Al Marjan Islands – Ras Al Khaimah’s best kept secret
Part of the United Arab Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) is a secret destination waiting to be discovered. A complete holiday destination this is where you have archaeological sites, water sports, desert sands, world class shopping and more. Al Marjan a man-made island is located in Ras Al Khaimah in UAE and covers an area of 2.7 million square meters of reclaimed land that extends 4.5 kilometres into the pristine waters of the Arabian Gulf. With a 23 kilometres water-frontage, the island is home to 7 kilometres of white, sandy beaches and is a unique holiday destination. The best part is that it is located just 45 minutes from Dubai International Airport, 35 minutes from Sharjah International Airport and only 25 minutes from Ras Al Khaimah International Airport making is very accessible. Al Marjan Island is a mixed use development project that is administered by Al Marjan Island LLC who are the master developers of the project lead ably by Arch. Abdullah Rashed Al Abdooli, Managing Director. Relatively undiscovered and free from crowds, this is where you can have fun in the sun quite literally. Here are some of the things you must not miss while you are in Al Marjan islands.
Go Island Hopping
Al Marjan has four islands – Breeze, Treasure, Dream and View. The best part is that the sea view from each of the islands is different. You can take a leisurely evening walk on the island promenade and watch children playing, elders relaxing and it seems that time has almost come to a standstill here. Enjoy a peaceful evening walk on the Corniche or sip a coffee or mocktail while sitting at one of the cafe’s here and you will experience a relaxing aspect of these islands. This is also great for children as a play area has been especially created kids with many rides and games in a very safe environment. This apart you can also cycle and jog around the islands. In fact there is a specially laid cycling track across all the four islands spread over a 4.5 kilometres stretch of the Al Marjan Island. There is a specially laid synthetic rubberized jogging track that is conducive to jog and keeps your knees and legs safe. The cycling track is separate alongside the jogging track and this is a good way to explore the islands. And while you are here do not forget to go shopping, entertaining yourself and dining out at Al Hamara, Al Manar, RAK or other malls in down town RAK.
Go on a Desert Safari
When you are in Al Marjan, something that you must not miss is the unique desert safari. The safari is done using large 4×4 cars that usually pick you up from the hotel where you are staying. On reaching the desert, the drivers usually reduce the air pressure of the tyres as this is conducive to the dune bashing that follows. As the car navigates up the tall sand dunes and then lowers, it gives you a huge adrenalin rush. The exercise is pretty safe and even if you do not have a penchant to be adventurous this is highly recommended. You are given a stop after 20 minutes to enjoy the desert sands and a beautiful sunset which is great to experience the desert up close. After this you are taken back to the base camp which is a place to relax and refresh. You can enjoy henna tattoos, sand surfing, camel rides and a barbeque dinner that is peppered by entertainment including a belly dance. However what caught my attention was the Arabic Tanoura a local tribal dance where the dancer swirls and uses props and lights to create a magical experience. You can also buy a souvenir of sand art that can be customised to include your name. The experience is quite delightful and the cool breeze in the evening makes for a magical experience. You can also try the hookah post your dinner if you want to. There are options to stay overnight at the desert camps too.
Visit the Turtle Beach
A private beach this is owned by the Marjan Island Resort & Spa, managed by Accor Hotels and is a great way to spend time in the water. With a row of decks lines on the shore, there is also adequate sun protection to enjoy the water. The shallow waters on the shore make the Turtle beach ideal for swimming and it is not uncommon to find families having fun in this beach. Interestingly the name Turtle Beach comes from the fact that this is where you can spot lots of turtle just off the island which is about a 10 minute boat ride. However this is seasonal as the turtles come out only during a specific time. This apart, the adjoining cafe is a great place to chill and you can also sample some casual light snacks and signature refreshments that includes a variety of healthy food, burgers, coffees, fresh juices, light salads and snacks and innovative mocktails. This is also the place where you can indulge in water sporting activities like Jet Skiing, Aqua boarding, Water scooters, Para sailing, scuba diving, sailing, water skiing, jet skiing, parasailing fishing and more that are offered by private operators in concerned hotels on the island. There are virgin beaches that stretch for miles along the edge of the island and most resorts and hotels have their own private beach. So whether you want to simply sunbathe, indulge in wakeboarding or windsurfing or hop on a banana boat there is much you can do here. You can also take a Kayak trip to the natural mangroves located here.
