13 August 2013| Last updated on 1 July 2015
Living in Ras Al Khaimah
A lot of expats will try and compare RAK to Dubai, but RAK has a lot to offer that Dubai doesn’t. A slower pace of live, stronger community feel and a more outdoorsy approach to entertainment. Here we will take a closer look at what RAK has to offer and how to get yourself set up there as well as an interview with an expat resident with lots of insider tips!
Ras al Khaimah is one of the emirates of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), on the east side of the Arabian Peninsula. The words Ras Al Khaimah mean "Top of the Tent". The emirate is in the northern part of the UAE, bordering Oman's exclave of Mussandam. It covers an area of 1,700 square km. The capital city and home of most residents is also called Ras al Khaimah.
The city has a population of approx. 300,000 and this is roughly made up of 50% Emiratis and 50% expats. The city has two main sections, Old Ras al Khaimah and Nakheel, on either side of a creek. It is served by the Ras al-Khaimah International Airport. It consists of a northern part (where the city of Ras al Khaimah is situated), a large exclave in the south (near Hatta), and a few small islands in the Gulf.
Important towns, settlements and areas include:
• Al Jazirah Al Hamra – an old coastal town with numerous real estate projects and industrial zone
• Ar-Rams – a coastal town; in the past, a typical fishing and pearl-diving village
• Khawr Khuwayr – an industrial zone, with the largest port in Ras al Khaimah and numerous companies such as a cement factory
• Digdagah – a village known for agriculture activities
• Khatt – a village surrounded by the mountains, famous for its thermal springs and palm gardens
• Masafi – a town in the south, on the border with Fujairah; well known for drinking water
• Huwaylat – a central village in the south
It’s hot in RAK! Ras al Khaimah's desert climate is hot and arid with very hot summers and mild winters. The average temperature is 18 to 25°C in January and 29 to 43°C in July.
However, temperatures often reach 45°C in the summer. The humidity is usually high in the summer months. Rain and thunderstorms occur rarely, and only in winter. Snow has been reported twice, once in each of December 2004 and January 2009, in the high mountains of Ras al Khaimah, which caused great excitement in all the emirates!
There is a wide range of accomodation available in Ras Al KHaimah from flats in low rise apartment blocks to old style villas and everything in between.
Lots of expats are plumping to live in Al Hamra Village which is a a mixed use community of freehold properties that you can rent or buy. It's a master-planned community on the shores of the Arabian Gulf. The Al Hamra Village is located along stunning white washed beaches of Ras al Khaimah surrounded by a championship 18-hole golf course, Al Hamra Marina and Yacht Club, restaurants, cafes and exciting shopping malls. Al Hamra Village has something for everyone whether you are a year-round resident of the Village or have invested in a holiday home.
GEMS Westminster RAK
Over the past 3 years GEMS students have been accepted to 590 universities in 41 countries. Our students have won over 700 regional and international awards. Innovative new Building and Facilities: The school will provide high quality, affordable education to students of all nationalities. The elegant, spacious, well designed classrooms and outstanding campus features aesthetically modern architecture, well suited to create the perfect creative blend so necessary for a multi-cultural setting that is well suited to learning and providing of quality education that is the hallmark of GEMS schools. Our outstanding facilities will eventually include; an indoor sports hall, outdoor football pitch, cricket nets, outdoor multi-games courts, music, art and science labs, ICT and electronics labs, library and indoor play areas. www.gemswestminsterschool-rak.com
Three Schools, Two Campuses, One Academy.
Ras Al Khaimah Academy was originally founded in 1975 and opening under the name RAK English Speaking School RAKESS with just 20 primary-school, expatriate students on January 17th 1976. For the next 16 years the total number of students in the school hovered around the 100 mark. As the school’s reputation grew, so interest in the school grew from within the local Emirati population.The Secondary School opened in 1994 and the school enrolment as a whole began to grow at almost 20% per year. The prestigious programmes of the International Baccalaureate (IB Diploma and Primary Years Programme) were added in 2006 and a British Curriculum Primary School opened in 2007. Today RAK Academy welcomes over 2,800 students every day from over 60 nationalities.
