Ras al Khaimah, colloquially known as RAK, is commonly referred to as the adventure hub of the United Arab Emirates and the Arabian peninsula, with various activities such as the longest zip-line in the world, kayaking, water skiing, Go Karting, golfing, mountain climbing and multiple mountain hiking trails available in the emirate making the emirate a common destination for adventurists. Ras al Khaimah offers a different experience than the other emirates due to its mountains and different landscape, as well as having a large number of ancient archaeological sites, forts, and buildings.
Cities and towns
- 1 Ras al Khaimah City (historically known as Julfar). the capital of the Ras al Khaimah Emirate. Has two main areas - the Old Town and Nakheel - on either side of a creek that is home to mangroves and is framed by the North-Western Hajar Mountains.
- 2 Al Jazirah al Hamra. known for having the best preserved traditional fisherman village in the UAE, nowadays it also has a new residential area with numerous real estate projects, Ice Land Water Park and industrial zone.
- 3 Rams. a small town with a rich tradition and culture. In the past Rams was a town of pearl divers and fishermen. A small harbour, beaches and bird-watching spots are the main attractions of Rams.
- 4 Masafi. a town that famous for its bottled drinking water and agriculture.
- 5 Shimal. town famous for its archaeological sites
- 6 Sha'am. the border town with Musandam. It is worth to visit for its interesting old wadi settlements, rock engravings and harbour.
- 1 Al Marjan Island (If visiting, taxis are the best way to get in and out of Al Marjan Island). artificial islands created to provide investment into RAK via resort hotels and residential complexes. Has a lot of luxury resorts with private beaches. Taxis to and from Dubai Airport (DXB) are c. AED 200-250, and take about an hour - for better rates avoid the black "limo" taxis, and use a cream-coloured "standard" taxi.
- See also: United Arab Emirates
Ras al Khaimah means "headland of the tent" in English. It is nestled between the Hajjar Mountains on the East and the Persian Gulf on the West and shares mountainous borders with the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. With the completion of the E311 Highway (Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road), RAK is only about one hour from the emirate of Dubai.
The Emirate has been in existence since 1708 under the ruling Al Qasimi clan. The Emirate joined the wider United Arab Emirates in 1972 after the Iranian seizure of Abu Musa and the Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands in the Straight of Hormuz.
The Emirate Ras al Khaimah combines a fascinating and a relaxing tourist hub with its calm blue seas with clean white beaches, dramatic desert dunes and the majestic Hajjar Mountains. It has numerous fascinating tourist landmarks, beautiful wildlife conservations and sanctuaries. Golf has become one of the leading tourist attractions within the emirate.
- See also: main UAE page for visa details
- 1 Ras al Khaimah International Airport (RKT IATA RAK Airport) (20 minutes from the city centre. To get there you need to take a taxi, which always run by meter and should cost you around 30 dirham from the centre. If you are staying in one of the hotels in Ras al Khaimah, you can also arrange for a hotel pick up.), ☏ . A few airlines fly from here to the Middle East or Indian subcontinent; the most prominent is Qatar Airways, which transits via Doha. There is a greater choice of flights from nearby Dubai International Airport.
There is no railway system in Ras al Khaimah yet, however a national railway system called Etihad Rail is under development and will connect all the emirates of the UAE.
RAK has good road connections with all the other emirates. The Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road (E311) allows reaching Umm al Quwain (UAQ) in half an hour, Sharjah in less than an hour, Dubai in 1–1½ hour (depending on the traffic) and Abu Dhabi in around 2½–3 hours. The old Coastal Road (E11) is slower but takes you directly to Sharjah via UAQ and Ajman. Fujairah can be reached via the mountain passage or via Masafi (E18) in about 1-1½ hour. An alternative to the above is the Emirates Road (E611), which runs parallel to the E311 but avoid running through the centre of Dubai: this may be quicker in some circumstances.
Ras al Khaimah has a border with Oman (Musandam). It is rather easy to enter and exit the country by car.
