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Ras Al Khaimah: The Prime Destination for Authentic Emirati Cuisine

Ras Al Khaimah has become an established tourist destination, attracting 1.13M visitors in 20221 and 600,000 in the first half of 2023.2 These extraordinary numbers are the result of the government’s successful efforts to promote the emirate as a tourist destination, creating opportunities and events for visitors and investors.

The appeal of the Northern Emirate for tourists is built on two specific attributes. The first is its natural landscape, being Jebel Jais a magnificent scenario for adventure tourism such as hiking, and the world’s longest zipline for the braves. The second is its luxury resorts with impeccable hospitality, with future plans to multiply with more international brands.

In addition to these attributes, Ras Al Khaimah also has a unique quality that could potentially attract a different crowd. A crowd that speaks directly to the core of its values, the local population, and specifically those concerned with heritage, authenticity, and sustainability, all priorities for the Ras Al Khaimah tourism board and governmental authorities. What I’ve found through my research is that Ras Al Khaimah has the most authentic, diverse, and easy to find Emirati cuisine in the entire country. Yet, most expats, including those who have lived in the country for several years, and most tourists who visit Ras Al Khaimah, are not aware of this.

I started my research in 2019 focusing on the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. At that time, many Emiratis told me that the authentic flavors of traditional Emirati cuisine could only be found in the homes of the local population, not in typical restaurants. After five years of ethnographic research, I tend to agree with this perspective. Based on my experiences in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I’ve come across a few decent Emirati food spots. However, Ras Al Khaimah is a different story.

Fresh ingredients from the farm to the table and a variety of sea foods caught every day. Emirati bzaar made in the home, or bought from a local grandmother, just as the s’mneh, loumi, lemon vinegar, mishawa and pickles. All items locally produced and up to the standards of the local population. I even watched one of the sheikhs from the royal family as he chose fish for his family at the local fish market.

Ras al Khaimah’s eateries range from small ‘honk to order’ cafeterias (Siket Alteben, Al Souq Al Qadeem, Shai & Rigag), ubiquitous food trucks near tourist attractions (like Ghayta, that has also a lovely cafeteria), everyday diners (AlMedyaf and Alwalemah, among others) and one or two fancier restaurants (Skeek combines a modern take with very traditional preserving and cooking techniques and ingredients), though not high-end yet. At these places, customers can sit or order through a delivery application to enjoy the most delicious and authentic Emirati flavors. In addition to the traditional dishes, there are a few new innovative choices as well. Just as the evolution of traditions, cuisines also evolve, specifically to cater to generations that enjoy chocolate and spiced chips in their rgags!

The most interesting feature about these restaurants is that they are not labeled as “Emirati” cuisines. The foods are traditional staples of the people of Ras Al Khaimah. In terms of quality, restaurants are also not defined by international rankings or Micheline stars. In my interviews with Emirati chefs, many have commented that evaluation of the food quality and service is based on the number of local costumers, who set the highest standards based on their own mother’s seasoning.

Some restaurants that serve Emirati flavors have stood the test of time in Ras Al Khaimah, such as AlMedyaf. And others, opened and flourished over the last 5 years.  One example is Rgag Yadoh, that started as a small cafeteria in Al Kharran a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic. Al Kharran is a residential area inhabited primarily by locals, as its far from the touristic areas. Interestingly, this restaurant, owned by a young Emirati entrepreneur, managed to survive lockdowns and curfews because once social precautions were mandated, they immediately adapted their menu and integrated small delivery boxes to transport food and drinks more easily to their customers.

This simple gesture was not only beneficial for the one-table cafeteria but also to the customers they served. I visited the cafeteria again in 2021 and the delivery box idea had significantly expanded. They used them for tailored coffee breaks for large companies, for family picnics, all while maintaining the typical “rounding crews” who love the one bite sambosas and the crispy rgag with both traditional and innovative fillings. I visited for a third time in December 2023 and discovered that they have transformed into a fancy café. They’ve kept the classics, including the delivery boxes, and expanded the menu to include traditional lunch and festive dishes. They’ve also started their own food trucks that travel to the other emirates for special occasions.

Ras Al Khaimah is the prime destination for Emirati cuisine and Emirati food flavors should be introduced to tourists that want more than an international cookie-cut menu. Long-term residents and short-stay visitors are hungry to experience the original and authentic foods of the UAE and Ras Al Khaimah is the best emirate to do this. Marketing Ras Al Khaimah as the Gastronomic capital of the UAE will not only support local businesses but also introduce sustainability practices that ensure the use of local foods, spices, and practices. To read more about my research project and recommendations for this policy, please access my policy paper at

1 RAK Media Office (2023): “Ras Al Khaimah records its highest visitor numbers in 2022”

2 Skirka, Hayley (2023): “Ras Al Khaimah welcomes record number of tourists in first half of 2023”, The National august, 4th 2023,

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