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Ras al-Khaimah

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a relatively new country – it was formed in 1971. However, the history of the land that the UAE occupies dates back to the Neolithic Age, which is evidenced by inscriptions, drawings and archaeological finds uncovered in the seven emirates during the period from the early 1950s to the present day.

Archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah from 7,000 years ago, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world.[1] Its location at the entrance of the Arabian Gulf has always been strategic to the socio-economic and cultural growth of the emirate. It has also meant that Ras Al Khaimah has also been fending off invading forces; the remnants of numerous historic forts and towers testify to its eventful history.

History of Ras al-Khaimah

The northern area of the city today known as Ras Al Khaimah was previously the location of the important Islamic era settlement and port of Julfar. Ras Al Khaimah has been the site of continuous human habitation for 7,000 years, one of the few places in the country and the world where this is the case.

Archaeological evidence has demonstrated that the settlement known as Julfar shifted location over time as harbour channels silted up. Excavations of a sizable tell, which revealed remnants of a Sassanid era fortification, indicate that early Julfar was located in the north of the present city of Ras Al Khaimah, not far from other sites of historical and archaeological interest such as the Pre-Islamic fort, ‘Sheba’s Palace’ (Shimal Fort).

One of Ras Al Khaimah’s most celebrated sons, Ibn Majid, was a hugely influential seaman, navigator and cartographer, and there is evidence in his writing that the town he came from was at that time known as Ras Al Khaimah, that town having eclipsed Julfar as the principal port and settlement of the Shimal coast.

In the early 18th century, the Qawasim (singular Al Qasimi) established themselves in Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah on the Arabian Peninsula, growing to become a significant maritime force with holdings on both the Persian and Arabian coasts that frequently came into conflict with British flagged shipping.

In the aftermath of a series of attacks against shipping sailing under Omani flags and following 1809 monsoon season, the British mounted the Persian Gulf campaign of 1809 against Ras Al Khaimah, in which the Al Qasimi fleet was largely destroyed. The British operation continued to Lingeh on the Persian coast which was, like the Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands, administered by the Al Qasimi.

By the morning of 14 November, the military expedition was over and the British forces returned to their ships, having suffered light casualties of five killed and 34 wounded. Arab losses are unknown, but were probably significant, while the damage done to the Al Qasimi fleets was severe: a significant portion of their vessels had been destroyed.

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