The RAK Transport Authority runs buses to Dubai (Union Bus Station), Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Quwain, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain; they also have limited services to Global Village and Dubai Mall. See the RAKTA bus page for information on routes, timetables and fares. Buses to Dubai usually leave hourly during the day.
There are no passenger boat carriers operating directly to Ras al Khaimah.
Public transport is governed by the RAK Transport Authority (RAKTA) in the emirates. Taxis from other emirates can cross into RAK for longer journeys. For tourists, getting around with public transport or walking is difficult (to near impossible), and it would be better to go by either taxi or car.
By tour operator
A few tour operators (mainly in the international hotels) organize Ras al Khaimah city tours. Most of the big hotels provide buses for their guests to the RAK Old City and shopping malls.
Taxis are an easy option to move around the emirate. RAKTA licensed taxis use set-fare meters, are reasonable priced and safe. You can find out current charges on the RAKTA page on taxis. As of January 2024, RAKTA suggests using the "Careem" app for booking. If you are at a hotel, the concierge will usually be able to summon a taxi for you quickly. Dubai taxis are allowed to ferry passengers back from Dubai to RAK, and the charge to RAK City is around 250-300 AED; be aware of the different types of Dubai taxi - it is more expensive to take the "limo" type of taxi rather than a standard taxi, and you have to be careful at taxi stands that you ask for the regular cream coloured taxis for the cheapest rates.
Car rental is easily available option. Most of the roads in Ras al Khaimah are in good condition and it is easy to find the way around (at least in the city). However, driving can be a challenging experience for those who are not used to slightly chaotic roads.
International car rentals are available in most of the hotels. There are also numerous smaller local companies around the town. You should expect to pay from 150 dirham for a small car per day.
Walking around Ras al Khaimah is not easy due to the traffic, lack of sidewalks and zebra crossings and it is something not done and not recommended. For a pleasure walk, Corniche Road and beaches are the best and safest option.
RAKTA operates intra- and inter-city buses. See the RAKTA website page on buses to get details on routes, timings and prices. The RAKTA buses tend to intersect at the Al Nakheel area of RAK City (Plus code: QXWC+H6 Ras Al-Khaimah), near Manar Mall.
- Ras al Khaimah Old City - the oldest residential area in the city of Ras al Khaimah with an old souq, old mosque, fishing harbour and Al Hisn Fort, which now host RAK National Museum.
- 1 Ras al Khaimah National Museum. the RAK National Museum is situated in Al Hisn Fort. It presents the history and culture of Ras al Khaimah. AED 5.
- 2 Jebel Jais. the highest peak in the UAE, at 1,934m, and is home to the world's longest zipline
- 3 Al Jazirah al Hamra Heritage Village, ☏ . the best-preserved fishermen village in the UAE
- Dhow Building Station – continuation of a long Ras al Khaimah’s tradition of dhow building.
- Camel Race Track – taste of the Arabic heritage with excitement of the race.
- Prehistoric Shimal – one of the oldest settlements not only in Ras al Khaimah but also in the region, it has remains of numerous ancient constructions such as Umm an-Nar tombs (2600-2000BC), Wadi Suq tombs (2000-1600BC), a second millennium BC settlement, findings from the Sassanian period (300-632AD) and the Abbasid era (750-1250AD).
- 4 Queen of Sheeba’s Palace (Shimal Fort). Shimal Fort, known locally as 'Sheba's Palace', the remains of an Islamic era fortification.
- Wadi Haqil – a large wadi, which up to the 1970s was a centre of pottery production started in the 15th century.
- 5 Dhayah Fort. the UAE’s only remaining hilltop fort, dating back to the Bronze Age. The fort was a last point of defence against the British who attacked Ras al Khaimah in the 19th century. The village of Dhayah has remains of old tombs and settlements.
- 6 Ghalilah Village and Wadi. Th main attractions include famous Stairway to Heaven track, ancient tomb, heritage village and fishermen houses.
- 7 Sha’am. A town near the border with Musandam. It is worth to visit for its interesting old wadi settlements, rock engravings and small harbour.
