Choosing the best investment location for your business is about far more than making sure all the numbers add up. It’s also about attracting the right calibre of staff, which means ensuring you select a place where people want to go.
So how does Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) measure up when it comes to desirability? Pretty well, it seems. It’s close enough to Dubai for those seeking a taste of big city weekend life, but far enough away to have created its own low-key identity.
As one European expat comments: “You have to be creative to live here. There’s not the constant brash consumerism of Dubai. It’s about doing things like going out, camping in the hills, walking and designing your own social activities. It’s a different mindset – and I Iove it.
Another expat is equally enthusiastic: “It’s a great place to work, because everything is made so easy. There’s no bureaucracy and no traffic, so I’m able to concentrate completely on my work.”
“You’re never short of visitors when you move here,” says Alan Pollard, who has been based in the Middle East for 15 years and RAK for two. “There’s a feeling you can do most things in the UAE, from indoor skiing, big name concerts and major sporting events down the road in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to activities that take in the coast, mountains and local culture here in RAK. And, of course, there’s a good mixture of restaurants both here and in the neighbouring emirates.”
Alexander Pieper, an expat who came to RAK earlier this year, agrees: “There’s also some fantastic sailing here.” Other activities include waterskiing, scuba diving, desert safaris, dune bashing and golf, plus there are shopping malls and water theme parks.
Property, education and health
RAK ticks all the boxes for many expats well beyond its leisure activities. It has seen a steady growth in property development over the past decade, with notable construction including: Dana Island by Rakeen; the Mina Al Arab by RAK Properties; and Al Hamra, including a village with shopping mall and the Al Hamra Hotel by Al Hamra Real Estate Development. Property prices here have remained fairly stable because demand did not plummet during the global financial crisis.
The emirate boasts a number of international schools, as well as campuses of universities such as the UK’s University of Bolton and Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. However, expats have mixed views about the standard of education offered by schools in RAK. While some are positive about the quality of the international baccalaureate education their children are receiving, others are slightly less enthusiastic. “We have to monitor the quality [of] output,” says one parent of three children at school in the emirate.
Healthcare in RAK gets a vote of confidence from expat workers, thanks mainly to the services provided by RAK Hospital, a premium private hospital that has been operating for around four years. During that time it has registered and treated more than 55,000 patients. It offers general medical care as well as surgical procedures.
“We deliver health facilities to RAK and neighbouring emirates,” says Dr Arpan David, chief operating officer, RAK Hospital. “We initially created a 50-bed facility, but we are now adding 12 more. We’re also planning a spa as a value-added service for patients who have had a procedure in the hospital and want to get back into condition.”