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Emirates TravelUnited Arab Emirates / Ras al-Khaimah
 

Ras al-Khaimah

Covering 1,700 square kilometers, Ras al-Khaimah has a population of around 300,000
Ras Al-Khaimah, which translates to “the top of the tent,” is indeed located near the northernmost point of the United Arab Emirates along the Persian Gulf, which resembles a triangular tent top. To the southeast, Ras Al-Khaimah, or RAK as it is commonly abbreviated, shares a border with Oman through the Hajar Mountains. Northwestern RAK borders on the Persian Gulf. Covering 1,700 square kilometers, RAK has a population of around 300,000, with nearly 265,000 living in the city Ras Al-Khaimah.

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In most parts of the UAE, expatriates outnumber citizens by as much as eight to one. But in RAK, Emiratis make up at least half the population. The official language is Arabic, though English is widely spoken, particularly in business transactions. In May 2000, the RAK Free Trade Zone was opened, with the purpose of expanding industrial activity in the region. The Ras Al-Khaimah Investment Authority Free Zone is an area offering land for outside investors wanting to take advantage of Free Zone benefits, and those wanting to set up limited liability companies in partnership with local businesses. Because RAK does not have the oil resources that other emirates – particularly Abu Dhabi – have, it has concentrated on developing industry and lifestyle economies. RAK opened the first cement company in the UAE in the 1970s and is now the UAE’s largest producer of cement. The largest ceramics producer in the world, RAK Ceramics, is located here. Additionally, Julphar, the Persian Gulf area’s first pharmaceutical manufacturer is located in RAK.

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The RAK’s Investment and Development Office wants to create a robust economy based on 60% lifestyle development and 40% industrial development. The emirate’s government has defined its role in developing the economy as creating and maintaining the infrastructure necessary to make the area attractive to investors and industrial developers. Government development projects include aviation services at Ras Al-Khaimah International Airport, sea ports, roads, telecommunications, and energy services.

Three major highways link RAK with the other emirates and with Oman. One highway follows the coast toward Dubai and Abu Dhabi, while the other runs south toward the airport and the border with Oman. The new Emirates Road crosses the emirates of Umm Al-Quwain, Ajman, and Sharjah to Dubai. This road enables journeys to Dubai in less than one hour.

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The seaport in RAK is the closest UAE port to Bandar Abbas in the nation of Iran. The port provides bulk and container service and has specialized berths for handling shipments of bulk cement. The seaport also features extensive covered and open storage areas.

Ras Al-Khaimah is even looking toward the heavens, building a spaceport in partnership with a company called Space Adventures to provide suborbital tourism. Back on the ground, tourism is growing in RAK because of the area’s great natural beauty and its “undiscovered” feeling, even though it boasts several luxurious resorts. This emirate has vast desert landscapes, mountains, golden beaches, and beautiful lagoons. The coastline along the Persian Gulf is emerging as a destination for resort vacations. The area is developing several travel-friendly attractions such as golf, a flying club, diving, and a water park.

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The emirate also offers tours of the city, the mountains and the desert, as well as activities such as Dhow cruises and camel racing. The resorts in RAK are where the nightlife is, with musicians and belly dancers. Right now, RAK is somewhat of an undiscovered jewel as far as tourism goes, but this relatively unknown destination is very attractive to travelers who are interested in exploring destinations that others don’t yet know about.

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The Khatt Springs Hotel and Spa near the Hajar Mountains looks like a castle and offers therapeutic hot springs, hot stone treatments, precious stone treatments, and Ayurvedic medicine. It is a place where travelers can go for a relaxing time. The Al Hamra Hotel and Beach Resort has many different types of accommodations, such as suites, villas, and standard rooms decorated in stunning desert and Oriental styles. It, too offers a number of activities for visitors.

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Ras Al-Khaimah may for the moment seem “undiscovered,” but it is not likely to remain that way for very long because of the many varied features within this emirate. It is described as the most scenic of the emirates because of its great variation in landscapes: coastal, agricultural, desert, and mountain. Each of the regions has a different lifestyle among Emiratis. On the plains, farmers grow date-palms. The coastal areas feature pearl divers, fishermen and traders. Bedouin still roam the desert, and there are tribes local to mountainous regions such as the Shihuh and Habus tribes. Though RAK is right in the middle of the emirates when ranked by size, it has a very rich and complex culture due to its geographical diversity.

While RAK hasn’t had the white-hot growth of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, its slower pace and its other industries have shielded the area from some of the fallout from the 2008 worldwide economic recession. It is poised for solid, sustainable growth once the business cycle picks up again.

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