- 8 Wadi Bih. One of the picturesque wadis in the UAE. It has remains of old settlements, graveyards and breath taking scenery. In one of the tributary wadis, the Jebel al Jais Mountain Resort is constructed.
- 9 Falayah Fort (Al Fulayyah). An 18th-century fort, and old summer residence of the sheiks of Ras al Khaimah. The General Treaty of Peace between the British and the local sheiks was signed there.
- 10 Khatt. An oasis with thermal waters and numerous archaeological sites.
- Southern Wadis - Wadi Asimah, Daftah, Munay’i, Shawka, Qawr, Safarfir – full of prehistoric sites, scenic and yet undeveloped.
- Ice land Waterpark - it offers more than 50 rides and numerous water games.
- Saqr Park - the Saqr Park is the Emirate’s biggest public park. It has some slides, electrical cars, computer games and other attractions for the young ones.
- Camel race track – camel race is an attraction not to be missed. The races take place on Fridays, early in the morning from October till March.
- Camping and picnicking – done everywhere, although mountains are particularly popular for camping and beach, Saqr Park, Corniche Road and Emirates Road are often chosen for picnicking.
- Golf – there are two golf clubs in Ras al Khaimah. Tower Links Golf Club (18 hole) and Al Hamra Golf Club (9 hole).
- Shisha cafés – a rather relaxing and very local experience. Many restaurants offer shisha, and Corniche Road seems to be particularly popular.
- Shooting Club
- Powered parachuting
- Micro-Light flying
- Mountain climbing
- Wadi bashing – Ras al Khaimah has a wonderful mountains which are often visited by residents and tourists. A 4WD is a must.
- Bird watching
- Quad biking – popular activity amongst the local community, bikes can be rented at the Awafi desert area.
- Desert safaris – organized by most of the hotels.
- Cinemas - there are two cinemas in Ras al Khaimah: Grand Manar (07 2278888) with mainly English-language movies and Gulf Cinema (07 2223313) with a range of Indian and Arabic movies.
- Corniche Road – it is one of the most popular places in Ras al Khaimah, a centre of all action. It is a long street by the RAK Creek with a green promenade, attended mostly on the weekends. Picnics, jogging, roller-skating, biking are only few activities and sports that take place there.
- Old Souq – old souq is not that old, but it is the most traditional shopping experience you can get in Ras al Khaimah.
- 1 Al Nakheel. a district with numerous small shops. Because, numerous of these shops sell Indian products and there is a large Indian community living in this area, Al Nakheel is called by some a small India.
- 2 Fish Market, The Old Market Area, Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, ☏ . interesting cultural experience and a chance to see a local sea life.
- 3 Vegetable Market. situated under the RAK Bridge, the market is a colourful place although most of the products are not locally produced
- Shopping malls – apart from smaller shops and shopping centres, there are shopping malls in Ras al Khaimah with Manar Mall being the most popular. Other are: Al Hamra Mall and Safeer Mall.
A typical Emirati food is not widely available but it can be found in so called ‘popular kitchen’ types of restaurants. Lebanese cuisine mixed with some Arabic and Indian influences is often considered a local food. What you can expect in the restaurant is traditional Lebanese mezze (hummos, mutabal, salads, falafel), kebabs, biryani, fish or lamb. Ras al Khaimah's different cultures brought different tastes for food, restaurants of many types and origins are opened in the city. Considering a large number of Indians in Ras al Khaimah, there are plenty of great Indian restaurants. All major international fast food restaurants chains are also present in Ras al Khaimah and there are numerous local fast food outlets.
Vegetarians will be please to know that in most of the restaurants have at least one vegetarian option, there are also a few purely vegetarian restaurants in town and the concept is widely understood.
Arabic coffee and tea are available almost everywhere. So are the juices made from freshly squeezed fruits. Alcohol you can get only in the hotels, although you can buy it for your private use.
- Musandam Peninsula: Omani exclave that borders RAK and seems to be a world away