The wreckage of Saddam Hussein’s former presidential yacht haunts the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra, Iraq, drawing adventurous sightseers and local fishermen in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s ouster and, later, his death.
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The 396-foot yacht, dubbed the “al-Mansur,” was once among the dictator’s private flotilla, but Saddam Hussein never boarded the vessel after it was built in the 1980s, according to CNN. And Hussein wouldn’t get the chance to do so, since the yacht was targeted by U.S. forces during the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and capsized during the conflict.
The yacht would come to be looted and stripped, its chandeliers and furniture ripped out and even parts of its metal structure removed, as CNN reports. What remains is a rusty hull, and major structural parts that were probably not worth the trouble to excise. It’s ironic that the name of the yacht is a reference to a historical caliph, or religious ruler, whose title meant “conqueror.” And yet, the vessel itself has now been conquered.
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It was one of three of luxe yachts owned by Hussein; it could fit up to 200 guests and even had a helipad. As with most of Hussein’s property, the people of Basra were forbidden to go near the yacht during the iron-fisted reign of the deposed dictator, but local fishermen and other sightseers routinely visit the shipwreck, which has become a curious attraction for leisure of all things, as Reuters explains:
“When it was owned by the former president, no one could come close to it,” said fisherman Hussein Sabahi, who enjoys ending a long day on the river with a cup of tea aboard the wreck. [...] “I can’t believe that this belonged to Saddam and now I’m the one moving around it,” he said.
Locals freely climb the conquered vessel now, boarding it to picnic and drink tea. While it was once reportedly a symbol of Saddam Hussein’s wealth and power, the capsized yacht is now a symbol of Hussein’s downfall — and what could be one of the world’s most unlikely destinations for a quiet cup of tea.