In October 2019, the United Arab Emirates News Agency reported on the meeting held by the Gulf Cooperation Council to discuss matters related to tourism in the region. At the gathering, which took place in Muscat, tourism officials from the UAE and neighboring countries agreed that Ras al Khaimah should heretofore be referred to as the new Gulf Tourism Capital. According to Mohammed Khamis Al Muhairi, the UAE delegate who attended the meeting, the rising profile of Ras al Khaimah as a tourism destination is good news for the UAE and for the entire hospitality industry of the Gulf.
In the UAE, tourism is part of what is known as the post-oil economic plan. Many people are familiar with the rise of Dubai as a major center for international business, what they may not know is that this economic diversity effort is based on the inevitable concept of petroleum being a natural resource that may one day stop flowing. While Dubai and Abu Dhabi do not know for certain when oil production will cease, the writing is on the wall with regard to the ongoing rise of renewable energy projects. For all we know, the day when hydrocarbons are no longer highly coveted commodities may arrive long before the vast oil reservoirs of the UAE dry up, but the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are not taking any chances, and this is why they are using their oil and gas production revenues now to diversify their economies in the future.
As for Ras al Khaimah, the situation is different because this Emirate has never counted on hydrocarbon resources. Extensive exploration over many decades did not establish the presence of major oil reservoirs; nothing ever came out of this except illicit concessions made to a British company by a previous ruler, but this anomaly was rectified by Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed al Qasimi towards the end of World War II. By the time His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi ascended in 2010, he had already accomplished many of the points outlined in his father’s vision for a prosperous Ras al Khaimah, and this included developing the Emirate’s tourism industry.
While the transformation of RAK as an Arabian tourism jewel has been certainly amazing, it is important to underscore Sheikh Saud’s realization of the many blessings bestowed by Allah in the region. RAK is an ideal tourism destination because of its climate and geography; it is situated at a higher elevation than Dubai, thus making it cooler and more pleasant in terms of climate. With more than 60 kilometers of coastline, RAK has plenty of space to develop beach resorts, and there is also the mountainous region for adventurous tourists to explore. The vibe in RAK is more relaxed than in Dubai, an Emirate that is increasingly growing hectic because of its strong focus on business.
Sheikh Saud knows that his Emirate has historically hosted Bedouin travelers who set up oasis camps next to desert brooks. The most fertile land in the UAE can be found in RAK thanks to numerous rivers and aquifers; this is a place where wetland preserves are teeming with wildlife, and tourists are welcome to see pink flamingos and green sea turtles in their natural habitat. A couple of resorts in RAK are set up in the style of Bedouin camps, and this is where visitors can enjoy traditional Arabian hospitality, which pretty much originated here.
Deep sea fishing is another tourism activity taking hold in RAK. The abundant marine resources found just off the RAK coastline make it an attractive spot for anglers; in case you are interested in a charter trip, the best season runs from October through late March. As for scuba diving, you will be pleased to know that RAK has a long pearl diving tradition, which means that the ocean floor, currents, and conditions have been acknowledged and mapped out for centuries. Multinational companies based in Dubai are known to organize marine retreats through local diving charter providers in RAK.
All in all, Sheikh Saud is probably happy to know that his beloved Emirate is now known as the Gulf Tourism Capital, and this is a title that is well-deserved.