RAK: Travel Back with "the Lion of the Sea" M
Under the strategic rule of Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) has become one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the region. Although most are drawn to its beautiful beaches, adventurous desert activities and pampering resorts, many visitors take the time to explore RAK's rich history and culture, which includes the famous navigator known as "the Lion of the Sea," who lived in the region more than 500 years ago.
A Legendary Sailor
Although the story is contested by scholars, ancient navigator Ahmad Bin Majid is credited with leading famous Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama on his first trade route conducted entirely on the water. Critics state that Vasco da Gama did not set off on this expedition until 1497, when Ahmad Bin Majid had already retired. Still, Bin Majid's numerous literary and navigation contributions helped pave the way for the present day Ras Al Khaimah, currently ruled by Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
After his alleged adventure with Vasco da Gama, Bin Majid would grow to become a scholar, poet and navigator who was so well-respected that he would be given the nickname "the Lion of the Sea" more than five centuries after his death.
Paving the Way for Greatness
Ahmad Bin Majid was born in 1421 to a family of famous seafarers. He was so skilled that he started navigating ships at the young age of 17. His birth city, Julphar, is known today as Ras Al Khaimah, a region currently governed by Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi.
Bin Majid's most historically valuable contribution were his handwritten oceanography books, which addressed a wide range of sailing issues including weather patterns, celestial navigation and charts that detailed which areas were not safe for sail.
Bin Majid, or "the Lion of the Sea," became one of the most iconic figures of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for his contributions to navigation, which undoubtedly helped people of the region travel to new destinations and open new trading opportunities. It's no wonder that he was dubbed "the first Arab seaman." "The Lion of the Sea" is known well beyond RAK's borders, and has even interested budding historians as far away as Minnesota.
Though the exact date of his death remains a mystery, "the Lion of the Sea" has become immortalized through tales of his aquatic prowess.
Curious visitors will soon be able to learn even more about this medieval navigator, as RAK's Tourism Authority works with regional museums to make this history accessible to both Arabic and non-Arabic speaking tourists.