University Of Bolton
University of Bolton, Ras al Khaimah campus aims to provide higher education using the ethos, environment and processes devised and controlled by the main campus in the United Kingdom. The RAK campus students are a part of the University of Bolton's student community and are no different to students at the main campus. The University of Bolton's RAK campus started with a total of 14 programs across four academic departments, which include engineering, business, logistics and computing.
Things To Do & See
Culture & History
The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has an impressive archaeological heritage and rich cultural history. This area has enticed settlers with its unique combination of the four different landscapes found in the United Arab Emirates: fertile plains, striking mountains, coastal beaches and mangroves, and the desert.
The interaction of these geographical factors coupled with Ras Al Khamiah's strategic location at the mouth of the Arabian Gulf has shaped the very special heritage of the Emirate. Archaeological excavations reveal that an advanced civilization that carried on trade has existed in this region since 5,000 BC.
This rich history dating back to the Bronze Age makes Ras Al Khaimah one of the few places in the world continuously settled for over 7,000 years. Known through the ages as Julfar, Majan or Al Seer, Ras Al Khaimah has stood throughout antiquity as one of the most important trade centers and markets in the region. Its position at the most trafficked maritime crossroads meant that the emirate was known to traders around the Gulf. Records show that inhabitants from RAK traveled as far afield as Bombay, China and Zanzibar as early as the 10th Century.
History enthusiasts will find that RAK is a treasure trove of archeological sites within easy reach, waiting to bring the past to life.
The National Museum of Ras al Khaimah: housed in the former palace of the ruling Al Qawasim family, with exhibits on natural history, arts and crafts of previous centuries, and archaeology
RAK’s Hajar Mountains are a natural wonder in the region. They slope into the sea with highest point located in the north. The area is known as the ‘Ru’us Al-Jibal’, which means ‘Heads of the Mountains’. The Hajar Mountain has the world’s greatest surface exposure of igneous rock from oceanic crust and is much liked by geologists. The Hajar Mountains offer excellent view of the rust-colored sand dunes.
Places Of Interest
Dhayah Fort: the only surviving hilltop fort in the UAE
Sheba's Palace: ruins of a medieval palace
Al Falayah: the former summer residence of the ruling Al Qawasim family
Al Jazirah Al Hamra: an abandoned "ghost town" showing the preserved architecture of an early 20th century pearling port
The Old City and Souq: both traditional and modern shops as well as artisan’s workshops
Bu Shaqq tower 25°01′N 55°47′E 10
Al-Khushaym 25°26′N 55°58′E 10
Bani Fasan 23°53′N 52°09′E 10
RAK offers a range of hotels for tourists and residents to stay in. There are luxury beachside hotels, business hotels and budget hotels too. Some of the top hotels in RAK are:
The Cove Rotana
Banyan Tree Al Wadi
Banyan Tree RAK Beach
Al Hamra Fort Hotel
Hilton RAK Resort & Spa
Khatt Springs Hotel and Spa
Ras Al Khaimah Hotel
Great for residents to spend the day there or have a weekend away and they often have great lesiure and dining facilities.
Ras al Khaimah Half Marathon
(photo credit Vic Sailor)
Why not join the premier running event in the UAE held every year in February, get or keep in shape, stay healthy and help worthwhile causes at the same time as having a lot of fun and meeting new people.
Whether you want to run, jog or walk the course be sure to take part and Live the Experience in the UAE's only international, world-record breaking running event that caters for ALL levels of runners.
You can enter to run either the 21.0975km Half Marathon or get 3 friends organized and with yourself you'll make a team of 4 to enter the Team Relay Challenge where you will each run approx 5km.
