Royal Yacht Naief in Port Rashid

Sheikh Ahmed became Qatar's Ruler in 1960. In 1961 he married Sheikh Rashid's eldest daughter Maryam so developed close family and political ties with Dubai. Sheikh Ahmed funded Al Maktoum Bridge's construction and donated the Clock that sits atop Sheikh Rashid gifted Sheikh Ahmed a plot of land on Dubaiside adjacent to Al Maktoum Bridge. Sheikh Ahmed built an extensive complex on this land secured by a high wall. In 1972 Sheikh Ahmed was deposed as Qatar's Ruler in favour of his cousin and moved into exile in Dubai. He initially lived in his complex by Al Maktoum Bridge. Sheikh Ahmed eventually relocated to London where he died in 1977.


Royal Yacht Naief - The Yacht that rarely went to sea

Sheikh Ahmed purchased the Mediterranean Cruise Liner Stella Polaris in 1971 and converted it into his private yacht Naief. When Sheikh Ahmed was deposed in 1972, he and his entourage sailed from Qatar to Dubai on his Yacht Naief to berth at newly built Port Rashid's coastal berth. His Yacht rarely moved from this berth thereafter except for infrequent occasions when the Naief went to sea for a couple of hours to check everything was still working. Naief became a familiar sight to people driving along Al Khaleej Road towards Shindaga Tunnel.

Naief's History begins in Helgoland in Germany

Helgoland is a Resort Island 70kms off Germany's coastline. Partially destroyed during WW2, Tourists no longer visited the island. HADAG-Lloyd (a small shipping company) rebuilt Helgoland's facilities and, in 1952, began taking taking Tourists again to Helgoland on their ship "Burgermeister Ross". HADAG built a new larger ship called "Wappen von Hamburg" capable of carrying 1600 passengers as the island's popularity grew. In 1957 HADAG ordered a second similar ship - the "Bunte Kuh" (The Coloured Cow) to cope with continuing passenger traffic but both ships proved too slow leaving Tourists with limited time on Helgoland. In 1960 HADAG sold Wappen von Hamburg to a Greek shipping company Nomikos. Two years later Bunte Kuh was sold to another Greek company, Sun Lines. Charalambos and his wife Isabella Keusseoglou started Sun Lines in 1958 for family orientated luxury cruises on the Aegean Sea. They rebuilt "Bunte Kuh" as Sun Line's first cruise vessel which they renamed "Stella Solaris". Sun Lines became so popular they purchased a larger cruise liner which they also called "Stella Solaris" and sold their first "Stella Solaris" to Sheikh Ahmed of Qatar in 1971 which he then converted into his private yacht Naief.

How Fast is Fast?

For reasons unknown in 1971 Sheikh Ahmed had two Napier Deltic engines installed on Naief, replacing the existing engines. Napier Deltic engines were designed for fast naval patrol boats. Governments usually bought these engines for their Navies. It may be coincidental that the British Government announced its withdrawal from the Gulf at the same time as Sheikh Ahmed obtained these engines for his yacht. Presumably his intention was to provide Naief with more speed. These engines were complex and designed to be maintained by replacement i.e. an engine had to be removed from the yacht, sent ashore for maintenance and replaced by another engine. Sheikh Ahmed therefore had to buy four engines - two to be installed - one kept ready for installation to meet maintenance needs and a fourth engine under maintenance back at the UK Manufacturer. Sheikh Ahmed built an airconditioned facility to store his spare engines. Expert knowledge and experience were essential to keeping these engines operational so Sheikh Ahmed recruited a retired UK Naval Officer with Napier Deltic experience. His task promised to be difficult but once the Naief berthed in Port Rashid in 1972, the yacht rarely went to sea. The ex Naval Officer became more of a Caretaker. Whether Sheikh Ahmed's expensive efforts gave Naief extra speed is not known. Probability is they didn't!

Possible reason for Sheikh Ahmed wanting to make his yacht go faster was to beat his Father-in-Law's Dhow Zabeel. There is a story of Sheik Rashid challenging his son-in-law to a race across the Gulf despite Sheikh Rashid knowing his Zabeel. Sheikh Rashid's tactic was to sail early morning on the day of the race and steal a "head start" on the Naief. Sheikh Ahmed knew what his father in law would so, overnight, positioned his Naief at Dubai eek' entrance to await the Zabeel. There is no evidence the race actually took place -- but who knows !!!!

Aftermath

After Sheikh Ahmed's death in 1977, the ex Naval Officer left the Royal Yacht Naief which then lay idle alongside its Port Rashid Jetty until Naief is reported to have finally sailed from Port Rashid in April 1978 heading for Doha, Qatar.

Royal Yacht Naief at Doha Qatar 1979 © David Jackson

Sheikh Ahmed's two Royal Yachts - Naief and Suhail at Doha Qatar - Date Unknown - © David Jackson

No information on what happened to Royal Yacht Naief except an unconfirmed report Naief was broken up in 1999.