It must be one very confused superyacht by now. The secret yacht with the secret escape tunnel which was launched by Saddam Hussein in 1981, is for sale - again - this time by the Iraqi Government.
by Nancy Knudsen
No doubt current Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki feels he could do with the US$35 million or so they are asking for it. The court wrangle between King Abdullah of Jordan and the Iraqis is just the latest of many adventures for the orphaned yacht, which has been passed around like a hot potato since Saddam's hanging in 2006.
The yacht was built in Helsingor, the city of Shakespeare's Hamlet - quite appropriate considering the drama of its life - by Danish shipyard Helsingor Vaerft, who were sworn to secrecy about its construction.
Curiously, Saddam never took delivery of it. It was in the second year of the Iran/Iraq War, so maybe he had other things on his mind, and in any case, he was always frightened of a coup, so rarely left Iraq.
However, he named it Qadissiyat Saddam, after the first ever battle between the Arabs and the Persians in 627AD which ended the Persian dominance of Iraq – in Iraq, that's what they were calling the current war.
Ocean Breeze -
He must have dreamed of a great future, because it is crammed with extravagances - that is, if you like Arabesque arches, dark wood carvings, deep pile carpets in lurid colours, rugs woven with views of holy cities, and gold taps. He also had included a secret escape tunnel running the full length of the ship, just in case of attack - or maybe if he got sick of the guests.
Instead of going to Saddam, it went to Saudi Arabia's royal family, and sat moored in the port of Jeddah for ten years. Curiouser and curiouser. Was it a gift? Or did he intend to take delivery at some later date when his vision of the war was realised - a decisive Arab victory over the Persian masses, leading to the complete surrender of the Iranian nation?
Whatever the case, the Saudi Royal family, in what could have been a not-so-oblique message for Saddam, renamed the yacht Al-Yamamah, meaning 'The Dove'.
Then, as rumour would have it, for some reason it was presented in early 2007 as a - cough - souvenir to Jordan's King Abdullah - maybe a birthday present, or a small goodwill gesture.
It was then renamed once again in the blandest possible fashion, and put up for sale as 'Ocean Breeze'.
Party room - .. .
However, by now the Iraqi government had become aware of the yacht, and began a court battle against the Cayman Islands firm part-owned by King Abdullah of Jordan, who then claimed that the yacht had been given to them by Saddam himself - no mention of the ten years the boat had languished in the custody of the Saudi Royal Family. Since there were no documents to prove the gift, the Iraqi government eventually won it back.
Now they have renamed it again, as Basra Breeze
For the past year Basra Breeze aka Ocean Breeze aka Al-Yamamah aka Qadissiyet Saddam has been anchored in various locations off the coast of southern France during the legal battle, but is now believed to be somewhere in Greece.
Just in case you're interested, the yacht is a mere 82m long (269ft), can accommodate 28 guests with a crew complement of 35. She doesn't really rate highly in world stakes, being the 40th largest yacht in the world.
There's no gym, sadly, but two doctor's surgeries and a mini-operating theatre. If you like a good party, there's a party room for about 200 which comes with a bullet proof atrium.
However, the bad news is that some brokers say you'd need another US$35m to restore the aging palace yacht.
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5:21 AM Sun 26 Oct 2008 GMT
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