UAE Awafi Festival
a yearly festival in the Ras al-Khaimah desert, it is a three week event, held in December or January, the main attraction being a dramatic sand dune race by the strongest 4-wheel drivers of the UAE. There is a heritage village with traditional food and dance, as well as shops for food and souvenirs. There is also a petting zoo and lots of games for children. The entry is free of charge, and many families bring picnics to enjoy whilst watching the cars battling it out over the sand dunes.
Terry Fox Run RAK
A yearly charity run is organized in Ras al Khaimah to support cancer research in the UAE and is held in March. The event is under the patronage of HH Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qassimi, Ruler of RAK and Member of the Supreme Council of the UAE. Every year, the run is open for everyone and all money raised will be donated to the UAE University in Al Ain for continuing Terry Fox Run funded Cancer Research projects.The run is held on the RAK Corniche.
You’re going to need a car or rely on taxis when living in RAK. There are cheap public buses operating on long-haul routes and catering mainly to smaller towns.
While tourists may drive in the UAE on their national or international driving licenses, all residents in the UAE must obtain a UAE driving license within 30 days of the beginning of their residency in the UAE. To obtain a driving license in the UAE, you need to be a resident of the United Arab Emirates. If the person is a resident of Ras Al Khaimah but has a visa issued in another emirate, then the person needs to obtain a transfer form, allowing the person to obtain a driving license from Ras Al Khaimah.
Individuals, who have driving licenses from any of the GCC countries or any of the countries mentioned below, can transfer to a RAK driver’s license without having to take driving lessons or tests: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Iceland, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Those who want to transfer their license must be at least 18 years old, have a valid driver’s license, have a residence visa in RAK, and fill in the driver’s license form with one passport size photograph, original passport and one photocopy, original driver’s license and one photocopy, eye test report and AED 100.
For other than GCC licenses, it is also required to obtain a letter from the Embassy or Consulate, from which the driver’s license was issued, confirming that the driver’s license is valid. If the driver’s license is not in English or Arabic, it is also required to have the license translated at the Consulate or Embassy. Individuals with an Indian international driving license will be required to obtain a new license in order to drive in the UAE.
Three dual-carriageways link Ras al Khaimah with the other emirates and beyond. One follows the coast with beaches on one side and stretches of desert on the other; the other, a new route, runs out towards the airport in the direction of Khatt, Masafi, Fujairah, Dhaid, and eventually Oman.
The Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road formerly known as Emirates Road (E311 Highway) travels through the emirates of Umm Al Quwain, Ajman (60 km) and Sharjah (71 km) to finally end up in Dubai (87 km). The highway allows journeys from Ras al Khaimah to Dubai in under 45 minutes. The highway is being extended further till Saqr Port to allow direct flow of traffic from the southern emirates, the extension is scheduled to be completed by 2014.
RAK International Airport
Ras al Khaimah International Airport is currently undergoing an upgrade. It operates cargo and passenger services to a variety of destinations covering the Middle East, North & East Africa, Central Asia, India, and the Far East.
Located about eighteen kilometers from the city, the airport is not only modern with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities but also boasts a 3,760 meters long runway. The present airport is set for more expansion in the coming years but currently consists of two passenger terminal buildings, cargo terminal facility, taxiways, apron, fuel farm, airport fire•fighting service, aircraft maintenance facilities, support facilities, access roads, car parking, control tower/ technical building, administrative building/security and staff accommodation.
Established in 2007, RAK Hospital has been specially designed as a premium healthcare and hospitality complex. The total number of beds is 65 at present and will eventually go up to 150. Of these, eight are in the Intensive Care Unit, six in the nursery and four in the NICU. RAK Hospital has, 4 Operating Theatres, one Cardiac Catheter Lab and 26 Out Patient Clinics with state-of-the-art accident and emergency services.
Al Zahrawi is a private hospital in Ras Al Khaimah. Al Zahrawi has a well qualified and experienced medical and surgical team and is equipped with an Operation Theatre to tackle any kind of routine and emergency surgical procedures, a Labour Room, diagnostic services and is affiliated to many insurance companies.
