Ras Al Khaimah: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language, and Culture
There is evidence of human settlement in Ras Al Khaimah stretching back to the third millennium BC, but the city, known for many centuries as Julfar, came to prominence in the early middle ages as a thriving port at the crossroads of the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. After the Portuguese built a fort at Julfur in the 16th century, the city was abandoned and a new settlement was begun on the site of modern-day Ras Al Khaimah city. Ruled by the Al-Qassimi family, who also ruled Sharjah, the emirate was the most powerful in the area for 200 years. However, it was the British who came to control the area in the early 19th century after defeating the navy of the Qassimi (whose descendants still rule Ras Al Khaimah) in 1819 to secure trading routes to key parts of the emerging British Empire, especially India. In 1853 Great Britain signed a maritime truce with the Arab rulers in the region known as the Trucial Oman, which allowed the British to control the foreign policy of the Trucial states. In 1869, Ras Al Khaimah became fully independent from Sharjah, apart from a 21-year period from 1900 to 1921. After Great Britain rescinded the maritime pacts, the rulers of the individual emirates decided to form a federation, and an independent state known as the United Arab Emirates came into being in 1971. Ras Al Khaimah was the seventh and last of the emirates to join the federation, in 1972. A provisional constitution was made permanent in 1996.
While Ras Al Khiamah is less cosmopolitan than neighbouring Dubai, a sizeable expat population has grown consisting of people originating mainly from India, Pakistan, Iran and, latterly, Europe and the United States. It is estimated that UAE citizens make up only 20% of the country’s population, but this percentage is thought to be much higher in Ras Al Khaimah.
The indigenous population is approximately 80 per cent Sunni Muslim and 20 per cent Shia Muslim. However, places of worship are available for practitioners of Christianity, Hinduism and other religions.
Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken in business circles, along with Hindi, Urdu and Farsi. French and South Asian languages are also understood.
The total population of Ras Al Khaimah is estimated at between 250,000 and 300,000.