Ras al-Khaimah has been the site of human habitation for several millennia and there are many historical and archaeological sites throughout the emirate dating from different time periods, including remnants of the Umm an-Nar Culture (3rd millennium BC).Ancient graves were found in the Emirate in October 2012.
The city was historically known as Julfar. Archaeological evidence has demonstrated that the settlement known as Julfar shifted location over time as harbour channels silted up. Excavations of a sizable tell, which revealed remnants of a Sassanid era fortification, indicate that early Julfar was located in the Shamal area, not far from other sites of historical/archaeological interest such as Sheba’s Palace and the largest Umm an-Nar tombs found on the Arabian Peninsula. Sources say that Julfar was inhabited by the Azd (a branch of the Kahlan tribe) during the eighth and ninth centuries AD, and that the houses of the Azd were built of wood.
In the early 18th century, the Al Qasimi clan established itself in Ras Al Khaimah on the Arab Peninsula. In 1819, a British naval force was sent from Bombay in order to suppresspiracy that affected shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, along the Persian Gulf coast, and the Indian Ocean. In the Battle of Ras Al Khaimah of 1819, the pirate fleet was largely destroyed. Hasan Bin Rahma, whom the Saudis had put in control of Ras Al Khaimah by deposing Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi, surrendered and was deposed, unable to count on Saudi support because Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt had destroyed the First Saudi State in the Nejd Expedition of 1817-1818. The British operation continued to Linga on the Persian coast that was like the Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands administered by the Al Qasimi on behalf of Persia. The attack on Ras Al Khaimah resulted in the destruction of the tower of the 16th century Dhayah Fort whose remains can be seen at Rams in northern Ras Al Khaimah. In January of the following year, the British imposed the General Maritime Treaty of 1820 signed by Sheikh Sultan Bin Saqr Al Qasimi who was reinstated by the British in Ras Al Khaimah after Hasan Bin Rahma had been deposed. The treaty stipulated the end of piracy and slavery, and laid the foundation for the British protectorate over the Trucial States that lasted until 1971. In 1869, Ras Al Khaimah became fully independent from neighbouring Sharjah. However, from September 1900 to 7 July 1921, it was re-incorporated into Sharjah; the last governor became its next independent ruler.
On 10 February 1972, Ras al-Khaimah, under the leadership of Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammad al-Qassimi, joined the United Arab Emirates.
In 1975, the total population of Ras Al Khaimah was 43,845 of which 29,613 were nationals and 14,232 were foreigners. This figure increased to 73,918 (39,148 locals; 34,770 foreigners) in 1980, 96,578 in 1985, 143,334 in 1995, and 210,063 in 2005. The current total population is estimated to be between 250,000 and 300,000 people, nationals and foreigners.