The normal hospital hours are between 8.30 am to 12.30 pm and 5 pm to 9 pm. During this time all doctors / specialists are available. As well as the normal working hours, the Hospital is open 24 hours, when casualty doctors and inpatient services are also available.
Getting Switched On
FEWA Federal Electricity & Water Authority
The Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA), was established in 1999 to generate and distribute electricity and water in the Northern Emirates of Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Umm Al Quwain. Your landlord will already have registered with FEWA and you need to sort out how you can open an account on this to pay. There is normally a 1000 Dhs deposit required.
You can pay through:
Main FEWA office in Dubai
Offices located in the northern emirates
Safeer Mall - Ajman
Dubai Islamic Bank ( Al Islami online banking)
Emirates Islamic Bank.
Kiosks in various malls and public locations
If you live in Al Hamra Village you can pay your utility bills online
Al Hamra Mall
Al Hamra Mall (pictured right) is a two-storey shopping center set amidst the residential development of Al Hamra Village in Ras Al Khaimah, offering a blend of shopping, entertainment, dining and recreational options.
Al Hamra Mall houses a wide range of stores and services catering to its international customers. With over 100 stores to choose from, shoppers can buy designer clothing, electronic appliances, furniture and daily groceries in Spinneys.
RAK Mall has local and international fashion brands, jewellery and accessories stores, cosmetics outlets, electronic stores etc. Located on the Khuzam Road. In addition to the Emirate’s flagship largest and only Lulu Hypermarket spread over 200,000 square feet, RAK Mall also features food court outlets, coffee shops and dine-in outlets, along with entertainment facilities.
5 anchor stores covering the choicest range in fashion wear, children's clothing, footwear, gift ideas, and home furnishings and undisputedly the largest Hypermarket in the region, 120 open fronted shops, 12 food & beverage outlets. Jungle Bungle, the theme amusement facility spread over 30,000 sq.ft
Opened in the September of 2000, Manar Mall is a popular shopping and leisure center in RAK. Built on the spectacular landscape-facing sea corniche on one side and convenient parking on the other, it offers variety of time spending to everyone. It has cafes and restaurants with outdoor siting area, facing the sea, playgrounds for children, 120 retail outlets and several anchor stores, including a Carrefour supermarket. (Pictured below)
Church of St. Anthony of Padua
A massive church that can seat 1,500 people is opening in Ras Al Khaima on the 21st June 2013. There are an estimated 700 000 Catholics in the UAE with only ten available churches. This new church will give people who wish to practice their faith an opportunity to attend mass.
The church is in Al Jazira, Al Hamra Village.
We interviewed one of our forum ladies on what life is really like in RAK... here's her very helpful answers...
How long have you lived in Ras Al Khaimah and why did you move there?
We’ve been in RAK for just over 3 years. We wanted to buy to give a bit of stability after having been messed about by LL’s but Dubai properties were over-budget. We also weren’t keen on life in Dubai and wanted to try something a bit quieter and smaller.
What sort of accommodation is available and what are prices like?
For both rental and purchase studios, apartments, townhouses and villas are available. Property purchase by expats is limited to certain areas, as in Dubai. Most expats who own have bought in Al Hamra Village or Mina Al Arab.Prices are much cheaper than Dubai. Studios can go for around AED 25k pa. A 4 bed detached beachfront villa can be rented for less than AED 200k.
What sort of amenities are available... shops, entertainment etc.?
There are a few malls in RAK. The biggest at the moment is Manar Mall which has Carrefour, Gap, M&S, Dorothy Perkins, Next, Mothercare, Claire’s, Gulf Greetings, Monsoon Kids, Bobbi Brown, Mac Cosmetics, Body Shop, Nike, Damas, Adams, amongst other stores, a food court and a dated cinema. RAK Mall had LuLu but caters more for a local market. Naeem Mall has very little – as far as I’m aware only Spinneys and a bank is open. Al Hamra Mall has a Spinneys, Café Nero, Shakespeare’s, Starbucks, Rupee Room Express, Baskin Robbins, Mothercare, @ Home, a nail salon etc. A Vox cinema is currently being built at Al Hamra Mall.
