Gilded Traces of the Lives Qaddafis Led
By ANTHONY SHADID and KAREEM FAHIM
Now, as the former subjects of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi comb through his family’s estates, farms and seaside villas, the properties are revealing the details of lives lived far removed from the people, and ones filled with the signs of their peccadilloes and rivalries.
At one farm, horses wandered by marble statues of lions, tigers and bears, and on a sun-baked day, reindeer grazed by the deck of an empty pool. At the home of one son, Saadi, there were signs of a life mundane in its seeming frustration. A man who drifted through stints as an athlete, soldier and
Given Colonel Qaddafi’s noted flamboyance, the residences of the House of Qaddafi were not quite as grand as people might have supposed.
They lacked the faux grandeur of Saddam Hussein’s marbled palaces. There are no columns that bear the colonel’s initials, or fists cast to resemble his hands or river-fed moats with voracious carp.
“For somebody who’s very rich, he was very cheap,” Fuad Gritli said as he drove through a sprawling parcel near the airport known as the Farm, where Colonel Qaddafi lived.
There was also a sense of something incomplete. Even as people pulled back the cloak on the Qaddafis’ lives, the colonel and his children remained at large.
In the sanctum of the Farm, there are rolling, irrigated fields. Camels wandered unattended. Still standing was a tent where Colonel Qaddafi met foreign dignitaries, its canvas decorated with pictures of camels and palm trees. NATO bombers seemed to have no idea where he was; their hunt destroyed an unfinished Moroccan-style house, other tents built with more expensive canvas and a knot of bunker-style concrete buildings for official use.
As Mr. Gritli and a friend drove along roads that seemed to lead nowhere, they shook their heads. Rebels rolled through a compound still not secure. So did looters.
“We weren’t allowed to get anywhere near, not even the gate,” Mr. Gritli said of the years before the revolt that shattered the colonel’s hold on power.
“Qaddafi was not living like a rich man, I admit that,” said Malik el-Bakouri, a 27-year-old doctor from
Colonel Qaddafi’s sons’ behavior would have made reality show producers proud —
The villas of some of the sons on a sand bluff overlooking the
“We’ve got to take this over!” said Bahaeddin Zintani, a 23-year-old fighter who took turns with his brother lying in bed and posing for pictures before a home gym fitted with a mirror. “This is the first time I’ve even seen anything like this.”
On a black granite bar, there were cases for Johnnie Walker Blue Label and Dom Pérignon Rose, all empty. The patio opened to a spectacular view of turquoise waters.
“All I can ask is why?” said Mr. Zintani’s older brother, Serajeddin, carting an Israeli-made rifle. “Why can’t we live like this, the good life? Every day you walk out and see the sea.”
Muatassim, another of Colonel Qaddafi’s sons and the country’s national security adviser, surrounded himself with more luxury. He regularly arrived in a convoy of cars to a farmhouse in the Ain Zara neighborhood of
On Saturday, fighters from Misurata toured the house, stunned. “It’s like some Aladdin castle,” one said. “He doesn’t care about the Libyan people. Just living in heaven.”
Another fighter walked out with a book of stamps depicting the Brother Leader.
In a diplomatic cable from 2009 released by WikiLeaks, Muatassim was described as “ambitious and competitive,” and as being groomed as another potential successor. “Considered little more than a playboy two year ago, Muatassim has surprised many observers by the seriousness with which he has taken his new responsibilities as the national security adviser,” wrote Gene A. Cretz, who was then the
In the charred remains of his house, limes littered the floors of a barroom. A painting of samurai doing battle was the only one not ripped from its frame. Chinese lanterns hung on long deck by a massive pool, with a gazebo in the middle. Mohamed al-Hutmani, who lived nearby, walked around the grounds, through the lemon trees and olive groves that covered several acres.
“We were not allowed to stop our cars on the street,” Mr. Hutmani said. “It was impossible to think that I would enter this place.”
Rebel guards closed the former home of Colonel Qaddafi’s daughter Aisha because too many Libyans were wandering through, having their pictures taken and looking for souvenirs.
Through his long reign, Colonel Qaddafi posed as an ever-struggling revolutionary, his ideas encapsulated in the Green Book. (In one memorable passage, he defended freedom of expression, even if a person chooses “to express his or her insanity.”) But the avowed simplicity never matched his lifestyle, prone as he was to epaulets, billowing robes and shirts emblazoned with green maps of
At his former residence in Bab al-Aziziya, his leadership’s fortresslike preserve in the heart of
Graffiti on a wall nearby taunted the Brother Leader, now nicknamed for another distinguishing trait: unmanageable grooming. “Where’s the guy with the crazy hair?” it said.
David D. Kirkpatrick contributed reporting.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs