Raʾs al-Khayma

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Northernmost of the United Arab Emirates.

Raʾs al-Khayma's two separate territories cover some 650 square miles and have coastlines on both the Persian (Arabian) Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The emirate has greater topographical diversity than the other emirates, and its slightly greater rainfall makes significant agriculture possible. Raʾs al-Khayma has the largest oil and natural gas reserves of the small emirates north of Sharjah (the Northern Emirates). In addition, it utilizes the mineral resources of the Hajjar Mountains, exporting aggregate stones and producing cement, asphalt, and lime. Fishing is also important for the emirate's economy.

According to a 1997 estimate the emirate had 153,000 inhabitants, most of whom lived in the capital city of the same name. Nearly 90 percent of the population is indigenous.

In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries Raʾs al-Khayma's Qasimi rulers held sway along the shores of the lower Persian (Arabian) Gulf and the northern Indian Ocean until attacks on British shipping to India elicited a massive British campaign that resulted in the almost total destruction of the tribe's capital and fleet. The Qasimi rulers never regained formal power; this has given rise to resentment in modern times over the preeminence of the ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Upon its independence in 1971, Raʾs al-Khayma's ruler, Shaykh Saqr ibn Muhammad, angered by his state's limited political role in the new federation and expecting imminent discovery of oil in his territory, remained outside the U.A.E. federation for six weeks after its formation on 2 December 1971. (Modest oil deposits were not discovered until 1983.) At the same time, Iran seized the Tunb Islands from Raʾs al-Khayma, and it continues to occupy them, a circumstance that contributes to current strains between Iran and Persian (Arabian) Gulf Arab states.

see also qasimi family of ras al-khayma, al-; tunb islands; united arab emirates.


Anthony, John Duke. Arab States of the Lower Gulf: People, Politics, Petroleum. Washington, DC: Middle East Institute, 1975.

Heard-Bey, Frauke. From Trucial States to United Arab Emirates: A Society in Transition. New York; London: Longman, 1982.

Metz, Helen Chapin, ed. Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3d edition. Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1994.

Peck, Malcolm C. The United Arab Emirates: A Venture in Unity. Boulder, CO: Westview Press; London: Croon Helm, 1986.

malcolm c. peck
updated by anthony b. toth