Experience an Adrenaline Rush
If you love adventure there are many activities at Ras Al Khaimah that will give you a high. Head to the Jais Mountains and indulge in mountain adventure sports such as trekking, rock climbing and mountain biking. Cycling enthusiasts must head to Showka Bicycles and bikers can enjoy a unique outdoor experience between the Hajar Mountains Wadis. The place provides mountain bikes on rent and both beginners and advanced bikers can use their services. Located in close proximity to the Hatta Mountain Biking Trails this is a great outdoor activity. Else head to the Al Wadi Equestrian Adventure Centre set amidst a nature reserve that offers unrivalled riding experiences in the beautiful desert landscapes including camel riding and archery. A camel race at Ras Al Khaimah is an unforgettable, fun experience. Enjoy this traditional Arabian pastime over the weekends in winters and ask your hotel about it for more information on the location and timings. The Ras Al Khaimah Sailing Academy has sailing courses in a specific season at different levels and you can also rent a boat for half or a full day. Sailing in the calm and placid waters is a great experience. There are also yacht trips with cruises, swimming, snorkelling and great food. You can also check out the two bowing facilities here. The Jazira Flying Club gives you a bird’s eye view of the Al Marjan islands and surroundings where you can wither fly or be flown in a light aircrafts like gliders, microlights and parahawks. Ras Al Khaimah is home to two world-class golf courses. The Al Hamra Golf Club has an 18 hole course with five tee options set amidst water lagoons and desert landscapes. The other course is at Tower Links a 7199 yard, Par 72, 18 hole layout set against the backdrop of the Hajar mountains in a mangrove reserve. If you are into water sports, visit Iceland the largest water park in the Middle East that has the highest manmade waterfall in the world.
Treat your taste buds to a selection of gourmet food with an amazing selection of local and international cuisines at the restaurants here. The Rixos Bab Al Bahr has several restaurants that need prior reservation. These include Seven Heights an all day dining restaurant has the largest buffet featuring an array of world cuisines. Set amidst waterways, there is an entertainment square with an amphitheatre surrounded with other world-class a la carte restaurants that offer a variety of cuisines. Check out the restaurants at Double Tree by Hilton, Marjan Island Resort & Spa, Waldorf Astoria, The Cove Rotana and The Hilton Beach Resort. Do try the Lebanese mezze including the hummus, mutabal, falafel and tabouleh. Vegetarians will not be disappointed here as there are many options. There is also a tradition of having dates and gahwah or the Arabic coffee here that you must not miss. The desserts like Ligamat are akin to a donut and made with fried batter dipped in date syrup and are a must try while you are in Al Marjan islands.
Make time for some luxurious spa treatments at Al Marjan islands. At the Waldorf Astoria Spa you can indulge in luxury treatments that use exotic elements like Irish organic seaweed. They also use renowned skin products like Voya and Rodial that are known to keep the skin looking younger. Likewise the Banyan Tree Spa at the Banyan Tree Al Wadi desert resort is known for its world-class treatment and hydrotherapy facilities. Try the couple treatments at the Rixos Spa at Rixos Bab Al Bahr and get rid of toxins in the saunas and steam rooms at the Hilton Al Hamra Beach and Golf Resort. The La’mar Spa at Marjan Island Resort offers spa experiences tailor-made to suit guest’s individualized needs. In fact you must also try the Turkish Hamam treatments as well. The Moroccan Hamam is a speciality as well where traditional black soap is applied on the body followed with an exfoliation with kessa loufah glove. A Ghassoul body mask, made from clay will allow your body to detoxify after this. Likewise at Khatt Springs, you can experience therapeutic hot springs, private pools, precious stone treatments and hot stone treatments. Most of the spas here have separate sections for men and women. The spas also come with separate swimming pools and gyms, steam and sauna and Jacuzzis. The therapists here are well trained and the massages here are certainly unique and different so make sure you make time to relax and rejuvenate.
Explore Archaeological Sites
If you like history, you can explore the Emirate’s rich history, culture and heritage by visiting the historical sites here. Start at the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah that a
archaeological and ethnological findings dating back to the earliest settlers of this region. The museum is located in a fort that was the residence of the ruling family until the early 1960’s and the building is 200 years old. Started as a defence structure, today many rooms exhibiting historical, ethnographic and archaeological material relating to this Emirate are open to the public. The artefacts and collections were donated by the ruling Quwasim family and residents of RAK. All traditional houses in RAK old town including the Fort were originally constructed from coral stone that is a fossil building material originating from the sea. Although it is fairly light weight, it has excellent insulation qualities that keep buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. The two storied building is surrounded by an inner courtyard and lush garden. Do not miss the traditional wooden doors with beautiful carved designs that lead you to the various museum display rooms. Also check out the ruins of the medieval Sheba’s Palace that has the remains of the palace of the Queen of Sheba and the 16th century Dhayah Fort the only surviving hilltop fort in the United Arab Emirates. Do visit the Mohammed Bin Salim Mosque that is the biggest traditional mosque in the UAE. If you like spooky adventures, head to the Al Jazeera Al Hamra village that has abandoned houses and buildings, including a mosque widely believed to be haunted in the local community.
This story appeared in Happytrips.com.