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  • Climbing over a concrete barrier, we enter another world. Everywhere ahead of us is debris, mostly concrete, as well as bits and pieces of infrastructure like pipes, insulation and electric wires. Bags of trash are everywhere – some of it from the time of the revolution, the rest of it more recent. The place reeks of rotting fruit.

    I'd always known Muammar Gaddafi's compound was big, but now it suddenly felt immense, as if Central Park had been stripped of vegetation, air-dropped into Tripoli and filled with the detritus of war. Many buildings were half-demolished, the victim of NATO airstrikes. Others have been targeted more recently by Libyan militias in an attempt to reduce the entire compound to rubble.

    Wherever you walk, there are bits and pieces to remind you that this was a place where people lived and worked. Broken mirrors, shattered televisions, rusty tins of tuna, door knobs, bits of clothing. In one pile I see what looked like a prayer rug sticking out of a pile of concrete. It smells terrible, a melange of mold and urine. I dust it off and notice a familiar face staring back at me.

    "Is that who I think it is?"

    "Yes, that is Gaddafi," my friend says. "But as a younger man. And you get two Gaddafi for the price of one – he's on the other side of the rug, too."

    At first I can't believe that something like this could still be found in Gaddafi's old compound, as people had carted away pretty much anything that hadn't been bolted to the floor. Then again, this was a face they encountered dozens of times a day of the course of 42 years. An image of their former leader is the last thing a Libyan would want to take home – except perhaps as a door mat.

    I roll it up and put it in my backpack. Both will soon need to be washed. But that can wait.
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