Ras al what?????
Ras Al Khaimah. We call it RAK.
No, RAK. It’s in the UAE. It’s near Dubai.
Ah, Dubai. What’s it called again?
Ras Al Khaimah.
OK. Why do your parents live there?
A pretty fair question, especially having lived life and mostly loved life in Dubai for over twenty years. Ras Al Khaimah is one of the northern Emirates, on the other side of Sharjah and is most commonly associated with RAK Ceramics – cue light bulb moment – check your bathroom, pool, kitchen tiles. They are everywhere.
RAK offers the peace and solitude that Dubai used to offer. It’s less fashionable, has less places to go and people to see, it doesn’t have the buzz that Dubai and even, Abu Dhabi offer. But for those looking to spend time in RAK, these are not the things they are interested in. ‘Ladies Night’ has not made its way to RAK, Brunch is not really a thing either. If you want to do those things, hit Dubai or AD – only an hour or so away. It is on the Oman/UAE border and so the regular footfall passing through are doing so for a visa-run or stopping off for a check point on the way to take dhow trips in the Musandam and Khasab.
It has an Eat & Drink restaurant – which is brilliant news, plus a host of other very good Arabic and Lebanese options – yes Al Falak, Indian and Pakistani curry houses all at unbelievably cheap prices. The fish market is worth going to at opening time in the morning.
It has beaches, a scattering of five star luxury hotels – and some pretty nondescript ones too. Around the port the driving is crazy and the traffic control is comical but there is something very charming about the beach front. Locals gather every evening to walk along the coast, sit on benches and discuss their days with friends from their community – nattering gossip, eating ice cream or drinking coffee. It is not western, which is rather nice and reminds you that you are in fact, in the Middle East and not the orange fringe of Essex.
And of course, it’s in a free zone – which is the main reason expats who don’t live here would visit it from other Emirates on a frequent basis. It has about the best duty free off license in the UAE which does not require its customers to own a booze license.
RAK is where locals have their farms and family homes, the expats that want to invest into a weekend pad choose to buy. Most swarming to the Al Hamra compound. The beaches are not as pearly white as some of the other Emirates but they’re not half as crowded either and it’s rather nice not to see some ghastly architecture taking up the sea view and changing the coastal structure for a paycheck. The desert is on the door step, which for any true UAE-lover is important for camping and the mountains provide great routes for hiking at the weekends. The sky is less smoggy and camels and oryx can be frequently seen. Dreamland and Iceland are fun distractions, it’s right on the truck road if you’re thinking about going to Dibba or Fujeirah for a weekend with mates to stay at Sandy Beach or Holiday Beach Motel, climb Snoopy Island or perhaps camp on a private beach. Road trips to Masafi or Hatta are doable, heading to Big Red or Fossil Rock aren’t that far either and people are certainly more laid back – though the community is definitely on the small side.
Why live in Ras Al Khaimah? Why not, we’ve lived a life in Dubai. Times change.
Photo credits – Tori Staley.