QE2, the world’s most famous ocean liner, arrives in Dubai today, exactly forty years to the day from when she first went to sea on her preliminary sea trials on 26th November 1968.
QE2 will make her way along the Dubai coastline to Mina Rashid, where she will be moored before undergoing a transformation that will see her become a centre of culture and luxury on the eastern trunk side of Palm Jumeirah.
The arrival of QE2 has captured the hearts of individuals and organisations across Dubai who have, in the run up to today, been actively involved in ensuring she is given a welcome fit for a queen.
A flotilla of over 60 local yachts, boats and leisure-craft led by MY Dubai – the mega-yacht of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai - and Royal Navy Frigate, HMS Lancaster, captained by Commander Rory Bryan, will greet QE2 at The World at approximately 3pm this afternoon.
The welcoming flotilla, with the UAE Navy also taking a leading role, will then accompany QE2 through the Arabian Gulf to Mina Rashid. The Dubai Coastguard GRP Fourth Squadron will be coordinating all activity in the Arabian Gulf, led by Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Rashid Juma Al-Hameli.
As QE2 passes The World an Emirates A380 Airbus, piloted by Captain Abbas Shaban, will perform a fly-past in honour of her arrival. Joining the A380 Airbus in the skies will be a Royal Naval helicopter, piloted by Lieutenant Commander Mike Currie.
His Excellency Sultan Bin Ahmed Sulayem, Chairman of Dubai World, said: “Nakheel is proud to be the custodian of such an historic treasure. Dubai, with its wealth of maritime heritage, is providing the warmest of welcomes and a new homecoming for this icon of the seas.
“It is fitting that QE2 will arrive at Mina Rashid, a site that has been pivotal in the growth and development of the emirate and commemorates the memory of His Highness Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the father of modern-day Dubai. It is also apt that refurbishment work on QE2 will take place within the Dubai Dry Dock, which Her Highness Queen Elizabeth II, escorted by Sheikh Rashid, inaugurated 29 years ago during her first official visit to the UAE.”
On arrival at Mina Rashid, QE2 will be met by a royal party joined by the Dubai Police Band and traditional Arabic Ayallah performers who will entertain the crowds gathered at the port, as well as passengers on board the ship. A fireworks display set against the backdrop of QE2 will follow as dusk sets in.
Manfred Ursprunger, CEO of QE2 Enterprises, Nakheel Hotels said: “We are thrilled to be welcoming QE2 to Dubai today. This is one of the most anticipated events of the year and marks a new and exciting chapter in her life.
“For QE2, we believe that life really does begin at 40. Our plans include her transformation into an ultra-luxury floating hotel, synonymous with her rich heritage, where she’ll form the centrepiece of a luxurious residential, entertainment, marina, and hotel development off the trunk of Palm Jumeirah. A heritage museum displaying artifacts from QE2 and of local maritime history as well as a West-end style theatre capable of staging the very best, full-scale West End and Broadway productions will also feature in the precinct."
On Thursday 27 November at 3pm the official flag changing ceremony will take place onboard QE2 when Cunard will formally handover ownership to Nakheel. QE2 was purchased last year by Nakheel’s parent company, Dubai World, and Nakheel has already commenced construction on the luxury marina development on Palm Jumeirah. QE2 will form the pinnacle of a palatial pier that will stretch 300 metres out from the trunk into the waters of the Arabian Gulf.
Just under 30 years ago, in 1979, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth made her first official visit to the UAE to meet with His Highness Sheikh Rashid where she inaugurated the new Dubai Municipality building, adjacent to the Creek, Jebel Ali Port and Dubai Dry Dock.
Queen Elizabeth was also escorted around Port Rashid by Sheikh Rashid to see the work in progress on the second phase of development. Since that time QE2 has made many visits to Dubai and is no stranger to the Gulf waters.
QE2 left Southampton, UK on 11 November on her ultimate journey, a 16-night cruise via Lisbon, Rome and Alexandria to reach Dubai today. His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended the farewell at Southampton Port joined by hundreds of well wishers. Captain Ian McNaught, who has served on QE2 since 2002, is the Master of her ultimate voyage.
