Ras Al Khaimah is one of the few places that has continuously been inhabited throughout its history, making it one of the longest-settled places in the world. To celebrate the Emirate’s history, The National Museum houses an impressive collection of archaeological and ethnological artefacts for visitors to explore.

Archaeological excavations reveal that advanced trading civilisations have existed in this region since 5000 BC. Over 1000 individual archaeological sites and antiquities are scattered around the Emirate, which is a testament to its ancient origins.

Ras Al Khaimah’s location was a strategic link for trade with Mesopotamia between 5500 and 3800 BC. In addition, ancient records show that Ras Al Khaimah inhabitants travelled to India, China and Zanzibar during the 10th century.

The museum

It’s well documented that an early fort in the heart of Ras Al Khaimah formed the principal residence for the ruling family. The fort is close to the Mohammed bin Salim Mosque in the older part of the city. Ancient documents and letters show that the fort was destroyed at least twice in its history.

Firstly in 1621 by the Portuguese and then later in 1820 by the British. The ruling Quwasim family left the residence in 1964 to move to a more suitable palace less than a kilometre away in Mamoura.

The fort was defended by one large tower and three smaller round towers. Over the years, it was developed into a fortified complex.

After the Quwasim left, the fort became the Emirates police headquarters and prison. The government finally converted it into a museum in 1987. It has a rich diversity of architecture that sympathetically showcases its eventful history.

In addition, the historical, ethnographical and archaeological material provides an exciting insight into life and traditions in the area.

The fort

Like many other traditional houses in Ras Al Khaimah, the fort was constructed from coral blocks and stones. The material was lightweight and provided excellent insulation properties, keeping the buildings cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The large rectangular tower replicates the original fort that served as a single defence tower and stood on the city wall’s perimeter. The foundations are dated between 1809 and 1819.

All other building work took place after the signing of the peace treaty with the British in 1820. The original buildings were two-storeys that surrounded a central courtyard. A wind tower is also present in the courtyard; this was the cooling system for the fort; the open sides would catch the breeze and force it into the room below to keep it cool.

If the weather was cooler, the tower and vents could be blocked with matting. During recent renovations, artisans used traditional mortar applications.

The galleries

The Quwasim family and residents of Ras Al Khaimah donated many of the artefacts to the museum. The Department of Antiquities and Museums has undertaken many archaeological excavations, surveys and scientific research projects.

The objects found give significant information and insight about the culture and the traditions of the area. The exhibit rooms are all pleasantly situated around the inner courtyard and accessed by a traditionally carved heavy wooden door. The collections contain discoveries from the earliest settlers through to the late Islamic period.

The interactive ethnographical display shows traditional life in the Emirate, pearl diving, date agriculture, fishing, farming and ancient architecture.

The museum is open from Tuesday – Thursday and Saturday – Sunday from 8am – 6pm.

The museum is open from 2pm – 8pm on Fridays, and closed on Mondays.