Ras Al Khaimah has been the site of human habitation for several millennia and its indigenous cultural traits portray the real flavor of Arabia.
Today, the native values, heritage and culture which have evolved over centuries, continue to thrive notwithstanding the modern look, infrastructure, facilities and the moderately liberal lifestyle that characterize Ras Al Khaimah.
Ras Al Khaimah’s culture is rooted in a long tradition of literary work, camel races, falconry, traditional artwork, fishing, pearl farming and the cultural exchange brought about by trade routes. The local museums and forts provide visitors with a glimpse of the emirate’s cultural life, history and heritage.
The people of Ras Al Khaimah are welcoming and friendly, particularly towards tourists. Many are employed in the fishing, trading and agricultural industries and while you can still see farmers growing date-palms, Bedouins (tribes) roaming the desert and fishermen trading by the coast, increasing modern industries are taking over. However, the emirate is keen to promote and preserve its heritage, particularly its fishing and sea trading villages of Julfar and Jazirat Al Hamra; the oasis settlements in Shimal, Falayah and Dhayah; and the remote villages of the Al HajjarMountains.
Many people imagine cities in the UAE to be in the shadow of soaring skyscrapers, but Ras Al Khaimah, the capital of the Emirate has the majestic backdrop between both the mountains and the sea. Divided into two parts by a natural creek, a bridge connects the old city with the newer part with old souks and historic buildings sitting comfortly alongside newer glitzy malls and office blocks. Both sides are vibrant and exciting, home to four fifths of the Emirate’s population, yet there’s an atmosphere of a small, convivial, bustling town.
The present national clothes are a continuation of the old costumes of early Muslims. However, due to the cultural changes that have taken place in all the classes of the society, the national clothes, especially women's clothes, have changed significantly.
Women's clothes in the UAE look like the usual clothes worn by women all over the Arabian Peninsula. The dress, commonly called "Nafnoof" or "Al Goon" is a long variety that reaches down to the feet. UAE women also wear an embroidered "Kandoorah" whose style varies according to its embroidery, fashion or material. They also usually wear a "Sirwal" under the "Kandoorah". Women cover their head and face with a loose scarf called "Sheelah" or "Waqayah". Sometimes a woman would cover her face with a sort of veil called "Borgo" which is a special piece of cloth tied to the rear of the head and partly covers the face. She usually wears a black mantel to cover the whole dressed body and special shoes or sandals, too.
Mens clothes are simple in design and colours. Men all over the country nearly wear the same main dress called “Kandurah”. The design of the Kandurah differs slightly in some places or according to the weather. Men usually wear as underwear a "Wezar" or "Wezarah" with which they wrap the lower half of their body. The head cover called "Ghottrah" is usually supported by a black or white "Kofiyyah" or "Eqal". Under the "Ghottrah" and the "Eqal", men usually wear a loose sleeveless cloak or mantle called "Bisht" or "Abayah". Men of all classes wear sandals on most occasionss.
The UAE in general and Ras Al Khaimah in particular is well known for its folklore, folk music, folk dance and other traditional and popular art forms which embody and reflect the social, ethical and aesthetic values of the community. Traditional dances for example are meaningful movements played rhythmically to symbolize the common ideas and likes of a certain community.
It is one of the oldest art forms of Ras Al Khaimah and is performed only here. The songs during this performance are divided into three sections. Drum players stand between two rows of performers comprising the band. One of the performers begins by reciting a line of poetry. He repeats it a number of times until the other performers have memorized it. Then he recites another line of poetry from the same poem. The first line is a start and the second is the astinato or pedal.
The two rows of dancers rhythmically move forward and backward, a row bows and drummers keep drawing nearer to it for 10 minutes while moving their heads. The opposite row repeats the some movements as the drummers draw nearer to them as well. Dancers with swords and guns add charm to the show. This folkdance is usually performed on special occasions, feast days and at wedding parties.
Ras Al Khaimah’s kitchen is known for its delicious dishes and recipes passed from one generation to another.
Local people, being seafarers and merchants for centuries, brought into the country exotic plants, spices and recipes from all over the world. Therefore, traces of Indian, Egyptian, Iranian and Turkish cuisines can also be found in local dishes.