"For decades, Libyans could only imagine what it was like behind the heavily fortified walls and green gate of Bab al-Aziziya" (Splendid Gate), Moammar Gadhafi's sprawling central compound in Tripoli, says Borzou Daragahi in the Los Angeles Times. This week, after anti-Gadhafi rebels seized the complex from loyalists, Libyans finally got to scrutinize Gadhafi's "Michael Jackson–style Neverland park," with its palaces, bunkers, zoo, and carnival rides. "Then they decided to take a lot of it home," says Daragahi. Here's a catalog of some of the garish, bizarre, and disturbing discoveries:
1. Condi fan book
Perhaps the most unsettling item found in Gadhafi's residence is a thick album filled with glossy photos of former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. How "deeply bizarre and deeply creepy," says State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Gadhafi's "apparent fixation" with Rice, whom he met in 2008, is weird, but hardly news, says Jay Bookman in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In 2007, he called her "my darling black African woman," adding "Leezza, Leezza, Leezza.... I love her very much." I guess "even brutal dictators have schoolboy crushes," says Adrian Chen at Gawker.
2. Assorted "bling"
Gadhafi's Condi photos are perplexing, but looters also had their pick of countless "blingy" artifacts, "liberating" a gold-plated gun, jewelry, and giant chandeliers. "The defining image of the Colonel's ongoing defenestration" is a British TV reporter's interview with "al-Windy," a rebel who'd just "swiped Gadhafi's famous peaked military hat, a big gold chain, and a bizarre scepter" from the despot's bedroom, says Will Dean in The Independent. "Dressed like Flavor Flav at the Oscars, the mighty al-Windy breathlessly thanked the countries that helped Libya."
3. Narcissistically customized mermaid couch
The vast compound encompassed several of Gadhafi's own palaces as well as mansions for his children. Daughter Aisha, 35, had a giant indoor swimming pool, rooms stuffed with toys and children's books, and most "stunning" of all, a large "golden mermaid couch [emblazoned] with the face of Aisha herself," says The Independent's Dean. That's a "gesture of narcissism so hefty that it outweighed the seat itself."
4. Custom-made $130,000 electric Fiat 500
When you think of luxury cars, the compact Fiat 500 may not be the first to pop into your head. But the "cost-is-no-object" customized 500 Gadhafi left behind at his compound is special, says Justin Hyde at Jalopnik. Doorless, with custom insignia, the $130,000 electric car is packed with enough lithium-ion batteries to drive 160 miles, and special charges can juice the car back up in 10 minutes. Everything in the 500 was converted to run on electricity, "except for the air conditioner, which Gadhafi needed to be gas-powered, since he was driving an open-air car in the desert."
5. Gay pornography
According to the AP, "a DVD with gay porn entitled 'Boyz Tracks' slipped out" of a stack of papers as reporters toured an office in the villa of Gadhafi's fast-living 38-year-old son, al-Saadi. (The office was filled with catalogs for yachts, cars, and other luxury vehicles, of which al-Saadi owned several.) "Goodness gracious!" says Andrew Belonsky at Death + Taxes. Whether the gay porn is Gadhafi's, his son's, "or simply a guard's," the "compound is yielding some amazing jewels."
6. Elaborate escape tunnels
Underneath Bab al-Aziziya, the rebels discovered Gadhafi's presumed escape route: A secret network of tunnels. Spacious enough to let two tall men walk side-by-side, the tunnels connect underground bunkers, control rooms with rows of identical red telephones, and the family's houses. It's speculated that the tunnels run at least 200 miles underground to Sirte, Gadhafi's ancestral home town.