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Ras Al Khaimah Customs and Heritage
United Arab Emirates


Ras Al Khaimah Customs

Customs and traditions are passed on from parents to children and in the long run they are inherited by generations.

The people of UAE are known for their generosity, bravery and friendliness. They have a great legacy which they are still proud of, despite the speedy and tremendous transformation and development that took place in the society. The people of UAE have also adopted some of the various customs and traditions brought into their country by expatriates from all over the world. Although the UAE has become a cosmopolitan society, people still boast of the great heritage of their forefathers.

It is the custom of the UAE people to entertain their guests warmly. They usually serve Arabic coffee to their guests as a gesture of respect and warm welcome. It is a symbol of generosity and hospitality. The Arabic coffee is made and served in very special way.

Folk dances and other traditional sports are still highly appreciated by many people. Falconry, horseback riding, camel racing, boat racing and rowing are a few examples.

Songs praising God are sung on special occasions to promote spiritual feelings and reinforce people's belief. The Prophet's Birthday, the Hijrah New Year and Isra & Meraj are some examples.

National Dress
National costumes of UAE are divided into two main categories:

* The costumes which were used very long ago and are now out of fashion. It is not easy to find any of them nowadays.
* Old costumes commonly used in the first half of the twentieth century.

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. The following is a brief description of the national clothes of women and men in the UAE.

Women's clothes
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.

Men's clothes
Men all over the country nearly wear the same unified dress called “Kandurah”. 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 occasions.

Popular Arts
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.

Al Wahabiyyah
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.

National Food
The UAE kitchen is known for its delicious dishes and recipes passed from one generation to another. The following are some the most popular dishes and recipes in the UAE.

National Food
The UAE kitchen is known for its delicious dishes and recipes passed from one generation to another. The following are some the most popular dishes and recipes in the UAE.

Khammer (Leavened) Bread
It is made of a flour paste mixed with water and dates. The mixture is left for a whole night. In the morning it is cut into round pieces. They are then spread into loaves and baked one by one on a "Tabi" which is either a pot or a frying pan made of iron. A mixture of water and eggs is put on each loaf to improve the flavour.

Regag (Wafer-thin) Bread
It is the most common sort of bread in the United Arab Emirates. A fairly soft paste is manually cut into pieces and spread into a frying pan or pot (Tabi). It is left on fire until the bread gets dry. The loaf is taken out of the Tabi with an iron or copper handle called Mehmas. Regag bread is usually eaten with butter and sugar. It can also be made into porridge or gruel.

Chabab Bread
It is made of a fine paste that can be scooped with a can and poured on a "Tabi" placed on a light fire. The paste should be spread before it gets dry. It should be turned upside down to get it evenly dried. Butter and sugar are put on the loaf to improve the flavour.

Al Harees
It is a very popular dish that undergoes a complicated process of preparation. It is costly as well. Al Harees is usually associated with wedding parties, special occasions and along with special meals during the Holy month of Ramadan. Al Harees is made up of ground wheat and meat. In the past, people used to sing a folksong called Allayah while grinding flour for the dish. Meat should first be washed and then mixed with ground wheat, boiling water and some salt. The mixture is kept boiling on fire until it is well cooked. Then it is poured into a special pot with a small neck called Berma and is placed into a hole for about six hours. The pot is then taken out and the mixture is stirred again. Finally some butter is added to the dish before it is served.

Ras Al Khaimah Heritage

Ras Al Khaimah Heritage

The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah has an impressive archaeological heritage and a very rich history. This area had always enticed settlers with its unique combination of all the four types of landscapes found in different parts of the United Arab Emirates: the fertile plains, the mountainous region, coastal areas and the desert environment. The interaction of these geographical factors and the living style of people have shaped up the very special heritage of the Emirate.

Archaeological excavations and finds have proved that the history of Ras Al Khaimah dates back to the very immemorial past. It reveals that an advanced civilization that carried on trade existed in this region since 5'000 BC.

Ubaid Period (5'500 - 3'800 BC

This is the oldest era known so far in the history of Ras Al Khaimah. Not far from Al Jazeerah Al Hamra, huge ruins of structures and external roofs have been discovered. These ruins are indicative of the early human activities in this area. Moreover some pottery remains, beads, nets and stone implements were also found from the same area. They are a good evidence of the early existence of the Bedouin desert inhabitants who used to live on the coast in the winter. The pottery remains resembled pottery and earthenware pots found in Mesopotamia in the same period. This is living proof of direct trade relations between both areas. In the area of Khatt, excavators have also discovered historical sites that contained granite implements which belonged to the same era.


Haffet Period (3'200 - 2'600 BC)
This era was known for its ruins of graves and burial grounds which were built on high
mountains. They were made of local stone and shaped like beehives. Each grave consisted of one or two small rooms. These were discovered in the areas of Khatt, Wadi al-Bih as well as in Wadi al-Qarw.

Umm al-Nar Civilization (2'600 - 2'000 BC)
The Umm al- Nar Civilization existed in the middle of the third millennium BC. It was arguably the most important period in the development of a civilization in the UAE. Evidence suggests that trade between Mesopotamia and the Valley of Inds (south-east of Iran) flourished during the period. These areas together provided a vast and extended network for distant trade especially in high quality pottery which they were famous for.

The period is well known for its round graves whose external walls were built of smooth engraved and polished stones. A grave was divided into rooms to be used for massive burial, in other words they were used for burying generations of dead people. Archaeologists were able to discover the remains of more than one hundred bodies in these graves. The largest grave was found in the Shamal area. One of these graves had a 14.5 meter diameter. A stone on its front had the drawing of a human foot engraved on it. In 1988, another grave was discovered in the Menaie Valley in the northern area of Ras Al Khaimah. Another grave was discovered in Aasama, where significant collections of bronze implements were also found. Among them were arrowheads and daggers.

