The glitz and gridlock of Dubai sends Frances Hibbard scurrying in search of quiet at Ras al-Khaimah, the little emirate that could.
as the shadows grow longer and the sting finally goes out of the sun here at this arresting place at the base of the Al Hajjar Mountains, in the northernmost United Arab Emirate of Ras al-Khaimah. A herd of graceful Arabian oryx, emboldened by the onset of evening and newfound freshness in the air, stalk their way down to the resort’s watering hole. Up on the grassy falconry deck, the leather hoods used to soothe, rather than sedate, the retreat’s resident birds of prey are removed in readiness for their late-afternoon flights of fancy. Equally dozy guests emerge from afternoon slumbers or yet another plunge into their private pools (they shimmer, too) to watch these predatory creatures perform for the gathered digital cameras, lured by the promise of raw meat and a safe landing spot atop a leather glove.
First-time visitors emerging from the glossy new A380-dedicated terminal at Dubai airport to a spectacle of height and light would be forgiven for assuming the UAE was all traffic snarls and building sites. But that’s only one chapter in its everunfolding story. In truth, it’s little more than 50 years since oil was first exported from the region and less than a century since Bedouins moved in from the desert to take up a residence along Dubai Creek, beginning the dramatic transformation of this trading port into a modern mega-city.
Even so, cosseted away out here in a nature reserve dotted not just with wildlife but also discreet tented dwellings and regallooking watchtowers, such modernity – however recent a development – seems far