Saddam Hussein's yachts were once signs of luxury. Now, one is a wrecked picnic spot for fishermen and the other was almost turned into a hotel.
Saddam Hussein's yachts were once luxurious signs of the dictator's power.
One boat is now a wrecked picnic site for fisherman. Another was reportedly almost a hotel.
Photos show these yachts today as Iraqi officials debate what to do with them.
Saddam Hussein's superyachts were once symbols of luxury, built in the 1980s and fitted with spacious presidential suites, marble tile, and various amenities.
But decades after his death, Hussein's vessels have met very different fates: one remains wrecked in a river —a picnic site for fishermen — while the another nearly became a hotel.
The "Al-Mansur" multimillion-dollar yacht was once fitted to the personal requirements of Hussein, featuring gold trimming and an impressive atrium, according to Superyacht Content. Although it was never boarded by Hussein, the almost 400-foot boat remained moored at port for safekeeping.
When US forces invaded Iraq in March 2003, the "Al-Mansur" was a juicy target. Troops destroyed the boat, leaving it to sink in the Shatt al-Arab waterway.
20 years later, any sign of wealth or glamour is gone. "Al-Mansur" has been looted and stripped, its right side sunk deep into the riverbed.
But fishermen told Reuters it's not such a bad outcome. "When it was owned by the former president, no one could come close to it," said fisherman Hussein Sabahi, who enjoys a cup of tea on the wreck after a long day of fishing.
"I can't believe that this belonged to Saddam and now I'm the one moving around it," he added.
Some Iraqis told Reuters they think the wreck should be preserved for history. Others say governments, which have not funded any preservation efforts, are right to leave it to the river.
Another one of Hussein's superyachts, the 270-foot "Bashrah Breeze," was built in 1981 for $25 million, or $100 million today, according to Yacht Harbour.
After Hussein's execution in 2006, ownership of the boat changed hands a few times.
But in 2008, a Cayman Island entity put the yacht up for sale, according to Boat International. NPR reported at the time that the boat — fitted with gold faucets, swimming pools, and a rocket launching system — could sell for as much as $35 million.
But it wasn't sold. Iraq stepped in and courts decided the "Bashrah Breeze" belonged to the government.
Since then, the yacht's briefly hosted researchers from Basra University on a marine trip, as reported by Yacht Harbour. At the time, officials said it was in good condition and functioning well.
In 2018, reports that "Bashrah Breeze" would be made into a hotel for pilots made international headlines. This was disputed by the former Director of the Marine Science Center at Basra University Ali Douabul, who told Boat International the rumors were "completely wrong."
"If they'd used it for pilots, they would have ruined it in no time. It's never been used as such. I got a very, very unpleasant call from the minister about that."
It's unclear if the boat will be made into a museum or moored somewhere permanently.
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