Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Can tiny northern emirate outshine Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

By John Defterios, CNN
March 13, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The emirate of Ras Al Khamiah is undergoing a rapid luxury property transformation
  • The northernmost emirate of the UAE is often overlooked alongside Dubai and Abu Dhabi
  • International hotel brands and developers are flocking to RAK to build new facilities and residences

(CNN) -- For centuries, Ras Al Khamiah was a strategic outpost along the ancient silk road trading route.

Today, the northernmost of the seven emirates that make up the UAE is often overlooked alongside its extravagant neighbors of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

All that could be set to change, however, with the ruling Al Qasimi family set to make a big push in the region's burgeoning residential and tourism sectors.

See also: Visit the Abu Dhabi's fantasy island

International hotel brands such as Hilton and Rixos have moved in while developers are building luxury apartments and villas at a rapid pace.

By the end of 2014, Ras Al Khamiah (or RAK as it is often known) will have some 4,800 hotel rooms, a 60% expansion from the start of last year. The government says occupancy is currently running at 73% for beachfront resorts and revenue per room rose a solid 39% in three years.

Reviving property in RAK
China pumps $650 million into Greek port
Egyptian tycoon transforms military town
Re-creating the French Riviera in Greece

Vice president of operations at Hilton, Christian Grage, believes these rising numbers are only the beginning of what's possible in RAK. The Hotel giant has been in the emirate for more than a dozen years and opened a branch of the Waldorf Astoria there last August.

"We actually are not necessarily surprised about what has come," Grage said. "I would describe it as if you build it they will come. I think we have anticipated the opportunity."

Interactive: What country is the biggest investor in international property?

To help fill out RAKs new capacity, Air Arabia, a fast growing budget carrier, is set to move in to replace a struggling local airline. The hope is this partnership will help provide easy access to RAK from the likes of India and Saudi Arabia.

A group of international travel experts, meanwhile, are fine tuning a grand master plan to ensure that demand is aligned with all the new hotel and residential inventory coming on stream.

The first results of this strategy can be seen at the Al Hamra village where more than 1,000 luxury villas have been already sold to property investors from around the world.

See also: Where is world's most expensive luxury property?

With prices starting at $1.3 million at entry level and rising to $8 million at the top end, however, investment in Al Hamra doesn't come cheap.

These prices equate to a maximum price of $3,800 per square meter ($353 per sq ft), but General Manager of the development, Benoy Kurien, said he is maintaining a sizable discount compared to prices in Dubai.

"(This represents) 20-30% cheaper rates per square meter for any property you buy whether it's an apartment or a villa and that is significant value without compromising," Kurien said.

The early signs are promising, but whether this rising emirate succeeds in its plans will depend on continued growth as new properties and facilities are completed.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0441 GMT (1241 HKT)
Where are the world's tallest skyscrapers being built?
July 11, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
How do you feel about buying property? Scared of a bubble emerging where you live? Add your voice to our mood map.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
A room in a property valued at $1.1 million in London.
The garden is overflowing with weeds and trash is strewn across the lower floors. And it could be yours for $1.1 million.
July 4, 2014 -- Updated 0241 GMT (1041 HKT)
A futursitic silk cooperative that aims to bring together workers of the countryside.
What happens when a North Korean architect is given free rein to design what he or she likes?
June 25, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Shipping containers are being reused around the world to provide affordable housing in property hot spots.
June 18, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
The American concept of senior living villages and homes is being adapted in the world's most populous nation.
June 16, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
A replica of the Effel Tower in Tianducheng, a luxury real estate development located in Hangzhou, east China's Zhejiang province.
Where can you find the Eiffel Tower, an English village and Scandinavian seaside town? In China's replica cities of course.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1244 GMT (2044 HKT)
A plan to revive the abandoned resort town of Varosha in Cyprus is bringing together Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
May 20, 2014 -- Updated 1142 GMT (1942 HKT)
London's The Shard has taken top honors in the annual Skyscraper Awards.
May 14, 2014 -- Updated 0306 GMT (1106 HKT)
Milan might be the capital of Italian fashion but it's an ambitious architectural project that's generating buzz.
May 1, 2014 -- Updated 0239 GMT (1039 HKT)
Some of Italy's most magnificent monuments are being supported by the country's big brands.
ADVERTISEMENT