Choose from 3 Fun Things to Do in Ras Al Khaimah
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Even though the United Arab Emirates has many historic forts, Dhayah Fort in Ras Al Khaimah is the only hilltop, fortified castle that’s located up in the mountains. When the Al Qawasim tribe was battling the British in the early 19th century, this isolated fort in the northern emirate was the last holdout before eventually falling in December 1819. More recently it housed the royal family until 1964, and after a very short period as a local prison, was opened to the general public as a place to celebrate Emirati history. With its tall, strong, fortified walls, the Dhayah Fort was specifically built for warding off invaders, though travelers today are welcome to climb to the top and enjoy the view. There aren’t really any artifacts on display—just a brief history of the fort—and the jewelry and artifacts that have been uncovered are displayed inside of the National Museum. If you visit as part of a full-day tour of Ras Al Khaimah emirate, your local guide will relay the battles and history behind the fort, and provide a lot more color to the visit—as if the walls could talk.
Insider's Tip: The Dhayah Fort can be a little hard to find and blends in with the desert surroundings. It’s best to visit with a guided tour, or if traveling on your own, follow the signs for Dhayah guest house, which is located across the street.
Dhayah Fort is located 8.5 miles and 15 minutes northeast of Ras Al Kaimah. Reaching the top requires climbing up over 220 steps, so it’s best to avoid the heat of the day—especially when visiting in summer.
Address: Dhaya Fort, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, United Arab Emirates
Hours: Daylight hours
From $ 200
As the northernmost emirate in the UAE, Ras al Khaimah has a fascinating history that’s displayed at this national museum. Housed in an 18th century fort, the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum was the home of the emirate’s ruling family until 1964, and was opened to the public as a national museum in 1987. Once inside the historic fort, enjoy a casual, self-guided tour of artifacts detailing the early history of peoples inhabiting the desert. You’ll also find ethnological displays, as well as documents and treaties from deals with Britain in the 19th century.
The most prominent feature is the old tower, which rises above the two-story buildings and was once an important lookout point for guarding the royal family. Because the museum doesn’t offer guides, it’s good to visit the museum as part of a half-day tour of town, where the local guides who administer the tour can tell you about the artifacts. Favorites include the ancient weapons that were used to defend the fort, as well as equipment that divers used when diving for pearls offshore.
The museum is located in Old Town Ras al Khaimah.
Did You Know? Though part of the museum is air conditioned, other areas are cooled by a wind tower that funnels breeze into the courtyard.
Address: Ras Al Khaimah National Museum, Al Hisn Road, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, United Arab Emirates
Hours: Wed-Mon 10am-5pm
From $ 200
When you think of the United Arab Emirates, it’s usually about sand dunes, towering skyscrapers, or the sparkling Arabian Sea. In the mountains of Ras al Khaimah, however, travelers can venture up the rugged slopes of rocky Jebal al Jais, which at 6,207 feet is the UAE’s tallest peak. Leave the rush of the city behind as you snake your way up the mountain, where the surrounding cliffs and rock-strewn plains make it seem like the surface of the moon. The view of the city from the top is spectacular—particularly at sunrise and sunset—and sleeping beneath the desert stars is a popular visitor activity. So, too, is renting a sports car and hugging the mountainous curves, or booking an afternoon picnic lunch enjoyed right on the mountainous slopes. The last section of the road to the summit has lately been closed for construction, but plans are to not just improve the road, but also create the world’s longest zipline that runs for 1.4 miles. There has also been talk of putting a resort and golf course up on the mountain, but for the time being it’s a desert escape that’s peaceful and undeveloped.
The summit of Jebal al Jais is about 19 miles and one hour of driving from central Ras Al Khaimah. Be sure to bring jackets because the weather is often much cooler than back in town, and can even approach freezing if you choose to camp or spend the night in winter. There are minimal facilities once you leave town, and nowhere to buy food or drinks, so be sure to load up on everything you’ll need before you leave Ras Al Khaimah.
Did You Know? In 2009 there was measurable snow that fell on Jebel al Jais.
Address: Jebel al Jais, Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, United Arab Emirates
From $ 102