Wadi Suq Culture Period (2'000 - 1'600 BC)
The most remarkable archaeological finds of this era are the 15 huge graves in the area of Shamal, comprising the biggest cemetery in the prehistoric era. More graves were also discovered in Ghaleelah, Al Qirm, Al Rams, Qarn Al Harf, Khatt and Athan in 1976. Their excavation work and investigations were carried out during 1985-1990. Most of the Wadi Suq graves were huge and were built above the ground. Their foundations were built of limestone. Each grave was the burial place of 30 to 60 bodies. The personal belongings and remnants found in these graves are at present on display in the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum. They include painted cups, cans and indented stone pans, pots with lids, personal jewels (namely beads), metal tools and arms.

Late Bronze Age (1'600 - 1'250 BC)
The second half of the second millennium BC, the late Bronze Age, is known from a settlement in the Shamal area, which has been partly excavated by a German Mission of the University of Goettingen. Built at the foot of the rising mountains, it showed traces of 'arish' style housing, typical of the United Arab Emirates until as recently as 50 years ago. Large amount of shells and fish bones discovered from the area indicate that the people relied on the Creek, which was probably not far away. Dates and animal bones discovered from the area suggest that farming was also common during the period.

Iron Age (1'200 - 300 BC)
The Iron Age here is best known from finds from the southern part of Ras Al Khaimah where a number of graves were discovered. Some of them were oblong with four rooms, others were shaped like a horseshoe and some others were circular in shape. Archaeologists have discovered painted pans and large number of stone engraved decorated pots made of chlorite from them. One of the most significant discoveries was a stone with the drawing of a phoenix engraved on it. The drawing of this imaginary bird resembled those painted in Assyrian palaces in Northern Iraq. In Northern Ras Al Khaimah there are two settlements shaped like hillocks. The settlement in Khatt was discovered in 1968. The other is in Shamal. Both settlements represent life in the northern region in the Iron Age.

The Hellenic and Parthian Era (300 BC -300 AD)
The later pre-Islamic time, the Hellenic and Parthian Period, is also evident in the northern parts. Survey projects launched by the Antiquities and Museums Department have led to the discovery of some historical sites in the northern and southern districts of Ras Al Khaimah. These sites include individual tombs and reused old graves found in Shamal, Asimah and in Wa'ab / Wadi Muna'i.

The Sasanian Occupation Era (300 AD - 632 AD)
The Sasanian occupation of Ras Al Khaimah is now becoming increasingly evident. A team of archaeologists have founded a small site on the island of Hulaylah that was occupied during the Sasanian Period. Recently two other sites were found in Khatt. The most significant discovery of this era during the three-phase exploration campaign was a Sasanian citadel. It was built mainly to have full control over the fertile plains in the north of Ras Al Khaimah. This monument was evacuated when Islam was adopted in the UAE area. For the early as well as for the later Islamic Periods, Ras Al Khaimah is the most important Emirate regarding the archeological heritage. The early centuries of Islam are well presented in Kush and at the island of Hulaylah.

The Abbasids Era (750 - 1'250 AD)
This period of history featured the great unified Islamic Empire and the huge expansion of trade with East Asia. This era was embodied in small areas in the Arabian Gulf. The presence of two of these areas in Ras Al Khaimah helped it to play a great role as a bustling trade route in the early Islamic Era. One of these places was Al Khoush which was a castle abandoned by the Sassans during the Islamic expansion in this area. It was reoccupied by people who lived in it for the next seven centuries. The second place is situated in the Island of Hulaylah. It was a structure made of palm leaves. Its ruins are few and vague, however they are considered to be of great historical importance.

Both the sites were known as a part of Julfar, which was an old town well known to Muslim travellers and geographers. Some Abbasid pottery and Chinese porcelain pots imported from Iraq and elsewhere were found in these two areas. The antiquities show us how far people of Julfar were deeply interested and involved in trade at that time

The Later Islamic Era (14th - 19th century)
In the middle of the fourteenth century, Kush and the Island of Hulaylah were deserted. People began to settle on sandy beaches near the coast. This area was called Julfar. It was discovered by the famous archaeologist Piatris in 1968. Many archaeological expeditions were delegated to the area by France Britain Japan and Germany. They all showed that Julfar was a vast populated area from the fourteenth up to the seventeenth century.

The town was built of baked mud bricks and protected by a mud wall, 2.5 meters thick and 4 meters high. It was a main center of trade in the lower part of the Arabian Gulf. Julfar was famous for its vast and flourishing trade with distant areas. The finds of porcelain and pottery from here were imported from Arab and European countries. It was the hometown of the famous Arab navigator, Ahmad Ibn Majid who was called "The Lion of Seas". Julfar was famous for its quality pottery made in Shamal and the Valleyof Haqeel which were among the main centers for making and distributing pottery pots throughout the Gulf countries. The pottery industry prevailed for more than 500 years. The last abandoned pottery oven was in the Valley Haqeel 30 years ago.

The recent History (19th - 20th century)
Even the more Recent History (19th & 20th Century) is well presented in the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah. In the recent years the Department of Antiquities and Museums has conducted several surveys to collect the data about traditional buildings. 75 standing towers built of mud-brick or stone and mortar were registered during a survey. Recently, a survey concerning the existence of old mosques located more than 20 sites, which were older than 30 years. They have been recorded, planned and photographed by a Belgian team and reflect the unique and important architectural tradition of religious buildings in the United Arab Emirates in general and the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah in particular.

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