Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
About an hour's drive from Dubai, Ras al-Khaimah (RAK) is the most northern Emirate, nestled in the Hajar mountains and boasting one of the most varied landscapes in the region. Here, jagged rocky mountains meet burnt-umber deserts, date farms, green plains and a clear stretch of white beaches along the Persian Gulf. Until recently, Ras al-Khaimah kept these natural treasures to itself, letting its glitzy neighbours host the influx of sun-seeking tourists. Unlike the shiny skyscrapers reigning in nearby Dubai, RAK's attractions are dusty forts, steeped in history and just waiting to be explored. Providing an ideal combination of beach, adventure and history, RAK paints a very different picture to the extravagance that is so often associated with the United Arab Emirates. Indeed, it has recently been called the 'rising emirate' and we suspect RAK can expect a steady increase in visitors - make sure you're one of the first.
When to go?
October to March when you can experience camel racing (early on Friday mornings) which is a quintessentially Arabian experience. Be part of the crowd as dozens of camels break through the gates, jostling along as fast as they can as the jockeys follow in 4x4s using remote-control whips - a sight to behold.
Most likely to bump into…
If you're hanging out in the right places you might just spot Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who have recently been filming their new Netflix series, War Machine, here…
Who to take with you?
An adventurer. This is the place for traditional sports like falconry, archery and horse riding.
Jazirat Al Hamra - set in the south of RAK is this crumbling, abandoned fishing and pearling village. Polar opposites from the gleaming high-rises, there is an eerie feel to this place, but it is worth visiting for a snapshot of how the area used to look. Jebel Al Jai - at 6300ft this is the highest peak in the UAE with a 30km road snaking almost to the top. With lots of handy spots for your to pull over, it's a journey of endless photo opportunities. RAK National Museum which is housed in an 18th-century royal palace and the 16th-century Dhayah fort are just some of the historical landmarks which are not to be missed. You've seen the skyscrapers of the future - this will inform you about the country's past.
An essential you bring with you?
Long, loose clothing. While RAK welcomes visitors and is known as one of the more liberal Emirates countries, it is always important to be respectful of local customs.
How to get there?
Qatar Airways does one-stop flights to RAK, or fly direct to Dubai and drive from there.