the British in 1810 and the area was invaded in 1819 prior to the signing of a General Treaty of Peace between the sheikhs of the region and the British in 1820. Pearling flourished in the peace that followed.

5. Soak up the leisurely atmosphere of the traditional Old Town and visit the Pearl Museum on the shores of the Creek. Here you will learn about Julfar, which was a major medieval trading centre in the region where merchants from east and west came to purchase the precious pearls that were harvested locally:  a replica of a document dating back to 1654 from the Governor General in Batavia (Jakarta) to Directors of the Dutch East India Company asks the company to send 'two energetic and experienced merchants' to Julfar 'where this jewel is being fished, to stay there from the first to the last catch'.

7. Visit the scenic reconstructed Dhayah Fort about 15 kilometres from the town. This is a strategic military fortification that played a major role in the history of the UAE. The fort overlooks the village of Shimal, also the location of a significant archaeological site. Nearby, remarkable gold pendants were found in long narrow tombs from about 4,000 to 3,300 years ago.

8. The traditional hot springs at Khatt are very popular with the local population. These are due east of the airport and close to Digdagga, an agricultural area that supplies fruit and vegetables to the other emirates. Roadside stalls sell local produce.

9. Explore the ruins of partially restored abandoned stone houses at Jazirat al Hamra, on the coast between Al Hamra Fort Hotel and the Cove Rotana.

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