The colonel and friends

Nothing says "loser" like going to a fancy international conference and discovering you can’t score a place to sleep. That’s what happened to Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi when he tried to pitch his signature mobile headquarters, a Bedouin tent, somewhere in New York for a 2009 U.N. visit. Rejected from Central Park; rejected in ...

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images

Nothing says "loser" like going to a fancy international conference and discovering you can't score a place to sleep. That's what happened to Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi when he tried to pitch his signature mobile headquarters, a Bedouin tent, somewhere in New York for a 2009 U.N. visit. Rejected from Central Park; rejected in Englewood, New Jersey; rejected in Westchester. After Qaddafi ended up a refugee at his own diplomatic mission in Manhattan, one British tabloid concluded his only competition for head-of-state isolation must be Kim Jong-il.

The New York press had a field day with the wandering colonel and his team of butch female bodyguards. But perhaps Qaddafi's entourage had just been spoiled by warmer welcomes elsewhere. When he arrived in Durban, South Africa, for the African Union launch in 2002, Qaddafi was able to erect his tent on the vast estate of one of South Africa's wealthiest sugarcane farmers, his digs coordinated by a South African government minister. "At first he was, I don't want to say weird, but he was talking very loud and not looking me in the eye," the farmer told me over the phone. After the intense first moments were over, though, he found himself impressed. "He said he wants to be the golden leader of Africa. He wants to unite Africa," he said. "I have very pleasant memories of Colonel Qaddafi. I would like to sit with him again around a campfire."

Read more.

Nothing says "loser" like going to a fancy international conference and discovering you can’t score a place to sleep. That’s what happened to Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi when he tried to pitch his signature mobile headquarters, a Bedouin tent, somewhere in New York for a 2009 U.N. visit. Rejected from Central Park; rejected in Englewood, New Jersey; rejected in Westchester. After Qaddafi ended up a refugee at his own diplomatic mission in Manhattan, one British tabloid concluded his only competition for head-of-state isolation must be Kim Jong-il.

The New York press had a field day with the wandering colonel and his team of butch female bodyguards. But perhaps Qaddafi’s entourage had just been spoiled by warmer welcomes elsewhere. When he arrived in Durban, South Africa, for the African Union launch in 2002, Qaddafi was able to erect his tent on the vast estate of one of South Africa’s wealthiest sugarcane farmers, his digs coordinated by a South African government minister. "At first he was, I don’t want to say weird, but he was talking very loud and not looking me in the eye," the farmer told me over the phone. After the intense first moments were over, though, he found himself impressed. "He said he wants to be the golden leader of Africa. He wants to unite Africa," he said. "I have very pleasant memories of Colonel Qaddafi. I would like to sit with him again around a campfire."

Read more.

Eve Fairbanks, a writer living in Johannesburg, is at work on a book about South Africa.

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