After spending a couple of days in Hatta, Tobias and I headed to our last stop of a week spent going about the UAE. Our stop was a city that’s considered to be the historical capital of the UAE and is located within the 4th largest emirate. We were off to the city of Ras Al Khaimah aka RAK.
Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost part of the UAE hence the name which translates to “top of the tent” in English. It is the most fertile land in the UAE due to its large share of rainfall and the underground water streaming from the Al Hajar Mountains. Al Hajar Mountains are the highest mountain rang in the eastern Arabian Peninsula and is shared by Oman and UAE. North of the Western Hajar Mountain lies Jabal Jais which is the highest summit in the United Arab Emirates standing tall at a height of 1934 m above sea level. The emirate has a long stretch of a coastline, as long as 65 km, with clear blue water and white sandy beaches making it quite popular with watersports.
As much as we would have loved to camp, we really couldn’t say no when a friend offered us his cozy apartment for our short stay. So, we drove from Hatta straight to Al Marjan Island in RAK and what a drive that one was. When we got closer to RAK we were surprised by how green the sand dunes were!! YES! The dunes were covered in green wild bushes due to the rain that overtook the area the couple of weeks before we visited! It was a feast for the eyes as I have never seen green dunes before. The scenery was complimented by grazing camels.
RAK is well known for its outdoor activities specially hiking and mountain biking. The last time I was in RAK was in May 2018 for a hiking trip. Back then, I was still living in Kuwait and I flew in just for the weekend hike to the top of Jebel Jais with Adventurati Outdoor. That hike was probably the toughest one I have been on to date. I used to hike a lot when I was still living in Egypt and despite my bad knee and physique I wasn’t bad, not the best but not the worst either! That day on Jebel Jais I definitely was bad, and I have to admit, it broke me down a little! I was weary because of work, I thought spending some time outdoors will help in restoring my mood, but I didn’t realize back then that exhaustion would have its toll on my performance. On top of that, I experienced severe dehydration for the first time in my life! It wasn’t even the time of the regular hot-weather of that region, but I got all dried up! I was too weak to carry my backpack and my pace was close to a turtle!
I had extra water packed with me but that wasn’t at all enough! On our way down it was sunny, and the heat picked up and when I ran out of water it turned ugly for me! I reached a state where putting one foot in front of the other was too much work to be asked of me. I was heating up and I guess at a certain point I was talking gibberish. I was able to make it after all but with so much difficulty that I was so disappointed at myself and my body for failing me in such a way! I wouldn’t have been able to make it at all if it wasn’t for the help everyone on that trip offered me every single step of the way. I sincerely thank you all and I apologize for being such a burden.
Nowadays, I can’t imagine going on such a hike with my cervical and lumber disc conditions! But who said that Jebel Jais can’t be enjoyed if one is not hiking it? Nonhikers can still enjoy the beauty of the mountain with much less physical effort and that’s what Tobias and I did by driving all the way up to Jebel Jais Viewing Deck Park.
The park is constructed at an elevation of 1250 meters above see level. It runs on solar energy as a part of a sustainable tourism principle. It has a food truck area, toilets, kids playing ground, shaded benches, binoculars, and viewing points on both sides of the road. Tobias and I paid 5 AED per person as entry fees. I loved the view from up there, on one side you have the Hajar Mountains and on the other the Arabian Gulf. I was overlooking waves of stone in varying colors and shades and it was so surreal. There are 7 different viewpoints along the road to the viewing deck. Most of them come with a food truck and a toilet. Some of them were even hosting some campers. Expect to see wandering animals everywhere you go, it adds to the charm of the place. You can also have a BBQ up there, just make sure to dispose the coal properly in one of the designated bins. The base of the mountain wasn’t any less beautiful than the top. Everywhere we looked was full of greenery thanks to the rain that took over the area earlier that month (February). It was all a lovely painting drawn by nature, the greatest artist of all times.
The road to the park is quite steep and bendy, extreme caution while driving is vital. I have seen drivers speeding and overtaking cars at critical points of the road. Please consider the safety of others while on the road. Also, the condition of the road changes according to the rain. Make sure to check it out before driving to the top.
One of the things I came across while looking for things to do around RAK was the abandoned village of Jazirat Al Hamra. I have always had something for old and decaying abandoned buildings so when I read about a whole village, I knew I had to see it for myself. The ghost village is nested between Al Jazeera Port and Minsk Street. It once was a tidal fishing village where people lived off pearl diving and fishing during the pre-oil era. It was inhabited by the Zaab tribe who left for Abu Dhabi in the year 1968 due to a dispute with Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi of Ras Al Khaima. Jazirat Al Hamra is by far one of the best-preserved archeological sites in the UAE with history dating back to the 16th century (14th in other stories).
The name of the village, Jazirat Al Hamra, translates to “red island” due to the red sand on which the village was built. What is so remarkable about that village is the construction materials used to build the houses. They were built out of corals and seashells that were held together by mud and had roofs made from woven date palms. Despite being thought of as a haunted place, that village is an excellent example of how people lived in that region before the oil was discovered. It was also one of the filming locations of the Netflix movie 6 Underground along with other sites in UAE. They actually filmed on the street where I live in Abu Dhabi, too bad I wasn’t there to watch 😀
The site is not fenced and there are no ticketing offices. You explore and walk around at your own discretion so please be respectful of the age of the place and refrain from leaving your signature anywhere within the premises. We also noticed that some houses are actually inhabited, it is not entirely deserted over there after all so mind that as well while visiting.
Despite the pleasant weather, the water felt a little cold for swimming so sadly we didn’t get to hit the beaches the city has to offer. Nonetheless though, our time in RAK was enjoyable. We loved the scenery, the mountains, and the calmness of the surroundings. The fact that you can pullover in the middle of the city and find yourself facing mangrove trees was just unreal. We were hoping to go back and see more but with the current situation of COVID-19, the season has been cut a lot shorter unfortunately. Hopefully by the time the next season is starting, the situation would have changed to the better. I can’t wait to go there and camp on a beach with a BBQ dinner under the night skies and the music of the sea waves in the background.
Till next time Ras Al Khaimah. Stay safe everybody