The future of Ras al-Khaimah would appear to be hanging by a steel thread. Or more precisely, a zipline. And because the tiny emirate on the Gulf is in the overpowering shadow of Dubai, this is not just any zipline. It is the world’s longest.
Just opened on Feb 1, this new attraction is Ras al-Khaimah’s bid to lure holidaymakers to the United Arab Emirates’ north in search of adventure. It is certain to polish up the tiny emirate’s somewhat lacklustre image of being just merely a beach destination.
In precise terms, there are actually two ziplines running parallel to each other so that fearless travellers can essentially race against each other. The mid-air ride from the top of Jebel Jais, the emirate’s tallest mountain at 1,934m, takes a good three minutes. Rarely before has so much adrenaline been triggered by a trip to Ras al-Khaimah.
At the moment, it is usually only just bathing guests who visit the emirate, which tries to lure visitors by pointing out that it is warm all year round. Another plus factor is that Ras al-Khaimah offers five-star quality at four-star prices. At the DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa situated on the artificial Marjan Island, the guests look strikingly similar to those one would see at a resort in Gran Canaria or Crete.
At the moment the emirate has 22 hotels combining for 5,000 rooms. But it has ambitious goal of adding another 4,445 rooms in the three- to five-star category over the next three years, especially on Marjan Island.
But Ras al-Khaimah also wants to develop attractions going beyond the hotels and resorts. At the moment there is not much there. The National Museum and Dhayah Fort, two witnesses to the emirate’s cultural history, roughly qualify as sightseeing attractions.
Other archaeological sites are set to be spruced up, however. More potential is seen in activities up in the mountains, something which neither Dubai nor Abu Dhabi can offer.
Visitors can go hiking or mountain biking in the Hajar Mountains and spend a night sleeping under the stars. The landscape is the treasure that Ras al-Khaimah can grow on. The emirate has no way of competing with Dubai’s gigantic landmarks and the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
“We aren’t in any hurry to build the tallest skyscraper or the biggest shopping mall,” says Haitham Mattar, chief executive of the Ras al-Khaimah Tourism Development Authority. “We have those an hour away from here.”
About 820,000 people visited Ras al-Khaimah in 2017. In 2019 the figure is to reach one million, and in 2025, three million. So the ambitions are large, and the new zipline could do its part in achieving them. In the Gulf region, tourism managers know precisely what gets the world’s attention – if possible, a new world record. – dpa/Philipp Laage