HGAT Guide to Ras Al Khaimah
Since Aadam has been born, BW and I have focused on getting our life affairs into order. From wills to life insurance and private school applications to extended family time, all our time has been devoted to everything and everyone else but our new little family. So we took baby on his first holiday to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), an underrated gem situated just an hour away from Dubai.
Having spent a few days in Dubai already, via Emirates, we took the family car and headed an hour out into the desert.
WHERE TO STAY
Following our trusty Google maps, we finally found the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi Desert, hidden amongst the desert dunes. What one can assume is a simple hotel when approaching the gates, entering the hotel is a different story and I can only describe it as a desert oasis. It comes equipped with a beautiful spa, three restaurants, communal pool, a kids club, stables, and a birds and reptile centre – enough so that you do not need to leave.
The resort has over 100 rooms, each of which are villas with their own pool and sun loungers, and are dotted around the humongous plot. We had gone for the Al Khaimah villa which was absolutely stunning. This bedouin style tented villa came equipped with a desert-facing pool, outside lounging area, ginormous bathroom and dressing room, and a large, fluffy King-sized bed. Watching the wild oryx grazing metres from us was certainly memorable.
WHAT TO DO IN RAS AL KHAIMAH
→ JABAL JAIS
Known as the highest peak in the UAE, Jabal Jais also boasts having the largest zipline. It is a slight journey up to the top but they have a couple of stops with food trucks and washroom facilities.
→ RAS AL KHAIMAH NATIONAL MUSEUM
Although small and practically unheard of, RAK has a well documented past and their artefacts can be found in the national museum – worth a visit!
→ RAK BEACH
If sightseeing is not on your agenda, the golden sand beach which is well-kept and clean.
→ RITZ CARLTON SPA
The Ritz Carlton were renovating their famous Rainforest Spa Room at the time of our visit but we made the most of their other spa facilities – I highly recommend getting a relaxation massage!
WHAT TO EAT
As we were only there for three days, I had to make sure we chose our food options wisely. But things never go to plan and we ended up eating at the same restaurant twice, plus endured a disastrous meal outside the hotel.
→ RITZ CARLTON AL WADI DESERT
The breakfast buffet at the Ritz Carlton Al Wadi was as good as one would expect from the Ritz Carlton hotel group. Walking in, you were greeted by the aromas of freshly baked pastries and bread, as well as sights of chefs working up their magic at the egg station.
Room service was available throughout the day and night, with three menus: breakfast, all-day, and late night. Ideal for when we wanted to just laze by the pool with some nibbles.
→ FARMHOUSE, RITZ CARLTON AL WADI DESERT
We ended up eating twice at the Farmhouse restaurant during our trip. On the first occasion, BW and I shared a bbq chicken main dish with a super sweet oreo cheesecake to follow – a disappointing and very expensive meal.
Then, due to an unfortunate incident, the hotel were adamant on treating us to another meal at The Farmhouse, supposedly the best steak restaurant in the UAE. I opted for the steak this time whilst BW had the salmon, and both were cooked exceptionally well.
→ SALT, MARJAN ISLAND
Having had the worst meal I think I’ve ever had, both in terms of taste and price, at a restaurant outside of the hotel (hint: it was in a hotel that rhymes with stilton*), we were on the hunt for something cheap and cheerful to make our evening a little bit better. Upon pulling out of said hotel, my hangry eyes landed upon the famous SALT sign and we headed over there immediately. Whilst I just opted for their brownie soft serve this time round, their burgers and breakfast items are perfect for a quick meal or when you’re on the go.
*Our original plan was to visit the fabulous Japanese restaurant, Umi, at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. Unfortunately, a wedding party had booked out all the restaurants at the Waldorf for the week that we were in RAK – gah! So we were told to visit the next best place for Asian food, at the rhymes-with-milton hotel, which in turn became the worst restaurant we have ever eaten at.
OTHER RESTAURANTS WORTH VISITING:
- Al Fanaar
- Al Sahari
- Cafteria Felafel Abu Naeem
- Lexington Grill, Waldorf Astoria
- Umi, Waldorf Astoria
And before you knew it, our trip was done and it was time to head back to Dubai. As much as I was thinking “noooo, I don’t want to go back home and face responsibilities!”, a very small part of me felt refreshed and ready to tackle the challenging new year ahead. It did take a bit of coaxing from BW to get back in the car and eventually on to the plane, but we waved goodbye to our newfound oasis and headed back home.
I highly recommend Ras Al Khaimah if you have a few days to spare and are looking for something different to Dubai. Many of the hotels are kid friendly and also offer all-inclusive packages which are ideal if you are not planning on leaving the premises. Whilst they had some hiccups, the Ritz Carlton were very accommodating and were big on customer service. Their grounds were beautiful and I cannot recommend them enough if you are looking for a lush getaway.
HOTELS IN RAK
MOSQUES IN RAK
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque
- Mohammed Bin Saleem Mosque
TIPS FOR RAK
→ The best time to visit is October-March time where the weather is cooler
→ It is worth hiring a car to drive down to Ras Al Khaimah from Dubai and to also travel around the small city.
→ Do be wary of hotel restaurants; they generally tend to be overpriced and terrible in quality, especially if they are usually part of an all-inclusive plan. It is advisable to go for independent and local restaurants if you are leaving the hotel.