Ras Al Khaimah: Country and Foreign Investment
Population, Language, and Culture
There is evidence of human settlement in Ras al-Khaimah from 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 Persian Gulf and the Indian Ocean. After the Portuguese built a fort at Julfar 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 (whose descendants still rule Ras al-Khaimah), who also ruled Sharjah, the emirate was the most powerful in the area for 200 years.
In 1819, the British defeated the Al-Qassimi navy, securing trade routes to key parts of the emerging British Empire, especially India. In 1853 the UK signed a maritime truce with the Arab rulers in the region known as the Trucial Oman, gaining control of Trucial States foreign policy. From 1869, Ras al-Khaimah has been fully independent from Sharjah, apart from the period from 1900 to 1921.
After the UK rescinded the maritime pacts, the rulers of the individual emirates decided to form a federation, and an independent state known as the United Arab Emirates came into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.
The total population of Ras al-Khaimah is estimated at 300,000. While the emirate is less cosmopolitan than neighbouring Dubai, a sizeable expat population has grown up, consisting mainly of people from India, Pakistan, Iran and, latterly, Europe and the USA. It is estimated that UAE citizens make up only 20% of the country’s population, but this percentage is considerably higher in Ras al-Khaimah.
The indigenous population is approximately 80% Sunni Muslim and 20% Shi’a Muslim. There are also places of worship available for Christians, Hindus and those following other religions.
Arabic is the official language, though English is widely spoken in business circles, along with Hindi and Urdu (which are virtually the same language.) French and Farsi are also understood.