x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Valentine's Day in Ras Al Khaimah

In RAK, February 14 has little significance, but there's plenty of love in the air all the time.

In Ras Al Khaimah, where camping and camel-racing season are in full throttle, Valentine's Day comes and goes without a ripple.

Valentine's is often slated as a Hallmark occasion, besmirched by sour singles and forgetful spouses as a capitalist grab at what is the most beautiful and priceless thing in the world: love.

For me, Valentine's Day has little to do with romance and everything to do with love. As a girl, I spent days preparing cards for my classmates, stuffing them into the overflowing heart-shaped envelopes we had pinned to the classroom wall the week before.

Jeffrey Cancade, who could freestyle at the age of six and would pretend to be a snare drum, spent weeks on his. They were hand-cut and hand-stamped by Jeffrey and his mother, each one a masterpiece. For kids, the lesson was clear: the more love you give, the more you get.

Though Valentine's Day goes unmarked and perhaps unknown by much of RAK, it could be because most people here don't need a reminder to love.

RAK is a place where heart-shaped pillows and teddy bear accessories do a fair trade year round. In this town, pink needs no revival - it is already one of the most popular colours for cars and houses.

Weddings are the RAK pastime, sumptuous feasts attended by hundreds where dancers perform almost nightly on the Corniche. In an emirate with little electricity and sporadic street lights, neighbourhoods still glow through the night, thanks to houses draped in lights to signify happy nuptials.

Moreover, RAK is a place where "I love you" is shouted from rooftops and car tops - and not just on National Day. It's not unusual for children and old women to greet me with an "I love you".

During interviews, young men who don't speak English and can't follow the conversation may still interrupt to say what is important: "I love you Baba Zayed. I love you Emarat."

Even hecklers refrain from coarse calls. The heckle is nearly always a declaration of love at first sight: "I! Love! You!" Followed, of course, by a phone number.

RAK will probably never rank as the world's most romantic city. But where love is concerned, we do a fair trade.