Timeframe: memories of the Dubai-Iraq ferry

Run by Naif Marine Services, the ferry between Port Rashid in Dubai and Umm Qasr was one of the few points of contact between sanctions-hit Iraq and the wider world and a lifeline for ordinary Iraqis

Passengers board a ferry service to Iraq that started Saturday Nov. 7, 1998, from Rashed port in Dubai, the first direct link between the Gulf and its sanctions-hit neighbour since the 1990 Gulf war. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
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November, 1998. Painful memories of the first Gulf War linger. But a bright spot emerges as the Jabal Ali 1 departs Dubai for Iraq. Run by Naif Marine Services, the passenger ferry between Port Rashid and Umm Qasr was the first between Iraq and the Gulf countries in eight years. Baghdad airport had been closed to international traffic since 1990, with travellers forced to take a route through Jordan. The direct ferry link then became a lifeline for ordinary Iraqis. A New York Times article from 2005 reports that a return journey cost Dh660 and carried as many as 5,000 passengers a week in peak holiday season. 

The service stopped for two months during the US bombing campaign in 2003. In 1998, the Port Rashid service ceased due to redevelopment at the Dubai port, and by 2010, services to Iraq had largely disappeared due to increasing air links.


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