In an effort to promote the emirate as a popular international tourism destination, Ras Al Khaimah has devised an ambitious action plan to preserve and promote its historic sites.

The action plan, prepared by the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Office in association with the RAK Department of Antiquities and Museums, intends to shore up the list of tourism offerings by unveiling its rich historical legacy which dates back prior to 5000 BC.

The Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Office, in association with the RAK Department of Antiquities and Museums, will preserve and promote each of the emirate's historic sites, which include landmarks such as Dhayah Fort (left), Sheeba's Palace and the Falayah Tower and Mosque.

The project, titled Action Plan for RAK Heritage Tourism, aims to leverage the fascinating history of Ras Al Khaimah as a key vehicle for tourism growth and to attract those interested in archaeology and ancient history.

It has drawn up a detailed strategic plan to preserve and promote each of the emirate's historic sites, which include historic landmarks such as Dhayah Fort, Sheeba's Palace and the Falayah Tower and Mosque.

Ras Al Khaimah has an impressive archaeological heritage which is reflected in its formidable array of ancient forts, the ancient trading village of Julfar, which was the largest trading centre on the Arabian side of the Gulf from the 14th to 17th centuries, and the villages in the Hajjar mountains.

The authorities hope they will add immense value to the already booming tourism sector.

"The plan is in line with the vision of Shaikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, to transform the emirate into a haven of peace where age-old traditions and modern life co-exist," said Dr Khater Massaad, Adviser to the Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler.

"The action plan has identified the heritage sites and has prepared a three-pronged strategy involving immediate, medium and long term steps, for their preservation taking into account the specific needs of each site," he added.

The action plan has also classified the heritage sites in Ras Al Khaimah into three clusters, namely the fishing and sea trading villages of Julfar and Jazeerat ul Hamra, the oasis settlements in Shimal, Falayah and Dhayah, and the villages in the Hajjar mountains.

The immediate plans proposed include installation of railing and crowd control mechanisms, appointment of caretakers and steps to prevent graffiti and littering.

It also calls for construction of parking areas, setting up of comfort stations, information boards apart from production and distribution of pamphlets and audio visual material relating to the heritage sites.

The medium and long term plans involved excavation and restoration of sites, including reconstruction of a part of the entrance and outer wall of Sheeba's Palace.

They also include the setting up of a museum at the Falayah Tower, the ancient summer retreat of the Al Quwasim family, starting of excavations at the second Dhayah Fort, setting up of theme restaurants and establishment of museums and heritage information centres.

Also on the anvil are steps to promote eco-tourism in the mountainous areas of Ras Al Khiamah by linking them with the unique theme of Lost Villages and steps to develop and conserve the Palm Gardens.

The emirate will also seek the inclusion of some of its prominent historic sites like Sheeba's Palace in the Unesco World Heritage Site list.

The project proposes to have a unique funding strategy featuring innovative tie-ups and the active participation of the private sector.

As a start to the project, the authorities have planned the RAK-KAR Rally 2005, to be held this year to create awareness about the heritage sites and to help raise funds for the programme.

The competition will be restricted to four-wheel drive vehicles and will cover most of the heritage sites and scenic spots in Ras Al Khaimah.

The event will not focus on speed but will be like a treasure hunt so that families can enjoy the competition.

The treasure hunt will be like the Da Vinci Code and is expected to be exciting and educative at the same time.

The authorities are also planning to organise a World Heritage Conservation Conference which will be attended by specialists from around the world.