Over the forty years that QE2 has been in service she has undergone a great many refits and refurbishments. However there are still a few key areas within QE2 which remain as they were originally designed and which Nakheel will also ensure are preserved for posterity, these are The Queen’s Room, The Princess Grill, The Bridge, The Ward Room, The Captain’s Quarters, The Engine Control Room, The Welcome Rotunda and The Safety Control Room.
Nakheel and Cunard will be honouring the town of Southampton, home to QE2 for 39 years, by presenting QE2’s anchor as a gift to the people of the city.
Welcome Flotilla and Flypast
Joe Sita, CEO of Nakheel Hotels, said: “Nakheel Hotels has been preparing for this moment for some time - and today we proudly watch QE2 arrive into UAE waters and dock at Mina Rashid. We will now do all we can to protect and enhance the heritage of this iconic transatlantic liner as she joins the company of our other iconic international hotels such as Mandarin Oriental in NY, Fontainebleau in Miami, Atlantis Dubai and One & Only Los Cabos, Mexico.”
HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, Chairman and Chief Executive, Emirates Airline and Group, which is arranging an A380 flypast for QE2’s arrival said; "Emirates Airline is delighted to be a part of this auspicious occasion to welcome QE2 to her new home in Dubai. We are proud that our brand new A380 aircraft will provide a tribute to an icon of the seas from an icon of the air."
Royal Navy Frigate HMS Lancaster, currently on operations in the Gulf, welcomed the opportunity to pay her respects to the QE2 on her ultimate passage. As a mark of respect, Lancaster will be joining the ocean liner for the last few miles into Dubai in remembrance of the QE2’s contribution to national service in her transitional role as hospital ship and troop carrier during the 1982 Falklands campaign.
Commodore Tim Lowe RN, the UK Maritime Component Commander in the Gulf region said; "She is an honoured veteran of a hard fought battle and another shining example of the versatility of our maritime fleet. Her seafaring role is now complete while that of the Royal Navy continues, and I am delighted that one of our ships was able to take this impromptu opportunity to offer a final salute. I also find it particularly fitting that the duty of escorting the Queen’s namesake, fortuitously fell to HMS Lancaster given that the Queen herself is the proud holder of the title Duke of Lancaster."
QE2 is arguably one of the world’s most famous ships, and for 35 years was the flagship of the Cunard fleet. She was launched by The Queen at Clydebank, UK on 20 September 1967 and has since circumnavigated the world 25 times, crossed the Atlantic more than 800 times and carried more than 2.5 million passengers including kings and queens, prime ministers and presidents, astronauts and many international celebrities.
She survived a 95 ft wave during Hurricane Luis, carried 3000 troops to the Falklands War and rescued 500 passengers from a burning ship. She is a record breaker for both speed and endurance, has featured in countless films and television shows and draws crowds to every port she docks in.
Dubai’s Maritime Heritage and Mina Rashid
Dubai's strong maritime history began centuries ago when Arab mariners became the first to develop celestial navigation techniques; using the sun, moon and stars, mariners could approximate their position on a map. Many stars still bear Arabic names, such as Betelguise, Aldebaran, Rigel, Deneb and Vega.
Strategically located between Europe and Asia, Dubai has attracted seafarers and traders for centuries. The city emerged as a trading centre in 1833 when Sheikh Maktoum bin Buti established a trading port, known as Dubai Creek, along the banks of the natural water inlet that splits the city into Deira and Bur Dubai.
Dubai became an increasingly busy trading post for the entire Gulf region in the 1960s. The need for a commercial port was realised, and Port Rashid, named after Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, opened in 1972. The port’s location near to the city centre, its all-new infrastructure and Dubai’s thriving business community made it an instant success.
In 1978, the port was expanded to include 35 berths. In the early 1980s, Port Rashid was supplemented by Jebel Ali Port, which is further from the commercial centre of Dubai near the Abu Dhabi border.
Today, Port Rashid is being re-developed by Nakheel, Dubai's master-developer. The redevelopment of Port Rashid, to be named Mina Rashid (Mina means port in Arabic), will build on the culture and heritage of the original port and will be a tribute to the memory of Sheikh Rashid, the father of modern-day Dubai. It is set to become the central hub for all tourist vessels and cruise ships entering Dubai.