There is evidence of civilization in Ras Al Khaimah some 7,000 years ago, making it one of the longest-settled places on the planet. Around 1,000 separate archaeological sites and antiquities are scattered around the Emirate, testament to its ancient origins. These include Sheba’s Palace (reputed to be the oldest castle in the UAE), the Umm Al Nar tombs (which date back to the Bronze Age) and the Wadi Suq burial sites at Shimal and Seih Al Harf (which date from the period 2000-1600 BC). Its strategic location lent itself to the establishment of commerce with other regions, and evidence exists of trading links with Mesopotamia between 5500 and 3800 BC.

The Haffet (3200-2600 BC), Umm Al Nar (2600-2000 BC) and Wadi Suq (2000-1600 BC) periods have furnished archaeologists with many remnants from these periods, while numerous tombs and grave sites have been excavated and their contents placed on display in the Ras Al Khaimah National Museum. Late Bronze Age and Iron Age settlements have been discovered near Shimal and in Khatt, respectively, while archaeological evidence of the early and later Islamic periods is more plentiful in Ras Al Khaimah than in any of the other emirates. The Abbasid era marked the unification of the Islamic Empire and the expansion of trading links with East Asia. Julfar (as Ras Al Khaimah was then known) was famed as a key commercial center in the Arabian Gulf: pottery, in particular, was a significant export to other countries, and the pottery trade continued to be an important element of the local economy for hundreds of years.

Ras Al Khaimah has a rich seafaring heritage and was the birthplace of the famed Arab navigator Ahmad Ibn Majid (‘The Lion of the Seas’). The Qawasim tribe created one of the strongest fleets ever seen in the region and presided over lands on both sides of the Strait of Hormuz. A treaty signed in 1820 in Ras Al Khaimah by the Qawasim, other tribe rulers and the British brought stability to the seas by establishing the region as a British protectorate; the Perpetual Maritime Truce further cemented this in 1853. Known as the Trucial States, the signatories formed what was the precursor to the UAE, which was formally created on independence from Britain on December 2, 1971 (Ras Al Khaimah joined in early 1972).

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