The superyacht that recently docked at the Port of Mombasa has very lavish gold-plated fixtures and fittings, including an exclusive palace that accommodates the Sultan of Oman.
Its miniature camel artefacts clothed in colourful Arabian scarves gave Kenyans a rare glimpse of travelling in opulence.
The vessel, which is owned by the Omani royal family, is a conspicuous display of wealth and boasts opulent lounges with decorated glass doors, fine leather furniture in different colours, three gyms and a grand dining area that is larger than most apartments in Nairobi.
The Fulk Al Salamah, which was delivered to the royal family last year, made its first trip abroad to Kenya after visiting Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, bringing a delegation of royals on a mission to foster ties.
‘‘This is the first trip outside Oman. This ship is owned by the Sultan,’’ said one of the captains who refused to disclose the price of the superyacht, said to be one of the world’s largest.
Fulk Al Salamah features a large helideck where helicopters can land and take off, raked masts that make it fast and stylish and a bathing platform for hanging out at sea and which acts as a storage area for a dinghy or a jet-ski.
The ship was built by Italy’s Mariotti Yachts— a process that was shrouded in mystery. It was developed under the codename Project Saffron.
The vessel is part of the royal fleet as the family has another 155 metre Lürssen superyacht called Al Said.
Michael Hurst, one of the captains, said Fulk Al Salamah was built and designed to comfortably carry VVIPs, VIPs and other passengers.
‘‘But in Oman we are all equal, we have no classes. However, the VIPs’ privacy is protected while on the ship,” he said.
When we entered the superyacht, the crew members served us Arabic coffee and a traditional dessert —Halwa— in fine, dainty tableware. We were later told that the Halwa is specially ordered and selected by the Sultan of Oman himself from two factories.
‘‘The two complement each other as the coffee [seen as a ceremonial item to show generosity] is very bitter and Halwa is so sweet,’’ said one crew member as we sat on the luxurious leather seats discussing Kenyan politics and the economy.
Yousuf Abdullah, another captain, said the high-tech vessel, which is one of the few that uses the latest sailing technology, is tasked to carry and pass greetings of love and peace and is an extension to other trips carried out by other Omani ships in order to enhance and strengthen ties in the continent.
This was the first time the Mombasa port was receiving a royal vessel, and Haji Masemo, the Kenya Ports Authority principal corporate communications officer, said they hope more luxurious cruise vessels will start bringing tourists to Kenya.
“The first luxury cruise ship bringing tourists from around the world is expected to arrive at the port in early November,” he said.
Fulk Al Salamah has several lounge decks, including a cosy one where the captains hang out.
‘‘Whenever we have time, we sit here to enjoy, talk as we drink coffee or watch movies,’’ said Mr Abdallah.
Inside the superyacht, there is a chest that is used to keep unique cultural accessories such as an Omani dagger known as Khanjar.
The curved dagger, worn on the waist and fixed on an iron or silver belt is a national emblem. It is usually worn during ceremonies like national days, religious holidays or weddings to signify virility and pride.
The yacht also has a cinema hall, exquisite wildebeest carvings, framed pictures of the Sultan and a numismatics board with currency notes dating back 1919.
The Omani royals live a glamorous and jet-setting lifestyle. However, the food served in the superyacht is generally simple and cooked in mild spices and marinades.
While travelling, the inflight chef cooks chicken, fish, lamb, rice, a wide variety of soups, salad, curry and fresh vegetables. The chefs can cook for about 400 people who can comfortably fit in the ship.
For dessert, the royal family and his guests enjoy the Omani halwa which is usually served before they drink kahwa, which is coffee with cardamom.
For the tour, we were accompanied by Kenya Navy recruits eager to learn the operations of the one-of-a kind vessel. The technology on the bridge of the vessel is a sight to behold for any navigation whiz.
“This is one of the new technologies in the marine industry. This ship has electronic radar plotting. It is paperless and we can control everything here by touch,” said Azher Saleh Al-Azri, another captain.
Mr Hurst said the ship is the largest gross registration tonnage (GRT) private yacht in the world at 164 metres in length, 24 metres in width, and maximum speed is 22 knots.
The fastest superyacht in the world hits a staggering 31.5 knots, or about 37 miles per hour. It is believed to be owned by the royal family of the United Arab Emirates and cost more than Sh61.8 billion to build.
While travelling on Fulk Al Salamah, passengers can take pleasure cruises on a motoryacht. On the sixth deck, (the vessel has eight floors) there is women-only room and men are not allowed in and ‘‘those found would have their finger cut’’, joked Mr Al-Azri who marvelled at how green Kenya is.
We left the ship with a bag full of sweets and a sarong, another sign of generosity from the Sultanate of Oman.
The 300 passengers on the Mombasa tour included Oil and Gas minister Mohamed Al Rumhi, Public Authority for Investment minister Salim Al Ismaili, and the undersecretary for Ministry of Tourism, Maitha Al Mahrouqi.
Tourism minister Najib Balala said the arrival of the royal superyacht is a boost to cruise tourism. Mr Balala noted that the visitors toured various parts of the coastal city including Fort Jesus.
“We are glad that the port of Mombasa has for the first time received a royal yacht with more than 300 visitors,” he said.
“Apart from the visit being historical, it is an indicator that the Sultanate of Oman has confidence in Kenya. We will capitalise on our cultural ties to woo more Oman tourists,” he said.
Additional reporting by Mathias Ringa
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