If you’re based in Britain and anything like me then last week’s “beast from the east” had you desperately dreaming of hot sunshine and palm trees. My destination daydream was Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE, which I visited just before Christmas. I’d been invited to be one of the first to test the world’s longest zip line, scheduled to open in mid-December and I couldn’t wait. However, as you will discover when you read the following posts, things didn’t quite go to plan…
Ras Al Khaimah is less well-known than its neighbor, Dubai, but the emirate is aiming to attract one million visitors by the end of 2018. Its zip line in the Jebel Jais, the UAE’s highest mountain range, is a massive draw. It’s been given the Guiness Book of World Records accolade at a whopping 2.8KM long and you can reach speeds of nearly 100mph! For an adrenaline and nature junkie like me I was as excited as Tom chasing Jerry about going down head first form one side of the mountain to the other.
To acclimatise and ease me in gently, my trip started off in the Al Wadi desert. We stayed in The Ritz Carlton (above and below) and we felt like Queens! Pedalling around the vast property proved the best way to explore…
There was no slacking from the gym whilst we were here either…
We even got up for sunrise runs which was the most amazing way to start the day.
Our scheduled activities included rides on spirited Arab horses which for me was the absolute highlight. I grew up with horses and competed at intermediate level (just before Olympic level) and I never knew life without them until university days. Whenever I’m around these majestic creatures I feel like I’ve come home.
Other highlights included a falcon show and a guided nature walk where myself and fabulous photographer friend Anna Rachel, learnt about the different animals and plants that inhabit the desert. The highlight here was the shampoo tree (proper name: sidr tree!). I shouldn’t play this tree down though. It’s pretty extraordinary. All of its parts have medicinal values. Its leaves are used as a herbal shampoo, to treat dandruff, head lice, swollen eyes, abscesses, furuncles and counter obesity. The leaves are also used to clean the body, acting as disinfectant and the oil from the resin is used as deodorant. Stay with me because it doesn’t stop there! Its wood ash is used for the treatment of snakebites. Its fruits are found to have a very high energy value. Its seeds are rich in protein; its leaves rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. The root, stem bark are also used in various medicinal preparations. Other known medicinal uses include as a stomachic, an appetizer, an astringent and also as a cough medicine. Pretty impressive huh?!
In terms of animals we saw gazelles, oryx’s and herons. The sight of the gazelle’s and oryx’s grazing at sunset was spectacular. A moment where Mother Nature pulls out all the stops and you simply have to sit back and soak it all in.
Not such “pretty Polly’s” but insanely impressive birds! The Falcon show was a skilled demonstration of how finely tuned these bird’s senses are. Biking back to our villa at dusk we were always entertained…. See below!
Our time in the desert was beautiful and a great prelude of activity to prepare for whooshing down 2.8KMs of zip-line.
To be continued…
Photography: Anna Rachel
2: Riding: Varley Leggings from The Sports Edit, Adidas Ultra Boost Trainers
3. Nature Walk: Alala Leggings from The Sports Edit, Sweaty Betty top
Jewellery Sophie Lis