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July 20, 2024

Ras-al-Khaimah emerges as a key travel destination in the UAE

When we glanced at the initial itinerary for the trip, I was taken a little by surprise. Only at a distance of 90 km from Dubai, Ras Al Khaimah is blessed with the mountains on one side, the sea on the other, and green fertile plains in the middle. Sounds idyllic, I know. Certainly not a picture you would draw for yourself in the Middle East. However, we packed our bags, ready for adventure. The flight, thanks to trusty Indigo, ensured that we reached comfortably, and on time. The comforts of a familiar airline and its staff nipped any foreignness or discomfort from a long flight, from an anxious traveller such as myself. I couldn’t help but think to myself while eating their cucumber sandwich and doing the little puzzle at the back (which I’m addicted to I’ve decided), how having a home airline fly to distant lands had somehow brought the world closer.

But an adventure was to be had ahead! Out and about from Dubai airport, it was new experiences that I was seeking not the joys in familiarity.

 

 A quick transit

UAE’s picture-perfect roads ensured that we traversed the distance of around 90 km from the airport to our destination, Al Marjan Island in no time. Al Marjan island is one of the most luxurious destinations in the UAE, with something for everyone. It is in particular, suited for a relaxed business plus pleasure trip, or a family outing with landmark eateries, adventure options. With a wide choice of accommodation, from ultra-luxurious beach resorts managed by some of the most notable names in the business to family-friendly and affordable hotels – Ras Al Khaimah offers its visitors the best hospitality. World-class hotels and resorts include properties such as Waldorf Astoria, Hilton, Rixos, Rotana, Ritz-Carlton, Radisson, and the world’s largest Hampton Resort by Hilton. Opened in 2022, InterContinental Mina Al Arab offers island living amongst the exquisite landscapes and hospitality of modern Arabia, and Mövenpick Resort Al Marjan Island, located on a 300-metre stretch of golden shoreline, is home to the largest floating water park in Ras Al Khaimah.

Adventure in the mountains

Our first day we headed straight to our first adventure, at the Al Jazeera Al Hamra Aviation Club. The club is a great place to visit if you’re an aviation enthusiast. We were matched to co-pilots as we got the opportunity to fly across the entirety of Ras Al Khaimah, enjoying a bird’s eye view of the incredible emirate.

Flying lessons aside, some of us could even spot turtles from the sky, making the experience more memorable. Our next stop was out in Hajar mountains, an hour’s drive away till the Jebel Jais Peak. We were going there to try some exciting activities. What the drive had at the end truly took our breath away. At the Jebel Jais peak is the longest zipline in the world called the Jais Flight, where a person can travel up to 160 km/hr. The other alternative is the Jais Sky Tour, which comprises six consecutive ziplines, connected by nine platforms and a 15m long sky bridge to afford a true bird’s eye view of the grand cliffs and mountains of the place. That was not all, just next door to the Jais Adventure Centre was the Jais Sledder where we were headed next for a mountain sledding experience, where we could toboggan down the rail all the way from the top, sometimes reaching a speed of 40 kmph. The day turned out to be one of the most adventurous days of my life, and we came back exhausted but enthused, with many memories to share, from the enthusiastic Rizwan at the zipline centre who encouraged us ahead!

In between, we also stopped for lunch at the View by 1484, the highest restaurant in UAE, that served delectable food, including a Raspberry Mojito and a Halloumi Date salad that I have been dreaming of ever since! For those looking to stay over, there’s the first Bear Grylls Explorer Camp on location, the perfect camping spot across the Emirate’s numerous mountain trails. Activities such as mountain biking, hiking and climbing can be done over there.

Upon our return to Al Marjan, we hit the malls and ended up doing some shopping, a quintessential UAE experience.

Cultural immersion

Our next day was reserved for visiting Ras Al Khaimah’s cultural quarters, including a visit to the once thriving and now completely silent Al Jazira Al Hamra village that was at the centre of Ras-Al-Khaimah’s pearl farming history. The houses have been preserved in near-perfect condition, and affords a good glimpse at what it meant to live in a pearl farming community a couple of centuries ago.

After the village, we went to explore the Ras Al Khaimah museum, formerly the living quarters of the Sheikh, where 7,000 years of the Emirate’s history lies preserved. It is one of the last-surviving pearl village to have survived in the Arabian Gulf with a chequered history – post pearling being banned in the UAE, the whole village was said to have emptied in a night as they collectively sought their fortunes elsewhere. Currently, elements of the village, including a mosque, souq, residences, and watch towers can be observed in good condition, left as it was by the Al Zaabi tribe. Our next stop was the Suwaidi Pearl Farm, the only pearl farm currently operational in the UAE. Founded in 2005, by Abdulla Al Suwaidi, who comes from a lineage of pearl divers, the farm has been established to preserve UAE’s history with pearl diving. The experience began when we embarked on  a boat that took us on a pearling boat, and then onto a pearl farm, where we got a live demonstration on how oysters were bred for pearls, how pearls are graded (where several myths about natural vs cultured pearls were broken – no it’s not the colour that determines the difference between the two) and then finally enjoyed local fare, rice, fish and a sweet.

Our last day was reserved for the most special experience, however. We ventured into the neighbouring Al Wadi desert, into the lands of the Ritz Carlton. The hotel is built at a strategic location, to serve as the perfect place for activities such as stargazing, adventure activities such as dune bashing in the desert, or a safari and animal feeding experience within the hotel grounds. The 1,235 acre reserve is protected and maintained by the hotel and is home to several local wildlife such as the Arabian Oryx and gazelle. The Ritz Carlton’s prized wellness experience, for luxury seekers, is the rainforest experience, where one can immerse oneself for an hour or two in ‘water therapy’ where different forms of shower experiences, immersion in water and ‘water massages’ coupled with aromatherapy in saunas and steam rooms ensure complete rejuvenation.

The hotel that we had chosen for our trip, Movenpick resorts is ideal for a family holiday. Apart from some sick games in the family room, including arcade games, that would make for the perfect day of leisure on a holiday, what stayed with us was a ‘Wibit’ or the largest floating water park,  where a morning was spent in much jubilation, slipping and rolling about in the calm waters of Ras-Al-Khaimah.

The Emirate became the first city in the world to be certified ‘safe’ by industry certification body  Bureau Veritas and the first Emirate to receive the World Travel and Tourism Council ‘safe travels’ stamp. It indeed makes for a good spot for a family or even a solo vacation, with its diverse history, points to explore, and a variety of natural wonders. It is also no wonder that its natural bounty has been enhanced by the Emirate’s focus on sustainability, making it known for its eco-friendly initiatives. While tourism currently makes up 5 per cent of its overall revenue, it is its fastest growing industry, and therefore, it is safe to say that the nature emirate Ras-al-Khaimah has entered many bucket lists for its unique experiences.

Payel Majumdar Upreti

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