15 OCTOBER 2011


When Kofi Annan sought to visit Libya, Qaddafi decided to receive him in his hometown of Sirte. Upon understanding that the U.N. Secretary General intended to request a handover of Pan Am explosion suspect Megrahi, the "inspired leader" arranged for his visitor's convoy to drive in circles through nearby locations for hours, then invited him to stay the night in a tent. A camel placed behind it was repeatedly provoked to scream very loudly. First they told him it was a roaring lion, then explained it was an angry camel.

In another incident, visiting French President Jacques Chirac was in the middle of an elaborate presentation -- again in a tent -- when the Libyan leader abruptly instructed his Chief of Protocol, Nuri Mesmari, to clean the dust. Dutifully, the man started moving around, cleaner in hand, shuffling earth all over the place as a blowing wind drowned an almost choked voice of the distinguished guest. The Prime Minister at the time, Shukri Ghanem (who later took charge of the oil ministry before leaving the country at the beginning of the revolution) kept asking the Protocol Chief to stop dusting to no avail; only an order from the omnipotent leader would do.

Although it transpired from material discovered at Al-Azizia compound that Qaddafi was almost obsessed with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a former senior official recounted that after she had firmly asserted herself, he refused to shake hands with her after making her wait six hours.

Most visitors were placed in varied tents and must have wondered what to do with one apple that was placed in a large dish with no knife, fork, or napkin.

Residents of Libya's capital, Tripoli, were never fond of Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar Al-Qaddafi. Neither as Colonel, nor as King of African Kings, nor as author of the Green Book. They had to tolerate him and his bizarre behavior; or else. Now that he's gone, though still in his native hometown elsewhere, Tripolitans are exchanging stories displaying his weird behaviour.

With regional sensitivities between Tripoli, which Qaddafi ruled by security forces, and his hometown of Sirte, which he pampered, talk is now open about the way he humiliated city officials. When told that a central garden was in need of watering, he called in its mayor, Izziddin El-Hanshiri, opened a water pipe in his face while yelling: "Now you see, there is water!"

When residents of the capital complained about widespread garbage, Qaddafi brought along town official Beshir Hamideh on a windy rainy day and forced him to collect the flying debris personally.

As to control of Television -- only official channels allowed -- people would know whether their leader was unhappy when a cartoon of a large shoe appeared in the background; it was only removed when his mood permitted, and re-appeared when required.

Although he enjoyed chants about his long life by supporters, "El-Colonel" who fancied himself an author, philosopher, and poet, was always keen in getting people to listen. In one incident, he allowed cheerleaders a few minutes, then started to speak. When they misunderstood him and thought he needed further cheering, he got very upset. He grabbed a jug of water and threw it at them. After shocked silence by his audience, he continued with a friendly smile.