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Ras Al Khaimah: World’s longest zipline and epic views await at Dubai’s sporty cousin


I’m hurtling through the sky on the world’s longest zip line when the Jebel Jais mountain comes into view from a height of 6,345ft above sea level.

The clear blue sky decorating its peaks is so beautiful I’m amazed this area feels like a secret of the United Arab Emirates.

Even at speeds of up to 93mph, I take a moment to marvel at the landscape of roads snaking up dusty mountainsides beneath me.

I swing my legs back on the ground after the 1.75-mile ride, savour the adrenaline and catch my breath as I watch more tourists flying in.

I’ve come to Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai’s sporty cousin, where temperatures reach 32C during my November stay.

It lies around a 45-minute drive north of the UK’s conventional winter hotspot.

But staggering views, adventure sports, hikes and a rich pearl farming history await those prepared to make the journey.



The Jebel Jais zip line experience
The Jebel Jais zip line experience is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest

There are some heavenly hotels to stay in, too. My base is the five-star DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island.

From my balcony I have views of its 711-yard private beach and large palm trees next to sparkling blue pools.

It looks so inviting I set my alarm for 6am to dive into the water for a cool sunrise swim the following day.

I see jet skis speeding into the distance, yoga stretches on the sand and tourists sipping drinks on sun loungers.

I even have to wring water from my eyes for a moment when I spot a man rising vertically on a Flyboard powered by jet packs.

There are 13 restaurants and bars here. Dining options range from Italian to Asian, with cool outdoor terraces overlooking the sand.



DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island
My base was the lavish DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island

One of these is Meze, a recently opened restaurant serving up Lebanese and Turkish food with panoramic views of the Gulf.

A blissful spa facility makes day-long pampering a hefty temptation too.

But I’m keen to explore so I tuck into its vast breakfast buffet, sip a coffee and set off for an itinerary of adrenaline, relaxation and history wrapped into one.

Up first is the Bear Grylls Explorer Camp sitting between the rock walls of Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest peak.

Even the ascending drive there was a highlight in itself.

Barely a single cloud hampers the views of the Hajar mountain range, formed 70 million years ago and spreading across the UAE and Oman.

Upon arrival I’m met with camo coloured camp cabins, archery and tourists swinging above me on its incredible ropes course, an obstacle maze 33ft high.



Bear Grylls Explorer Camp
Rock climbing at the Bear Grylls Explorer Camp

Expert instructors offer activities designed by Grylls himself, from 24-hour survival courses to family friendly camping.

My tour guide, a strong, good humoured man named Talal, guides my group through a stony path until we reach the rock climbing section.

We make a collective gasp as we tilt our heads up to the top of a magnificent, daunting slope.

I hook up my harness and begin to navigate small gaps to elevate me to the top before I turn around and pose for pictures.

After abseiling myself back down to the sound of cheers from my group, I catch my breath, immediately hooked on adrenaline and keen for my next hit.

And where better to find that than the world’s longest zip line?



Jebal Jais
Views of Iran and Oman can be seen at the top of Jebal Jais

The almost three-minute Jebel Jais zip line experience was officially recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world’s longest in 2018.

Friendly guides stick on an introductory video before I’m asked to place my legs in an orange-coloured body suit.

Two sets of ropes suspend me from the zip line, with a provided GoPro video camera attached to my helmet ready to capture every moment.

If this all sounds terrifying… that’s because it is.

My heart feels as if it’s beating out of my chest as my guide counts down from three, unbuckles my hold and sends me whizzing off.

The acceleration is exhilarating, barely taking seconds before you reach its dizzying top speed, with breathtaking views maintained throughout the whole experience.



DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island
The five-star DoubleTree by Hilton Resort & Spa Marjan Island offers some gorgeous rooms

This is an absolute must to stick on the bucket list for adventure sport lovers, but its appeal is easily enjoyed by anyone inexperienced too.

On the other side I hear sighs of relief from people grateful they didn’t pull out at the last minute, taking more selfies and admiring a final look at the views.

Close to the launch site is 1484 by Puro, the highest restaurant in the country at 4,869ft above sea level.

Its sleek design offers panoramic views from an outdoor terrace in the shade.

Tucking into a delicious bite of fish, I take a final look out before washing it down with a mocktail.

We end the day with the 1770 Camp experience, including a hike up Jebel Jais so photogenic I can barely put my camera down.



GoPro zipline in Ras Al Khaimah
A GoPro is provided on the zipline to capture everything

The trail of red soil lies just yards away from near-vertical drops, with the sun setting behind views so vast we’re told we can see Iran and Oman in the distance.

Under a spectacular moonlit sky at the top, our guide takes us through a sunset meditation as we breathe slowly in near silence.

At this height temperatures can drop to around 10C, so we warm ourselves by a fire and tuck into traditional Emirati food, including chicken mandi with rice and delicious doughnuts laced in sticky syrup from dates proudly grown in the UAE.

On our final day we visit the Suwaidi Pearls farm.

I can see pink flamingos in the distance as I make the short boat ride to the wooden island it sits on.



Suwaidi Pearls farm
Ras Al Khaimah’s rich pearl farming history laid bare at Suwaidi Pearls farm

Our tour guide delves into the fascinating history of when divers risked their lives for pearls.

Oysters lifted from the water are used for demonstration, as we focus on the gleaming pearls sitting in them.

Those interested in discovering more about the area’s history can find comprehensive details at the Ras Al Khaimah Museum and Al Jazirah Al Hamra site, described as the “last authentic and traditional town still standing in the UAE”.

I end my trip with a beef tagliata at the hotel’s Vespa restaurant.

Raising a glass of red wine, I make a toast to this fabulous way of spending a long weekend in the winter sun.





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