Move over Dubai: Wynn is betting big on this up-and-coming emirate

Jan 28, 2022

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You’ve heard of Dubai, full of towering skyscrapers and human-made mega-islands, and Abu Dhabi, with its picturesque Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an outpost of the Louvre and even a Warner Bros. hotel at the world’s largest indoor theme park.

But you might not have heard of Ras Al Khaimah, a lesser-known emirate that’s quickly becoming a hot spot for global travelers, adventure seekers and world-class resorts, including one just announced from a big name out of Las Vegas.

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Wynn Resorts, the company behind Wynn Las Vegas and other casinos in Boston and China, announced it’s planning to build a luxury resort in Ras Al Khaimah. Set to open in 2026, the integrated resort — which usually means it’s a hotel and casino with other entertainment elements; essentially the majority of resorts in Las Vegas — will have over 1,000 rooms, more than 10 restaurants and lounges, a state-of-the-art meeting and convention center, a spa, stores, multiple entertainment venues and a gaming area, the company said in a statement.

The new resort will be built on an “exclusive” section of Al Marjan Island, a series of artificial islands much like Dubai’s The Palm. The island will give the new Wynn resort, the company’s first on a beach, “a pristine setting with spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf as well as sandy beaches and a marina.”

Alongside Wynn’s announcement to build the resort and apply for an integrated resort license from the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority, the government agency announced it is forming an entirely new division to oversee the regulation of integrated resorts.

“The foremost priority of this new division is to create a robust framework that will ensure responsible gaming at all levels,” the Tourism Development Authority said in a statement.

Currently, gambling is not allowed in the United Arab Emirates, but Wynn’s new “gaming area,” along with the Tourism Development Authority’s announcement, is causing speculation that this project could potentially usher in a new era of legalized gambling for the emirate. That said, neither Wynn Resorts nor the Ras Al Khaimah Tourism Development Authority has explicitly said that “gaming” at the new resort will include gambling.

Wynn isn’t the first Las Vegas company to enter the UAE. In 2018, Las Vegas-based Caesars entered the emirates with Caesars Palace at Bluewaters Dubai, a nongaming, beachfront resort. MGM Resorts International is currently in construction on three nongaming resorts — MGM Grand, Bellagio and Aria — on Dubai’s The Island.

boat pulling water ski with Ras Al Khaimah mountains in the distance
(Photo by Jeff Kingma/Getty Images)

Related: How to get to (and stay in) Dubai using points and miles

Back in Ras Al Khaimah, one of TPG’s 12 hottest destinations of 2022, a handful of new projects, in addition to the Wynn, are helping put the emirate on the map. Set to open in the first quarter of this year, the InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa will bring 351 new rooms, suites and villas, along with a handful of upscale restaurants, to the area. And later this year, the Anantara Mina Al Arab Ras Al Khaimah will open as a Maldivian-style resort with overwater villas, Asian restaurants and a spa.

Outside of the booming resort scene, visitors to Ras Al Khaimah can also find plenty of adventurous activities, including zip lining 1.76 miles down the UAE’s tallest peak on the world’s longest zip line, taking dune buggies out in the desert and attempting an elevated ropes course high up in the mountains.

If you can’t wait for the Wynn to open in 2026 and want to visit Ras Al Khaimah, the UAE’s northernmost emirate, there are a handful of great resorts and hotels where you can visit on points. Hilton Honors members can cash in 80,000 points for a standard room at the behemoth Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah or find rooms as low as 36,000 points at the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Beach Resort.

For a retreat away from the beach, Marriott Bonvoy members can find a desert oasis at the Category 7 Ritz-Carlton Ras Al Khaimah, Al Wadi Desert, which has rooms between 50,000 and 70,000 points based on peak and off-peak pricing.

Featured photo courtesy of Wynn Resorts.

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