RAK has two golf courses – Tower Links and Al Hamra.
There is the City Hilton, Hilton Beach Resort & Spa, Hilton Doubletree, Al Hamra Fort Hotel (currently being refurbished as a Hilton), Cove Rotana and the newly opened Waldorf Astoria. These all offer bars and restaurants. A few do a Friday brunch.
Watersports are available from Al Hamra Fort hotel, there’s a sailing club. Al Hamra Marina offers cruises.
What education options are there for kids?
At the moment the only international school is RAK Academy (formerly RAKESS). It offers PYP and BC for primary school, IGCSE’s then students can do A-levels or DP (IB prog.) (I think this is still the case) The school gets very mixed reviews. A GEMS school is scheduled to open in the 2013-14 school year.
What is the social life like in Ras Al Khaimah? What do you do for fun?
RAK isn’t a party atmosphere in the same way Dubai is. The hotels offer themed party nights which are very popular, as are the brunches. RAK is a much smaller, tighter community than Dubai which makes it much easier to meet people and make friends. A lot of socialization happens on the beach, around the pools, at each other’s houses a well as on the golf course. There are regular coffee mornings.
Ice Land Water Park is between Al Hamra and Mina Al Arab.
RAK has a lot of history and evidence of trade thousands of years ago has been found. There are a few ancient burial sites just outside the city.
What are the positives of living in Ras Al Khaimah?
RAK is a friendly Emirate for expats due to the community mentioned above. It’s less lonely than Dubai because you are more likely to get to know your neighbours and if you make the effort to attend a coffee morning you will keep bumping into people you’ve met there so more likely to make friends.
Al Hamra and Mina Al Arab have nice beaches. RAK is close to the desert for off-roading and also close to the mountains for a drive or a hike. Mussandam is not so far away, Fujeirah is only an hour away.I think RAK is the most naturally beautiful emirate with the desert, the mountains and the Creek.
What are the negatives if any?
Although RAK is trying to improve, there are still some things you can only get or do in Dubai.
What would your advice be to anyone moving there? Any top tips?
If you’re not living and working in RAK think carefully about your commute. Make the effort to attend the coffee mornings – it will make you feel less isolated.
What groups and meet ups would you recommend?
There are Facebook pages for Al Hamra and Mina Al Arab. Both are a good source of information. There is a Google group called rak-expats. Members send an email to the group and it gets distributed to all members of the group. It’s a great way to find out what’s going on, upcoming events, what’s for sale and also to ask questions. Rak-expats is one I would recommend very highly.
Coffee mornings are also advertised through rak-expats.
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From Our Forum
Forum Ladies- what our ladies say about living there...
"There are lots of families in Al Hamra and the communal pools are good place to meet other families. There are playgroups in Al Hamra. The apartment buildings have noticeboards and you may find details of one there.
Al Hamra mall is walking distance from the Golf Apartments and some of the townhouses and villas in Al Hamra, but the furthest point is a brisk 35 min walk away. It is possible to drive between any Al Hamra townhouse/villa or apartment building (there are Golf apartments right behind the mall and Marina apartments the far side of Al Hamra village) without touching the main road.
Al Hamra mall has a Spinneys (supermarket), Mothercare, a few clothes shops, at @Home (home/kitchen store), a small food court (no McD's, but there is a Texas Chicken, Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Burger King in the mall) and a small kid's play area at either end.
There is basically only one school, RAKESS which is about a 20-25 min drive away from Al Hamra. It is split into two campuses (sp?), British Curriculam and IB, both of which take children from 3 years old. I *think* the Playgroup in the school takes them from 2."
Expat Groups & Clubs
Al Hamra Residents Facebook>>
RAK Expats Google Group>>