The northernmost of the seven Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah is a coastal haven on the Arabian Peninsula that’s steeped in history and framed by breathtaking natural wonder. A cultural counterpoint to the opulent wealth and glittering skyscrapers of neighboring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, laid-back Ras Al Khaimah offers a rare glimpse of a more traditional Emirati way of life, surrounded on all sides by a contrasting landscape of mystic mountains, sun-soaked beaches, and desolate desert dunes.
Affectionately dubbed “RAK” by the locals, Ras Al Khaimah’s contemporary name translates to “top of the tent” in Arabic — but with a rich history of settlement that dates back more than 7,000 years, the city on the Arabian Gulf has gone by many names, including Julfar, Majan, and Al Seer, to name just a few. The region’s arid climate is especially kind to historic structures, like the stunningly preserved ghost town of Jazirat al-Hamra, located a short, 12-mile drive south of the city. Step backward in time among the crumbling coral-block buildings of this 16th-century Islamic city, which was abandoned in the 1960s when the oil boom supplanted the traditional Emirati industries of fishing and pearling.
From dune-bashing to the world’s longest zipline, Ras Al Khaimah has much to offer the daring adventure junkie — but its golden-sand beaches, tranquil azure waters, abundant sunshine, and all-around laid-back atmosphere also make it the ideal place to spend a day of peaceful rest and relaxation. Sun-seekers will delight in the abundance of world-class public and private beaches like Jazirat Al Hamra and the city’s famed Flamingo Beach