Home Manama to Muscat 2012 Day 6: Modernity with a cultural soul
Day 6: Modernity with a cultural soul
Written by Sarah Clarke   
Saturday, 07 April 2012 16:24

Fishing in Ras Al Khaimah waters

All too often in this fast paced world we focus on the end result rather than the path we take to get somewhere, judging a successful project or activity by the certificate we receive or the pat on the back given for a job well done.  If this were the case then today I guess we’d score “null points” for our abject failure to land a fish on our final excursion of the day – a trip out into the waters of Ras Al Khaimah aboard one of RAK Marine’s boats, skippered by Captain Matti and 2nd in command Ahmed, in search of the “catch of the day” for supper. 

We were all highly confident (a little too high as it turned out) in our ability to snare one of the region’s fish, especially after hearing from Dr Tariq at the fish market in old Ras Al Khaimah earlier in the day that there was an abundance of fish in the waters off the coast.  Well let’s just say that 3 hours later, the one that got away was a REALLY big one!  

As we sped back to land and darkness fell, dodging fishermen setting their nets for the evening, it occurred to me that the success of today had not been in the things we had done but the characters we had met and the culture that had engulfed us in ways that we could not have imagined as we stood for the second time in the ruins of Jazirat al Hamra at early this morning (because the light was “just right” and the photographers just had to get THE perfect shot!). 

RAK Fish MArket 

Take for example, the elderly man sitting cross legged to one side of the fish market entrance in front of several large buckets of fish marinating in salted water, ready to be dried in the sun later.  His was the prime spot in the market, perfect for passing the time of day with any and every customer or visitor.  For sure the tales he could tell were many.   As he smiled for the camera, offering us dates and a coffee in a typical Arabic gesture of welcome , the warmth of his greeting was heartfelt and genuine, refreshing in this age of ‘can’t stop, must dash’, mentality. 

Add to this the sights, sounds and indeed smells of the fish market (which you can experience for yourself between 5am and 12pm seven days a week, 365 days of the year) and it’s not hard to imagine how life once was in the region where you were either a fisherman or a shepherd some 400 years ago.   

RAK Ceramics 

Contrast this assault on one’s senses with the crisp, modernity of the showroom of RAK Ceramic – the world’s largest manufacturer of ceramics supplying more than 150 countries – which we had visited earlier and one quickly realizes that Ras Al Khaimah has a modern exterior with a hidden cultural depth that is for the visitor to unearth.  

And, unearth it we did at our next port of call, the Museum and Centre of the Navigator Ahmed Bin Majid, a fascinating museum celebrating the maritime culture of Ras Al Khaimah and more.   As President of the Museuem Nasser Hassan al Qas al Ali explained “Sheikh Zayed told us we have to look after our heritage and culture, on the sea, in the mountains and in the desert.  We should keep it safe for our children and our grandchildren.  They only see the new developments.  They need to see how things used to be.  If we lose this heritage then we lose part of our selves forever”.   


 Top and above, Museum and Centre of the navigator Ahmed Bin Majid 

The museum’s collection includes photographs of the remains of Ras al Khaimah’s 56 towers and forts, a room dedicated to the life and work of the navigator Ahemd bin Majid born in 1421 in Julphar in RAK, a collection of fishing and maritime articles, coins, items from the once thriving pearling industry and a library of books about the Emirates.  Open 7 days a week 8am to 1pm and 4.30pm to 6pm this museum is a treasure trove of finds waiting to be uncovered.   And, don’t miss the tiny bread shop Al Wadi, a minute’s walk down the street, where reqaq bread (similar to crepes) should be sampled – just what we needed as breakfast had been a long time ago by this time.


Iceland Water Park

 To ensure that we covered all sides of RAK, our RAK Tourism guides took us next to the Iceland Water Park which at 40 acres provides every imaginable water experience year round for the adrenaline junky and quiet paddler alike.  That over used phrase “there’s something for everyone” really applies here depending on your tolerance for splashes, speed and heights!   Phase 1 (the water park) was opened in September 2010, the 2nd phase is due for completion in a year’s time (and includes a shopping mall and hotel) and the 3rd (an amusement park) a year after that.  Watch this (watery) space for news!

Tomorrow we move from the water to the desert and I’m anxious to see how well the traditions and culture of the people of Ras Al Khaimah are being cherished and nurtured for future generation.  We borrow this earth from our children and we must surely preserve it in all its glory for them.