Gaddafi’s Favorite Women, from Condoleezza Rice to Safia Farkash

The Condi Rice photo album, the virgin bodyguards, the voluptuous nurses—the dictator loved the ladies.

Christophe Simon / AFP-Getty Images

Condoleezza Rice has by any account had an impressive career—as one of America’s leading Sovietologists, provost of Stanford University, accompanist to Aretha Franklin, and of course as secretary of State. But now she can add another notch to her belt: heartthrob.

It seems that Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi was hot for Condi. Rebels ransacking his Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli discovered an odd photo album consisting of “page after page” of snapshots of Rice. And he’s demonstrated his affinity before: in a 2007 Al Jazeera interview, he referred to her as “my darling,” saying, “I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders,” he said, adding, “Leezza, Leezza, Leezza...I love her very much.”

The State Department rightly called it “deeply bizarre and deeply creepy.” But odd and unsettling relations with women are old hat for the deposed dictator, who’s now on the run from rebels who overthrew his regime. His first marriage, to Fatiha al-Nuri in 1968, lasted just six months; he met his current wife, the former Safia Farkash, when she nursed him during a bout of appendicitis, and they married in 1970 or 1971.

Until recently, he also got feminine attention from a string of Ukrainian nurses, U.S. cables released by WikiLeaks said. “Gaddafi relies heavily on his long-time Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, who has been described as a ‘voluptuous blonde’… Libyan protocol staff emphasised to multiple Emboffs [embassy officials] that Gaddafi cannot travel without Kolotnytska, as she alone ‘knows his routine,’” a diplomat wrote. But the last nurse returned home in March, fearing violence. Another, Oksana Balinskaya, told Newsweek in April that Gaddafi’s relations with his nurses were purely professional and never sexual or romantic.

Presumably, the same held for his cadre of all-female bodyguards, a fierce group and object of widespread fascination who served as his personal protection and who were required to be virgins. Nonetheless, foreign women—like the nurses—appear to have been something of an obsession. In 2007 and 2009, he met with hundreds of French and Italian women, respectively, while on official visits to the two countries. He used the meetings as occasions to bemoan the treatment of women in the West. In November 2010, he staged airlifts of Italian women to Libya, intending to pair them off with eligible Libyan bachelors. “The leader wants young people from other countries to visit Libyan hospitals and universities as well as understand its history,” the head of an Italian hostess agency facilitating the visits said, adding, “But he is also interested in romances developing between youths from Libya and Italy.”