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Babak Dehghanpisheh, thedailybeast.com / Aug 25, 2011 5:24 PM EDT.
Babak Dehghanpisheh visited a Gaddafi family home this morning and discovered a secret palace hidden behind an ordinary façade. Read about the garden labyrinth, 40-foot deep bunker, hot tub, waterfall, Playboy magazine collection, yachting brochures and an empty box of Coronas.
The neighbors always knew they would be surprised by what’s inside the house on Dhel, or shadow, street. But when they got the first glimpse of Muammar Gaddafi’s house in southeast Tripoli last Sunday, they were in complete shock. “It’s amazing. We didn’t believe [it],” says Hassan Salem, a 46-year-old engineer who lives in the neighborhood. “We thought we are in a dream.”
There have been many rumors about the Saharan madman’s palaces and underground bunkers over the years, testaments to a dictator’s ego and paranoia that in some cases seemed to outdo his peers, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Well, as it turns, the rumors are true. “There are a lot of hidden things inside,” says Bahauldin Babai, 28, a doctor who also lives in the neighborhood and now helps guard the house from looters. In order to prevent further damage and looting to the compound, rebel military leaders have sealed the doors. The only way in or out is with a ladder, which some neighbors are happy to supply.
The house was built by Gaddafi in the 80s and later given to his son Mutassim. It looks inconspicuous enough on the outside with an ordinary gate and dun-colored walls, which blend with the surrounding houses. On the other side of the gate, it’s a step through the looking glass: an inner ring of 30-foot high walls surround a huge, beautifully manicured garden with trimmed hedges, small ponds, and pink bougainvilleas. The earthy smell of fresh grass fills the air in late afternoon.