Information on the UAE and RAK
International Students Programs
Information on the UAE and RAK
Culture & History
“Our experiment in federation, in the first instance, arose from a desire to increase the ties that bind us, as well as from the conviction of everyone that they were part of one family, and that they must gather under one leadership.” His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan
The United Arab Emirates is a land full of positive contradictions. It is a place of tradition and community yet it is one of the most modern countries in the world. Some hold fabulous wealth and enjoy incredible prosperity, while many people from all over the world come to earn a livelihood to send home to family living in challenging socio-economic environments. It is a devoutly Islamic country yet it does not deny others the right to practice their beliefs. In a region beset by conflict, the UAE stands firm for peace and is one of the safest places in the world to live.
One of the reasons for the UAE’s success is the strong Bedouin heritage of the Emiratis. Proud and noble and living off the land in a profoundly hardy way, the Arabs of this area thrived for thousands of years. Strict customs that welcomed and protected guests and insisted on homage to tribal and religious beliefs are all part of the unique Emirati history and communal code of ethics.
Another reason for success is the leadership of the former ruler, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who passed away in 2004. Sheikh Zayed is credited with forging the modern state of the UAE and is revered as the ideal of a wise and charitable leader. He used the oil wealth for the betterment of his people and he created the modern state of the United Arab Emirates. His son, His Highness Sheikh Khaifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is the current ruler of the United Arab Emirates
The Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah
“The people of Ras Al Khaimah through history have prospered only by being traders, navigators and this is what we are trying to do now – mimic this path with modern tools.” His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi
Ras Al Khaimah is a prosperous emirate in the northern most part of the United Arab Emirates. This emirate has enjoyed good governance from its ruling family. The ruler of RAK, as this emirate is often known, is His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi. His Highness Sheikh Saud, a graduate of the University of Michigan with a degree in economics and political science, is an astute economic and political leader. The emirate has developed rapidly under his tenure in the last decade. Through the Ras Al Khaimah Investment Authority, industry in the emirate has seen marked growth. Companies such as RAK Ceramics and Julphar Pharmaceuticals are highly successful and well-known. Tourism has also increased dramatically with several high profile international luxury resorts, including the Waldorf Astoria, Cove Rotana, and Banyan Tree making RAK their home. Shiekh Saud is the founder of the American University of Ras Al Khaimah.
Pre-Departure Orientation (PDO)
Please click on the video link for PDO information regarding cultural information in the emirate of Ras Al Khaimah and at the American University of Ras Al Khaimah. This video should be viewed before your arrival on campus to assist in your knowledge of behavior and attitudes as well as things to do and issues to avoid.
Women in RAK and at AURAK
Women have a valued place in RAK society as they do in all of the UAE. They are encouraged to obtain an education and are offered employment and positions of leadership in business, government, sciences and the arts. More and more Emirati women are venturing into the work force as they desire to add to the development of the UAE. You will see Emirati women working in various organizations around town. Many of our AURAK students are Emirati women.
The vast majority of Emirati women wear a sheila, or a head covering, and an abaya, or long black outer dress worn over other clothing. Some women choose to cover their faces as well as their hair.
There are also many non-locals women working and assisting with the development of this Emirate. Many hail from the Philippines, Russia, Malaysia, India, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa region as well as other nations. Women in RAK tend to cover their arms and legs but wear decidedly modern clothing. Some may also cover their hair depending on their religious background.
At the American University of Ras Al Khaimah classes are coed. This is not the case with every university in the UAE. Students may freely mingle on the campus and interact with faculty, staff, and students. There is a vibrant academic life at AURAK and female students contribute to the various schools and departments. Female students and faculty and staff from all countries are valued and welcomed at AURAK.
Islam is the official religion of the United Arab Emirates. The Islamic holy day each week is Friday. Classes are closed on Friday and Saturday, which is considered the weekend. There is a mosque on campus for worship. The Islamic holy month of Ramadan changes from year to year in terms of the exact dates. It lasts between 29 to 30 days. From sun up to sun down Muslims will refrain from any food or drink. After the sun sets they break their long fast with a traditional dinner each night known as Iftar. Non-Muslims show respect for this holy period by not eating or drinking in public during the daylight hours. Ramadan is a special time to be in the UAE and if you are lucky, you will be invited to one of the numerous Iftars on campus or around town. Here you will enjoy the honored position of guest and enjoy amazing hospitality.
There are numerous taxis in Ras Al Khaimah. Unlike many other countries, taxis in the UAE are relatively inexpensive. The taxis are not individually owned, rather they are owned and managed by a licensed company. Driver’s wear uniforms and must obey traffic laws. It is possible to rent a car for an extended period such as a month and the usual cost for a monthly rental is between $500 and $600 US or 1,825 and 2,200 dirhams, which is the local UAE currency. However, driving in another country can be challenging and the emirate of RAK is no exception. It is easiest just to call a taxi when venturing around town.
Insurance is required for your study abroad/exchange period with AURAK. Most doctors are based in a hospital in the UAE and not in a private practice office. Major hospitals in RAK are listed below and appointments may be made online. One may receive top notch health care in the UAE and in RAK. Pharmacies are in many locations and often one does not need a prescription from a doctor to obtain medicine. The pharmacist is authorized to dispense certain medications.
There are many popular restaurants in Ras Al Khaimah reflecting the diversity of the inhabitants. One can dine on Moroccan, Chinese, Lebanese, Sushi and many other cuisines. There are also many different levels, from fine dining at a resort hotel, to a casual food place at the mall.
A note on the alcohol policy in the UAE. Alcohol is not widely distributed at all restaurants. Alcohol is served in restaurants located in hotels or golf clubs. This is customary. Public displays of intoxication are strictly prohibited. Alcohol may be purchased at special stores only.
Please follow this helpful link to restaurants in RAK
Shopping, in like so many countries, is a popular past time in RAK. Perhaps more so in the summer when the temperatures soar. The many malls in RAK and in the other Emirates can be a lovely way to beat the heat. There is no tax on sale of goods in the UAE. Please note that shorts and tank tops are considered disrespectful outside of the beach and could result in security asking you to use discretion during your next shopping experience. Please see the link below of malls and shopping outlets in RAK.
For more traditional Arab handicrafts, carpets, or gold, try one of the old Souks (market).
There are a number of large grocery store chains in RAK. They carry many western and eastern items. Some of the most well-known are Spinneys, Choithrams, Carrefore, Al Aswaq, Al Wadi, just to name a few. The western owned grocery stores will carry pork products in a special room in the back. Alcohol is not sold in grocery stores/supermarkets.
Want a deeper more meaningful experience in your life – then volunteer. Volunteer opportunities abroad allow one another avenue to connect with a place and its people. Be a positive ambassador for your home country by volunteering in the UAE. The Department of International Programs and Partnerships will assist you in your volunteer service request.
The Red Crescent Society
Just like its counterpart The Red Cross, this is a humanitarian organization whose volunteers help in cases of war, natural disaster, and community health.
Ras Al Khaimah Animal Welfare Center
If you enjoy caring for animals, then the RAKAWC is for you. This non-profit is sponsored by His Highness Sheikh Suad bin Saqr Al Qasimi and is funded by the government of Ras Al Khaimah. Opened in 2010 it allows for the care and rescue of primarily dogs and cats.
Beit Al Khair Society
Charitable foundation caring for those in need such as widows, orphans, low income families, the elderly, etc… The organization offers many projects some that run exclusively during Ramadan and others that operate year round.