Ras al Khaimah – Trucial State

It appears that I have a post out of sequence – after Muscat the post should have been Ras al Khaimah, and then Dubai – please accept my apologies. Too many readers have already read the ‘Dubai’ post to change the sequence.

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Ras al Khaimah from a painting in 1809.

Ras al Khaimah has been inhabited for over 7000 years, one of the few places in the world where this is the case.

The coastal area was also known as the pirate coast. In the 18th century Ras al Khaimah became a major maritime force and had control of areas in Persia and Arabian coast, and frequently came in to contact with British trading vessels.

War broke out between the rulers of Muscat and Ras al Khaimah in the 18th century and in 1763 the ruler of Ras al Khaimah sued for peace.
The peace was later broken in 1775, and the ongoing war brought Ras al Khaimah up against Muscat’s ally, Great Britain.

After a series of attacks by Ras al Khaimah against Sindh (which is in what we now call Pakistan, which did not come about until 1947), the British Authorities in India decided that the raids had to stop.

The British mounted the 1809 campaign, which destroyed much of the Ras al Khaimah fleet, and put a stop to the raids. The British withdrew and it was not until 1815 that a treaty was agreed, but this was broken in 1819.
The British returned and again defeated the ruler of Ras al Khaimah, and the treaty of 1820 put an end to piracy and slavery & removed the ruler of Ras al Khaimah.
This act began the creation of the Trucial States, which has morphed in to the United Arab Emirates that we know today.

The Trucial States name came from the principal sheikhs in the Persian Gulf area that had signed protective treaties with the British – it was known as the ‘truces’ hence the name Trucial States.

Abu Dhabi – 1820 to 1971
Ajman – 1820 to 1971
Dubai – 1835 to 1971
Fujairah – 1952 – 1971
Kalba – 1936 – 1951, when it was re–incorporated into Sharjah in 1952
Ras al Khaimah – 1820 – 1972
Sharjah – 1820 – 1971
Umm Al Quwain – 1820 – 1971

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The above gives you and idea as to how close each of the sheikdoms are to each other.

The first cargo of crude oil left Abu Dhabi in 1962, Dubai commenced exporting oil in 1969, so when I was in this area from 1962 to 1968 it was very different than what you see today.

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The foreshore of Ras al Khaimah during my time.

 

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We anchored off and waited for the dhows to come out, obviously we didn’t require the aide of a tug. I don’t think Ras al Khaimah had any tugs because they didn’t have a port.

Work began as soon as the dhows arrived and within a short time it was night – we were surprised that that work didn’t stop. Being on the mid-night to 4.00 am time seemed to drag as there was little that I could do except watch the labour unloading.

It was about 1.00 am when the wind began to increase.

With a sandy or mud bottom we wouldn’t have had a problem, but the bottom where we had anchored was coral and the flukes of the anchor were unable to dig in to the coral.
I spent the next couple of hours wondering the ship and peering over the side to estimate if we were dragging our anchor.
If we had anchored off a more ‘sophisticated’ coast line I would have taken bearing to confirm or not, if we were dragging.
Off the coast of Ras al Khaimah, the land was a black mass to the west of us, without any lights or navigational points that I could have used.

Fortunately, near the end of my watch, the wind dropped, and I felt easier that I hadn’t woken the captain . . .

I was back on duty the following afternoon, and I think the Captain and first mate were ashore, when I sighted a motor boat approach the ship.
Aboard this boat were a number of well-dressed locals in a mix of European dress and Arabic traditional robes. Our gangway was down to allow the labour to board.

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The picture will give you an idea.

The motorboat hooked on to the gangway and I was asked permission if they could come aboard.
A Lebanese interpreted introduced me to a gentleman is robes as Sheikh Abdullah, (as he was known to the locals), who was the nephew of the then ruler at that time of Ras al Khaimah,  Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad Al Qassimi. (February 1948 – 27 October 2010).

Sheikh Abdullah was interested in the ship and wanted to practice his English, so I showed His Highness (which was his title, as he was the equivalent of a prince), and his interpreter around the ship, after which I invited him to the bar, which he accepted.
In addition to his royal title he was also the Minister of Education for Ras al Khaimah.

It was an interesting time for me as we spoke of many subjects (excuse the pun), all in English, and occasionally the interpreter jumped in with a quick translation for the Sheikh.

We spoke for a couple of hours and he spoke of the history of his country, and that his family had ruled the area for over 600 years.

He spoke of his ancestors raiding Persia, India and defeating the Portuguese. He also told of his people sending the fleet out against British merchant ships, which caused the British navy to arrive and take over his country.
He assured me that his people no longer attacked British merchant ships, which was nice to know considering I was part of a British merchant ship’s crew.

He didn’t feel any discontent with the British, who had been involved with his country for eighty years, and I think he considered the arrival of the British to be more positive rather than a negative move, because it helped his country to expand their horizons as far as trade, education and modern devices.

As our chat drew to a close he told me that they expected to be drilling for oil within five months, which would change his country once again.

Unfortunately for the Sheikh, we now know that the drilling failed to find any oil. This meant that R.A.K (the abbreviation for Ras al Khaimah) did not become a second Dubai, but it did allow his country to go down a different path, and they have now become popular as a destination for what the area used to be before the glitz of Dubai.

What Ras al Khaimah has also become is a major producer of pearls and ceramics.

R.A.K used to be a major supplier of pearls and had been for a couple of thousand years at least. The Trucial State coastline around 1810 had 3000 pearl boats and by 1900 the number of boats had become 4500.
The pearls didn’t stay in the Gulf area but were exported to Bombay (Mumbai), which was the world centre for trading pearls.
In 1917 the Bank of England considered that a gram of Gulf pearl on the Bombay market was the equivalent of 320 grams of gold or 7.7 kilos of silver.

The inflation of the pearl market was such that Cartier bought a building in New York, for a two-string pearl necklace, valued at that time for about $1.2 million. The same necklace in the 1940’s was sold for $157,000.

All of this started to fail with the discovery of oil, why risk your life diving for a pearls when you can earn good money in the oil industry in other areas of the Trucial States, plus the creation of the Japanese cultured pearls had expanded considerably. The last Gulf pearl fleet sailed in 1949.

If you can’t beat them join them – in 2004 a pearl farm was established in Ras al Khaimah.

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In addition to pearls R.A.K Ceramics is now a global ceramic brand.

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Leave the city behind and go back in time . . .

In 1971, R.A.K joined with other Trucial States to become part of the UAE (United Arab Emirates).

Our next port of call was Dubai, but due to my error I’ve already posted the Dubai blog.