Ras Al Khaimah (United Arab Emirates) or vacation from 1001 Nights
January is the Monday of the year. The holidays around Christmas and New Year’s are history and Eastern is not very close yet. The weather in January is not exactly sunny and duty calls. So why not escape that hangover mood and take “Monday” off. We gathered our last vacation days from the previous year and spent one week in the United Arab Emirates. To start into the new year duly, we needed sun, beach and relaxation. By chance an add by sonnenklar.tv caught our eye and we booked our trip at the end of October the previous year that contained the following:
– 6 nights in the 5-star hotel The Cove Rotana Resort in Ras Al Khaimah,
– Rail & Fly (Condor),
– All-inclusive double room Deluxe,
– One dinner at the À la Carte Restaurant (including),
– Day trip Dubai City Tour with Burj Khalifa (including),
– City tour of Ras Al Khaimah and High Tea at the Waldorf Astoria (including).
At this point we can say that this was the first trip we had booked through sonnenklar.tv and it was a complete success. Communication and organization prior to and during the trip worked out really well. Many ways (and provider) lead to the United Arab Emirates, so our focus shall not be on the booking process but on the question if the Emirates are worth traveling and what expects you there as a tourist.
Day 01 – Bye winter, Hey summer
Early in morning we landed, not so relaxedafter an overnight flight, in Dubai where we were welcomed by our travel guide who assigned us to a bus that would take us to our hotel. The drive to the hotel took about 1.5 hours. The feeling of breathing in that fresh summerly air at 26° Celsius was indescribable. Especially after we had left the Munich airport in the middle of a snowstorm and frosty 0° Celsius.
After a short wait we were able to check in but had to wait until we could actually get our room. No problem for us, so we checked out the lunch buffet. Already then, we experienced the excellent service and high-quality standard of The Cove Rotana, that did not decrease throughout our time there. And our excitement even increased when we saw our room. The room as well as the whole hotel complex were top-class and we were relieved. We moved in, dropped off our luggage and took a little orientation-walk through the complex. The hotel is located on a hill side and set up like a little village, with a lot of little houses and alleys. This trim complex is in mint condition. One advantage of the construction on the hill is that you have sea view from basically everywhere. All further details about the hotel are on their website. This resort gets full score from us.
The hotel is located in Ras Al Khaimah which is one of the seven Emirates that form the United Arab Emirates. Every Emirate is like a state and has its own capital. After all, the capital is basically the Emirate (look at Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, etc.). Without drifting deeper into political or spiritual themes (that are fascinating by the way) we want to highlight the location of the hotel in Ras Al Khaimah. Not only because of the beaches and multiple hotel complexes, but also because of its location we can really recommend this Emirate. Our primary focus was on the beach with the option of day trips. But more on that later.
Day 02 – Mondays can actually be pleasant
The first Monday (after the first night) on vacation is always awesome. The travel exertions are left behind und the vacation is still ahead of you. With that positive mood we went to the diversified and yummy breakfast buffet. Usually you expect blood and thunder at a buffet but here it was relaxed and dignified throughout the whole time. The set-up of the live-cooking stations supported the scattering of the hungry tourists. No stress at the buffet at any time – very important point.
After breakfast we went to the obligatory welcome-event organized by the tour operator. A representative explains again what you have actually booked and presents optional trips (Abu Dhabi, Desert Safari, Oman, Theme Parks etc.) that you can book right there. Since we do not follow the clueless and felt sufficiently informed, we headed towards the beach – that we could hardly await.
The beach promenade did not leave anything to be desired. Great beach beds, a bar close by, fine sand and beautifully clear water. You do not have to convince yourself to spend time there and so we did not leave the beach until the sun set. The water is chilly but bearable. Considering that January is the coolest month in the Emirates the water temperature was more than bearable. The mean temperature of the week we stayed there was about 26° Celsius, the air was dry and the sun was shining continuously. I would call that perfect conditions.
Day 03 – Day of the superlative
On this day the much longed-for day trip to Dubai was on our program. A tour bus picked us and other tourists up at the hotel and took us on the two-hour drive to Dubai with all its sights. During the drive a tour guide told us all kind of interesting information about the town and the Emirates. Dubai can be roughly divided into three parts – Old Town, Downtown and Marina. On that day we visited the first two.
The first stop on our day trip was at a jewelry store where they told us a little bit about the gold and pearl business. After the short presentation you had time to look around and buy jewelry. That day I was not feeling like buying a 10.000 € watch though, so leaving this place was okay.
After that the day started to get exciting. We went to the Old Town that is located in the east. Old houses from earlier times are located in this district. The bus stopped at the Spice Souk where we got off the bus and our tour guide gave us further information about special spices, fabrics and items that can be purchased there.
Without a doubt that market is primarily set up for tourists, however it is exciting and interesting. You have to bring a thick skin though because the salesmen are worse than a swarm of mosquitos.
After we had some time on the market we crossed the Dubai creek on a traditional boat, called Abra, towards the Dubai Museum, passing old houses as well as old merchant ships that are still in usage though.
The Dubai Museum is located in an old fortress, the Al Fahidi Fort, which is the oldest building in town. Entrance to the museum was included in our package. A exhibition shows the development of the desert life. Even though the museum was entertaining, it still stays a museum.
After the museum we drove to or onto the most famous palm tree in the world – Palm Jumeirah. That thing is so gigantic you do not even notice that you are on an artificial palm-island. The bus driver took us across the island, past the Atlantis Hotel to a point further east. There we stopped to catch a good view on Burj Al Arab and take one or the other photo. Both sights had their effects and the guests of the tour were obviously impressed.
