The United Arab Emirates has a long and well-deserved reputation as a hotbed of technological innovation. Nowhere is this more true than in the country’s northwesternmost emirate, the beautiful enclave of Ras Al Khaimah.
Flanked by the Persian Gulf on one side, the Indian Ocean on the other, and riven by a stunning mountain range (the UAE’s highest), RAK is emerging as a world-class destination for luxury tourists and adventurers alike — outpacing better-known emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Under the leadership of ruler Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, RAK is also staking its claim as the UAE’s greenest emirate.
Yes: Like the rest of the UAE, the RAK’s arid hinterland is largely brown, thanks to a parsimonious rainfall schedule that virtually ceases during the summer months. But that’s not stopping Sheikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi and his capable ministers from pursuing one of the most ambitious environmental programs in the region.
Three initiatives, in particular, are worthy of outsiders’ attention. Here’s what you need to know about each, and why you should care.
RAK’s First Green Building Rises
RAK’s first green building is taking shape, according to a March 2019 report in the Khaleej Times. The building, reports the Times, was “planned in line with the emirate’s 2040 strategy mapped out by His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi.”
The new building will include a host of amenities for customers and members of the general public. The highlight will be a spacious customer happiness center on the ground floor, boasting 332 seats and 53 service counters. Some 190 parking spaces will accompany the new structure, with special reserved spots for senior citizens, women, and people of determination. Per the Khaleej Times, the building’s design is projected to “cut power consumption by 30 per cent, reduce water consumption by 20 per cent, and boost renewable energy use by 20 per cent.”
The 2040 strategy is an ambitious building modernization program that will affect at least 3,000 structures within the emirate, according to a directive from the Energy Efficiency and Renewables Office at Ras Al Khaimah Municipality.
RAK’s First Wetland Nature Reserve Comes to Fruition
RAK’s ambitious green strategy extends far beyond its bustling built environment — to the natural environment, in point of fact.
Last year, Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi decreed the designation of Jebel Ali Wetland Sanctuary, its first wetland nature reserve. The designation comes amid a broader strategy to preserve threatened wetlands across the UAE. It creates the eighth such protected wetland within the UAE; other notable wetland preserves include the 14,000-hectare expanse of Bul Syayeef in Abu Dhabi and the waterbird-rich Ras Al Khor in Dubai.
The UAE’s efforts to preserve and protect coastal and freshwater wetlands for future generations is a model for other arid nations, where development incentives and environmental stewardship often exist in direct conflict. RAK, in particular, appears to have found a way forward that balances the emirate’s economic vitality with its unique natural environment — a major attractor and differentiator in its own right.
Everyone’s Doing Their Part, Even the Camels
It’s not just humans doing their part to make RAK a leader in sustainability. The emirate’s beloved camels are contributing to the effort.
Hundreds of RAK camels form the linchpin of one of the more curious examples of circular economics found anywhere in the world. Here, in RAK, they provide some 50 tonnes of raw fuel for cement production.
They’re not working the ovens, of course. They’re merely going about their business, literally. Compared with traditional fossil fuels such as oil and natural gas, camel manure is a clean-burning, carbon-light alternative that more than does the job. With the average camel producing some 10 kilograms on a good day, and about 9,000 camels ranging throughout the emirate at any given time, it’s not hard to see the opportunity there.
Using camel waste as fuel helps divert energy-rich manure from the landfill, where it would otherwise end up. Its only other significant economic use, as fertilizer in palm orchards, simply can’t absorb the emirate’s vast and growing production. To date, the effort has saved nearly 20,000 tons of carbon emissions — a small but vital contribution to a cleaner future.
Pack Your Bags for the Greenest Emirate of All
According to figures released by Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, the emirate welcomed some 1 million visitors in 2018. It’s rapidly emerging as a top destination for sustainability-minded adventure travelers seeking thrills and luxury amid a dazzling landscape of mountains, sun, and water.
If you’re not yet convinced that RAK is a leader in sustainable technology, why not visit and see firsthand what’s happening here?