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$100-million 82-metre Saddam's megayacht becomes a sailor's hotel

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Magomed Khamatkhanov
May 24, 2018

Basrah Breeze was built in 1981 by Danish shipyard Helsingor Vaerft for then president of Iraq Saddam Hussein and was launched as Qadissiyat Saddam (the name is a reference to a 7th century battle in which Arabs triumphed over Persia). The yacht's current captain - Hussein Ghazi Khalifa said the cost of yacht at that time was $25 million, but now it would cost approximately $100 million to build such a superyacht, according to YachtHarbour.

Saddam Hussein’s 82-metre superyacht Basrah Breeze was recently used by Iraqi marine researchers from the University of Basrah’s Marine Science Center to explore the changing Persian Gulf. The Basrah Breeze came to Basra in 2010 with the government ownership, but she was rarely used since then. In the year 2014 professors at the university asked the government to allow them to use the yacht as part of their research fleet.

The Basrah Breeze was fitted with marble-tiled bathrooms, numerous guest cabins and a large presidential suite. The superyacht’s indulgent interior then has been modified to accommodate Iraqi scientists but much of the original decor still remains. Saddam Hussein was never able to enjoy the yacht because of the war with Iran and she was left moored in Oman for many years. In the middle 1980's Hussein gave her as a gift to King Fahd bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia. The yacht then changed hands several more times before ending up under the ownership of a Cayman Islands company. Following the execution of Saddam Hussein the Cayman Islands company tried to sell the yacht in 2007, but documents were discovered that legally confirmed it to still be an Iraqi vessel. Following a difficult legal battle the Iraqi government was able to claim ownership.

The king size bed in Saddam Hussein's superyacht is made, the silk curtains around it have been drawn back and, in the gold-rimmed bathroom next door, a barber's chair awaits its occupant. But then Iraqi president never boarded the 82-metre "Basrah Breeze" built for him and now its amenities will be enjoyed by the pilots who guide shipping in and out of the port of Basra, the main southern city.

Equipped with a presidential suite comprising Saddam's private quarters, dining rooms and bedrooms, as well as 17 smaller guest rooms, 18 cabins for crew and a clinic, the opulently equipped and decorated vessel was put on the market for $30 million. The government failed to find a buyer, and for the past two years the Basrah Breeze has served Basra University, hosting researchers on trips to study marine life. "The presidential yacht is in a very good condition. Its two engines and generators are functioning," said Abdul-Zahra Abdul-Mahdi Saleh, its captain. "It only needs periodic maintenance."

But authorities have now decided to moor it permanently as a hotel and recreation facility for the southern port's pilots, many of whom live in distant cities. "The port needs the boat to be a station where sea pilots can rest," said Basra port spokesman Anmar al-Safi.

While the Basrah Breeze survived the turmoil of Saddam's decline and demise, its sister ship "al-Mansur" - which he also never boarded - suffered a different fate, sinking in the Shatt al-Arab waterway that passes through Basra after it was hit by U.S. planes and then stripped bare in the chaotic aftermath of his overthrow. As regards Basrah Breeze, Basra museum has not given up hope of persuading the port to allow it to dock the vessel next to its exhibition halls in one of Saddam's former palaces overlooking the Shatt al-Arab.

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