In November 2018, the Visionary Leader of the Year Award granted by Arabian Business magazine went to His Highness Sheikh Saud bin Saqr al Qasimi, ruler of Ras al Khaimah. Selecting award recipients for these annual awards has become more complicated for the editorial staff of the magazine; the Middle East region has experienced a significant uptick in terms of business activity, but there is no question that His Highness is deserving of recognition as Visionary Leader.
At the awards ceremony, the RAK political leader dedicated the honor to his people, and he made it a point to include the thousands of foreigners who have made Ras al Khaimah their new home. As part of the United Arab Emirates, RAK is not mentioned in news headlines as often as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but this jurisdiction is being talked about in international business circles. His Highness has been ambitious in his efforts to put this Emirate on the global stage; he wants to make RAK one of the best places to visit, live, and do business in, and he has been highly effective in this regard.
Being located right next to Dubai is a geographical advantage for RAK, and these two Emirates share many business and economic goals in common. Dubai certainly makes more news headlines in terms of generating business opportunities and accelerated development, but there is one significant difference that should be noted. Whereas the political leaders of Dubai has opted for diversification because they know that petroleum is a finite natural resource, RAK has never enjoyed such fortune. Oil explorations missions have failed to detect major reservoirs, and hydrocarbon prospecting stopped decades ago. Unlike other Emirates such as Abu Dhabi and Dubai, RAK has been forced to build its economy without gas or crude oil riches, but this has not stopped His Highness from delivering on several points of his economic vision.
The modern prosperity of RAK is a throwback to the Julfar period of the Middle Ages. Even before the expansion of the Islamic Empire in Southwest Asia, the Julfar was a thriving region thanks to its strategic location at the northern tip of the UAE. The modern RAK Maritime City industrial zone recalls the time when the Julfar port was busy with the arrivals of ships from the Far East. The modern free trade zones and luxury coastal resort districts recall the time when Julfar welcomed nomadic Bedouin tribes who traveled across the Arabian deserts for the purpose of relaxing and engaging in trade.
His Highness knows that RAK is a land of blessings. The elevation and fertile soil sets it apart from other Emirates; in fact, residents and workers from Dubai are known to enjoy weekend trips to RAK before heading back to doing business on Sunday night. The mountains of RAK offer the highest elevation points in the UAE, and this is where smart tourism operators have set up adventure attractions such as zip lines, hiking excursions, rock climbing, and ATV rides. At the new and challenging golf courses in RAK, players enjoy a gorgeous backdrop of terracotta mountains, and there are even wetland preserves to explore. Thankfully, maintaining golf courses in RAK is easier when compared to Dubai because of the aquifers and rivers.
As for doing business, RAK was able to make the most out of its mineral resources when RAK Ceramics started operating in the 20th century; this government-sponsored enterprise is now a market leader in construction materials, and it was from the same mineral advantage that Julphar was established to produce raw materials for the pharmaceutical industry. Instead of sticking to this formula of ceramics and pharmaceutical production, the business leadership of RAK has focused on expanding the industrial diversity of the Emirate with His Highness providing guidance along the way.
As the most business-friendly jurisdiction in the Persian Gulf region, the Ras Al Khaimah Economic Zone is now home to hundreds of companies operating in more than 50 sectors. The costs to start doing in RAK are very reasonable, and there is a high level of efficiency practiced by those who are in charge of providing assistance to foreign investors. For all these reasons, His Highness and the good people of RAK are certainly deserving of praise.