Ten reasons to take a road trip to the northern Emirate
Time Out Dubai staff
1 For starters, it’s got a cool name. Ras Al Khaimah literally translates to ‘head of the tent’. Just 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport by car, the emirate has one of the most varied landscapes in the country, with rocky mountains, orange sandy deserts, green plains, creeks, lagoons and a long, clean stretch of coast.
2 It’s got an Antarctic-themed waterpark. Where better to cool off than at Ice Land Water Park? Complete with fake glaciers and model penguins, there are rides and slides to keep kids big and small happy. Dhs175. E11, Ras Al Khaimah, www.icelandwaterpark.com (800 969 725).
3 Play a round on a different golf course. Done Dubai’s fairways to death? The chance to tee off on a different course – and a very reasonably priced one at that – is a great reason to hit the road. Weekend rates for visiting players at Al Hamra Golf Club start from Dhs295 for 18 holes, and Dhs175 for nine holes, while weekdays you’re looking at Dhs275 and Dhs150 respectively. Can’t stand the heat? Hit the floodlit nine-hole course after dark, with tee-off times until 7.50pm. Al Hamra Golf Club, Al Hamra Village, Coast Road, RAK, www.alhamragolf.com (07 244 7474).
4 There are some great beach hotels to check out. Ras Al Khaimah is one of the most relaxed places to be in the UAE at this time of year, and DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island is a great place to while away a weekend or cheeky mid-week break, with prices starting from Dhs560 per room per night. A 650-metre private beach offers heaps of watersports, while there’s also volleyball, badminton, tennis and more, plus a whopping seven restaurants and bars. Marjan Island Boulevard, Ras Al Khaimah, www.doubletree3.hilton.com (07 203 0000).
5 Beach not your bag? Gaze out over Ras Al Khaimah’s beautiful terracotta-hued dunes from across your own private pool at Banyan Tree Al Wadi, and check a real bucket list break off your UAE to-do list. The super secluded resort features stunning private villas, ranging from the one-bedroom apartment-sized Al Rimal Deluxe (prices start from Dhs2,056.50 per room per night) to the jaw-dropping Al Sahari Tented Pool Villa, large enough to host a whole family. Activities include private dinners with butler service atop the Safran Tower, horse riding, sunrise and sunset yoga and much more. Al Mazraa, Wadi Khadija, Ras Al Khaimah, www.banyantree.com (07 206 7777).
6 There are some incredible historical sites – including the stunning Jazirat Al Hamra, which is one of the oldest sites in the country. Inhabited constantly from the 16th century until around 40 years ago, forts, schools, mosques and many buildings still stand. Also check out the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah, part of an old fort, for an insight into the many different tribes who have called the emirate home, from date farmers to the desert community to the people of the region’s mountains. Ras Al Khaimah Old City, www.rakheritage.rak.ae (07 233 3411).
7 You can try a number of unique watersports – including, but by no means limited to, the microlight boat contraption operated by RAK’s Flyfish. Take off from the sea and explore the emirate’s coast from the skies, before cruising back down to land back on the waves – it’s the perfect early morning or sunset activity (though sadly, only for those weighing less than 85kg). Dhs400 per person. Marjan Island Resort and Spa, Marjan Island, Ras Al Khaimah, www.facebook.com/flyfishwatersport (055 742 7524).
8 It’s the perfect place to try traditional sports such as falconry, archery and horse riding. Ras Al Khaimah Equestrian and Adventures Club (056 706 4774) offers riding and lessons, and has a swimming pool you can cool off in after. Over at Banyan Tree Al Wadi (07 206 7777), watch and take part in demonstrations by falcons, hawks, kestrels owls and eagles, or see just how nifty you are with a bow and arrow.
9 It serves the UAE’s only dry-aged steak. Head to the Lexington Grill at Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah (07 203 5555), where award-winning chef Lij Heron uses a special age-drying facility to hang his steaks for between three and four weeks to intensify the flavour. We think we need to try this one out for ourselves (for research purposes, obviously).
10 Because if it’s summer and you’ve no chance of a real holiday in cooler, stranger climes, you owe it to your health to hit the road instead of vegetating on your couch. A 2009 study by Canadian researchers Joudrey and Wallace found that active leisure pursuits and taking holidays helped reduce job stress in a sample of almost 900 lawyers. Case closed.