Considering it is hot and sunny almost every day in Dubai, it’s a wonder there aren’t yachting traffic jams on the sparkling waters around the United Arab Emirates. After all, what better way to cool off than to speed away from the city in a yacht and take a refreshing plunge in the Arabian Sea? Happily, for Mr Fahad AlRafi, there are no such traffic jams and, although the yachting scene is very much on the rise in the region, it is still remarkably quick and easy to get away from it all by boat. For Mr AlRafi, born and bred in Dubai, owning a yacht has always held some appeal.
“I was always looking to buy a boat to use with friends and family but it was never the right time,” he says, from his office at SRG Holding, the booming family property business he helps to run. At 34, he decided that “as it was never going to be the right time, I would go ahead and buy my first yacht.” This was no flippant purchase, however, and he dedicated around five months to researching his options on the market. “Because my job involves layouts and construction, I was keen to get the best out of a yacht,” he says. One of his top priorities was usability. “I wanted something that could go in and out of the marina very easily, so I was looking at yachts between 50 and 60 feet, not much more,” he explains. “I didn’t want to go for a big yacht that I wouldn’t be able to use very often.”
Initially, he checked local manufacturers but, unsatisfied with their quality, decided to look at competitors in Europe and the US. The Sunseeker Manhattan 52 quickly caught his eye. “I love the layout and the open kitchen,” explains Mr AlRafi. “It feels more like a 65-foot plus boat because of the smart use of space.” Coupled with on-the-ground maintenance and sales representatives on home turf, he was convinced. He took delivery of his new boat in January of this year. “I think Sunseeker is a great choice for first-time yacht owners,” says Mr AlRafi. “As far as getting the right layout and the right mix of quality and size, I would highly recommend the Manhattan range. There is no cutting of corners in terms of quality or materials.” So will Mr AlRafi be hanging on to his for years to come? “This size of yacht is perfect for me right now,” he says, “but perhaps in future I’d consider something bigger. But I’d always choose a motor yacht over a sailing yacht.”
Mr AlRafi keeps his boat in DIMC (Dubai International Marine Club), one of the UAE’s most established marinas, conveniently located next to Palm Jumeirah. “It’s a good marina, they have spectacular service and they are very experienced,” explains Mr AlRafi. “For us, it’s also close to home, so even if we have a tight schedule of only a couple of hours, we can easily have a lot of fun.” Mr AlRafi, along with his friends and family, tend to spend a couple of days on board every week. “We’ll often take it around the coast of Jumeirah,” he says. “Having a yacht means accessing a different world – they might be places you always see from the shoreline but once you are there in the water, it’s a different feeling.”
When there is more time to spare, Mr AlRafi will take the boat to Moon Island, about 50 minutes away. Lying 70kms off the Dubai shoreline, the uninhabited island is a popular destination for local yacht owners. It enjoys some of the region’s best snorkelling and diving and – given its remote location in the Arabian Gulf – remains blissfully quiet. “Moon Island has been my best trip yet,” agrees Mr AlRafi. “It’s far away enough from the city, which gets very busy, and it feels more exclusive around that area. It has lovely beaches too. My son even spotted a dolphin there, but I haven’t yet.”
Mr AlRafi sees a bright future for yachting in the region. “Boating has already become more popular in Dubai and with the opening of the Dubai Canal I think it will grow even more,” he says, referencing the Creek extension, a multi-million dollar project which aims to improve the yachting experience in the UAE. Next on his list is a trip around the Jumeirah Coast to the Four Seasons, and beyond that, he has plans to travel further afield. “I’d like to go to some of the islands in Abu Dhabi or Oman at some point,” he says. For now though, Dubai will do very nicely.