We successfully completed the warm-up program and were ready for the highlights of the day – the Dubai Mall (the world’s biggest mall) and the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building). Surely there are multiple ways of spending the following three hours. However, we present our approach which allowed us to see everything.
First of all, we took the elevator to ride up to the 124th level at Burj Khalifa and fought us through the crowds up there in order to catch a good spot on the window for photos. Up there we “enjoyed” the sunset and stayed until dark to see the beautifully lit town. Bombastic describes the experience pretty well.
Afterwards we rode down again. It took quite some time to get down because the queue for the elevator is pretty long. Around 19:00h we made it down and went outside the Mall to see the Dubai Fountain, a choreographed fountain system comparable to the fountain shows in Las Vegas. Following the fountain show we waited to see the amazing laser show on Burj Khalifa at 19:15h.
Once that was over we went back inside the mall and looked at the aquarium (probably also the biggest one in the world). Those of you who want to watch sharks while shopping or having dinner, you have just found that place. Incredibly imposing. And that was also the end to this exciting day trip. At 20:00h our bus left to take us back to our hotels. Visiting Dubai and Burj Khalifa is definitely a must.
Day 04 – Relaxing, Beach and Gin Tonic
This day was completely dedicated to the beach. After breakfast we went straight to the beach. What we did not mention yet: the whole complex offers a trolley service. There are golfcarts (including the driver) that are on call 24/7 to take the guests from A to B. If you want to. We felt so bad doing nothing but eat, drink and being lazy on the beach that we decided to walk.
We enjoyed the sun on the well filled but not crowded beach where we did not have trouble finding a vacant sunbed at any time of the day. Even at the beach the staff was vigilant about the service and neatness of the beach without giving you the feeling of having to tip them. In the evening we went to the À la Carte restaurant for a change where we could choose a starter, main course and desert from a set menu – great atmosphere and good food.
Day 05 – Ras Al Khaimah
This day started with a nice long breakfast and the walk to the beach where we relaxed until noon. After lunch we had planned our next tour. This time it was about checking out the area where the hotel is located – a tour to Ras Al Khaimah. Again, we were picked up by a travel bus. The first stop was at the oldest mosque in town. Obviously, we only looked at it from the outside. Can you visit churches as a tourist…?! The guide gave us some information about Islam and the history before we went on to the city museum.
To be fair we have to say that it was more the approach of trying to be a museum. A few nicely decorated rooms and some excavations – but do not expect much more. The things the guide tells you are more interesting.
The end of the tour was “High Tea” (tea or coffee served with cake, scones and sandwiches) at the luxurious hotel Waldorf Astoria. After arriving at the hotel, delicacies in this extravagant ambience were already awaiting us. The tour came to an end and the bus took us back to the hotel. It was okay but we wouldn’t have payed extra for this tour – a classic “nice to have”.
Day 06 – The desert of reality
For the last day of our vacation (yes, this truth hurts even more the better the vacation is) we booked a 2-hour Spa-program in morning and went to the beach afterwards. This wellness-program included one sauna session, steam bath, jacuzzi, a peeling and a full-body massage (“Do you like it soft, medium or hard? – Let´s try hard, please.”). Absolutely relaxed and all oiled we went to the beach to catch the last rays of sun.
That was not supposed to be the final act of the trip though. For the grand final we additionally booked a safari through the Al Wadi desert. Early in the afternoon we were picked up by a Toyota Land Cruiser. From the hotel we drove to a meeting point at the beginning of the desert where we met with other vehicles. After we all gathered up the rollercoaster ride began across the dunes of the Al Wadi desert. You should have a strong stomach and have your GoPro ready, ideally close to the dashboard. We stopped in the middle of the desert for some pictures in the sand and enjoyed this special place before we went on to the camp (just google Bassata Village).
At the camp there are multiple activities that are almost all included in the package. They assigned us to a table in the middle of the camp, where there would be a show and a BBQ later in the evening. Once we kind of settled down we started out with a camel ride. Those animals are rather stubborn when they tried to make them stand up and walk. But once you are up it is feels great to ride on those big desert-animals in the sand. There was enough free time for pictures, videos and pet the camels – nice experience. Usually you only deal with donkeys in your everyday life…
The sun was about to set so we went up on a platform to see the sunset in the desert. It was a magnificent play of colors and a nice alternative to all those sunsets on the ocean. Definitely worth it. Once it got darker it also got cooler. We recommend bringing a sweater or jacket for the evening. We went to our assigned table when the BBQ and the show started.
The show consisted out of three parts (bellydance, Tanoura and fire-breathers). During the breaks you could fill up your plate at the buffet. Soft drinks were included – alcohol was not. For dessert we ordered a Shisha. As much as I really do not like those things at home, I couldn’t help but finding them awesome on site. We had some chill-time at the camp before the seats and tables started to get empty, indicating that it was time to go back to the hotel. Even this adventurous day had to end sometime.
The vacation had to end as well. We were extremely surprised in a positive way because it was a doozie. We will come back for sure. Next time we will check out Abu Dhabi, take a day trip to Oman and take a ride on the world’s longest zipline down from the highest mountain in the United Arab Emirates. Of course, the Cove Rotana in Ras Al Khaimah will be our center point again.
If you are looking for more pictures you will find them on Instagram.