Ras Al Khaimah Review: Best Things to Do in UAE

Ras Al Khaimah Review: Best Things to Do in UAE







Alexandra Wilby



Suspended 6,345 feet in the air, face down, flying high along a zipwire at speeds of up to 93 mph over the awe-inspiring landscape of the Jebel Jais mountain range, I wonder for a brief moment what on earth has come over me.

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I usually do not have head for heights. I’m definitely not one for thrill-seeking activities these days. Still, I was here, horrified, elated and screaming my lungs out on the world’s longest zipline (certified by Guinness World Records no less!). And I loved every second of it.

the world's longest zipline

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I think I can thank Ras Al Khaimah for my newfound sense of adventure. From the moment I arrived in the Emirates it is only a 45 minute drive from its beautiful neighbor Dubai, something came over me. I was ready for whatever came my way.

Which, of course, made the video an overnight sensation. …

First of all, forget all you know about the UAE. Ras Al Khaimah is a world away from the skyscrapers and bottomless brunch of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Instead, you’ll find an outdoor, traditional destination with mountains, desert, beach … and a heavy blob of culture thrown in to boot.

cabins

Our first stop was Bear Grylls Mountain Camp, run by a team of highly trained instructors. They host everything from survival courses to family camping experiences (in one of the simple but comfortable camp cabins), and in our few hours there I got my first taste of adrenaline for the weekend with a ride on an obstacle course 33 feet above the ground. To the cheers and cheers of our group, we egged on each other as we set out to cycle over a barn, jump between picnic tables hung in the air and more … before trying our hand at a place of mountaineering.

mountaineering

Bookled in a harness, I stood face to face with what to me felt like a clean rock surface tasked with climbing to the top. As a total novice, I thought it would be impossible. But with the encouragement of the amazing staff and a bit of determination on my part, I made it! And that was the easiest thing … Then I had to rappel down again.

climb-cliff

Next up was archery (harder than it looks) – just another one of a host of activities designed by Bear Grylls himself on offer. It was all amazing. When I left camp, I felt invincible … which is why I found myself agreeing with the zipwire experience.

But first – breakfast. After winding our way further and further up the majestic mountain range, phones ready to take lots of pictures of the view on blue skis outside our van, we found ourselves in 1484 at. Clean, the highest restaurant in the UAE at – yes, you guessed it – 1484m above sea level. My Raspberry Mint Puro mocktail got a treat even though my meal was not so much – I was so nervous about the impending zipwire that one could see from the terrace that I could hardly eat even though I was reliably informed that the food was delicious. It’s a little chilly up here, so even if you associate the UAE with desert-like warm temperatures, you’ll need to bring extra layers.

Even with plenty of time to get out of the zip wire, none of us did – we sat through our ‘flight’ briefing and then got dressed in our gear, as well as a go-pro to record the whole the experience from start to finish. What a souvenir!

cable car

But our action-packed day did not end there. It was time for a sunset hike arranged by Adventurati outdoors – The view of neighboring Oman was breathtaking and we all made sure to pose on a rock that loomed dangerously beyond the sheer fall below …

looking over the mountain

We were provided with backpacks of water and snacks to keep us on the hike, although admittedly we took so many pictures that we did not exactly make progress at furious speed.

It was all followed by a group meditation and dinner as we reached the summit at Camp 1770. The bonfires were lit and the fairytale lights flashed against the starry sky when we arrived – a welcome sight; at this point it was so cold that I was wearing a ski jacket.

ras-al-kaimah

Local mountain tribes had arranged for our Emirati party with chicken mandi with rice and a date-donut dessert, which we rinsed down with a cup of Karak – thick, caramel tea – while we put in warm sleeping bags to keep the cold out.

faisal

After all that adventure, it was great to stay in a luxury hotel by the beach that felt like a real haven. Our home this weekend was the five star DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island – and my suite, with a balcony overlooking the 650 m long private beach and an adventure playground for children with water slides out to sea – was huge, with a massive, cloud-like bed I sleep deep in. Thanks to a little bit of jet lag – The UAE is four hours ahead of the UK – I wake up early and go outside to catch the sunrise before breakfast, served as a giant buffet with all the breakfast you could ever imagine.

double-wood-hilton

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The food at the hotel was excellent – a special highlight was in the Italian restaurant Vespa, one of 13 restaurants and bars on site. I can also vouch for the wine! There are also indoor and outdoor pools to laze. In fact, the expansive 5 * property is so large that we were given a card when we checked in. And for those looking for the ideal Insta-worthy snaps, there is a swing on the beach, perfect for posing for a picture-perfect photo.

But there is too much to explore in Ras Al Khaimah to spend all day soaking up the sun, so as we dragged ourselves away from our sun loungers, we headed out again – this time to find out more about the culture of the emirate.

Jazirah-Al-Hamra

We visit Al Jazirah Al Hamra, an abandoned city that precedes the discovery of oil in the region and therefore the wave of modernization that took place from the middle of the 20th century onwards. Once a small island whose inhabitants lived off pearl diving and the sea, the place is now eerily quiet. You can walk around and into houses where people lived, and admire mosques, a market and a fortress; it is the last authentic and traditional city still standing throughout the UAE.

_boat-and-mangroves

We also visited the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, located in a fort that was home to the ruling family until the 1960s, and saw artifacts from the earliest settlers all the way up to recent history. We learned about date farming and pearl diving … which we experienced on our own that afternoon with a trip to Suwaidi Pearls Farm, where we excitedly spotted flocks of wild flamingos in the mangroves while taking a short boat trip to the farm to get our experience with to learn about how oysters create the precious jewels and how they are grown. Take your credit card if you’re a jewelry junkie like me – there are plenty of pearl items to buy afterwards!

pearl

Ras Al Khaimah is the perfect destination for winter sun and adventure. Not only that, but the Emirate is dedicated to environmentally conscious tourism; they aim to become the regional leader in sustainable tourism by 2025. Whether you are looking for a family holiday, a long weekend with friends or you are flying solo, you will find plenty to do here. And even though my trip has been and gone, I think my newfound sense of adventure has come to stay …

I flew with Emirates, which has six daily flights between London Heathrow and Dubai.

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