Inside the Strange World of Muammar Qaddafi

State Department documents reveal his love of Flamenco and a passion for micromanaging

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As the specter of civil war looms in Libya, every move by Col. Moammar Qaddafi is under increased scrutiny. Though he's long been known as a peculiar leader, the extent of his idiosyncrasies has only recently become public knowledge. Now, thanks to the leaked State Department documents released by WikiLeaks, a fuller portrait of the Libyan dictator is beginning to come out. Here's what news agencies are taking away from the files:

 Personal Quirks:

  • Qaddafi has a passion for Flamenco dancing and horse racing.
  • He's terrified of flying over water in airplanes, the upper floors of buildings and climbing more than 35 steps at time.
  • He fasts on Mondays and Thursdays
  • He's described as an "extremely vain" man who either received excessive Botox treatments or suffered a stroke. He was also rumored to have a botched hair implant procedure between 2008 and 2009.
  • He's a "hypochondriac" who demands that his doctor visits be videotaped so he can get second and third opinions from other doctors.
  • He travels everywhere with a posse of Ukrainian nurses, the senior member being a "voluptuous blonde" named Galyna.
  • The U.S. embassy in Tripoli said he "avoids making eye contact" is "notoriously mercurial" and often allows for "long, uncomfortable periods of silence." He's also a “self-styled intellectual and philosopher.”
  • He's a "voracious consumer of news" and thinks the Israel-Palestinian conflict can be resolved with the creation of a new state "Isratine." 
  • In terms of self-accolades, he has awarded himself the title "King of Culture"

His Grip on Power

  • Despite his idiosyncrasies, U.S. diplomats stressed that Qaddafi's "mastery of tactical maneuvering has kept him in power for nearly 40 years." To this day, he "remains intimately involved in the regime's most sensitive and critical portfolios." Qaddafi is indeed a micromanager, says a U.S. ambassador: he "is the architect of his own gilded cage and cannot yet relinquish day-to-day decisionmaking, even if he wants to." He examines every government contract above $200 million and personally scouts for officials to promote within the Libyan bureaucracy.

Lavish Expenditures

  • He spent $21.9 million on a water bottling plant and a hotel spa near l'Aquilla, the Italian town recently devastated by an earthquake.
  • His son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi paid Mariah Carey $1 million to sing four songs for a New Year's party in the Caribbean.
  • In 2008 his son Muatassim was given $1.2 billion for his own personal militia. The same son threw a different New Year's party with Beyonce and Usher.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.