From lavishly decorated rooms to a stuffed jaguar and table football, the private life of a dictator has been laid bare by this extraordinary series of pictures.
Taken from inside the former presidential palace of deposed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the photographs show some of the former dictator’s everyday enjoyments, as well as some of this more extravagent expenditures.
The palace, in Sidi Dhrif, in a seafront suburb of capital city Tunis, has been left virtually untouched since Ben Ali and his family fled in January 2011 in the face of the first of the Arab Spring uprisings.
The luxurious interior of the former presidential palace of depiosed Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali
A stuffed jaguar stands as part of the decoration inside the palace in a seafront suburb of capital city, Tunis
A child’s play area in the palace, believed to have been used by the former president’s son and heir, Mohamed.
The pictures offer revealing insights into the life of Ben Ali, who now lives in exile in Saudi Arabia with his wife, and how he spent his time with his young family.
While among the items they left behind include family portraits, statues and expensive-looking marble carvings, there also rests children’s toys and DVDs of blockbuster films, untouched since the family fled. The former Tunisian presidency was toppled in the first of the Arab Springs after having been in power for 23 years.
The country then voted in its first election since the uprising in October 2011, which led to the appointment of the Ennahda Movement, a moderate Islamist party in Tunisia, which nominated Hamadi Jebali to be prime minister.
Mr Jebali today kicked off viewing for an auction of thousands of luxury items once owned by ousted dictator Ben Ali and his family.
Jebali inspected 40 luxury cars, thousands of clothing, jewellery items and art works on the eve of the public auction which is being held in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth in a bid to raise millions of euros for government coffers.
Highlight of the month-long sale is expected to be the cars, which include a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 460, a Bentley Continental sports car, an armoured Cadillac and a Maybach
About 42,000 items have been confiscated by the state from the palace, which was home to statues including the one pictured above left, in the living, room, while two degree certificates were left hanging in Ben Ali’s personal study
In front of a row of marble carvings stands this table football set, showing the sometimes bizarre clash of cultures
The palace itself towers over the sea on a Sidi Bou Said hill, and includes all the hallmarks of a luxurious lifestyle, including vaulted ceilings, a seaside helicopter landing pad, a grandiose pool, two antique cannons, and a chandelier in nearly every room.
Journalist Youssef Gaigi had never seen images of the palace before visiting it to report on the state auction of the former dictator’s confiscated belongings.
He told CNN: ‘It was full of extravagance and extreme luxury and bad taste.
‘All these signs of power… Nobody could afford to have such things in Tunisia, unless they were the president — and not just any president, but a dictator.’
The palace’s main bathroom, which remains as it was since the family abandoned the palace in the first of the Arab Springs in early 2001
A Porsche, Lamborghini and Jaguar sit in an army yard where other cars belonging to Ben Ali and his family are being held
But journalists who visited the palace were also taken by some of the more revealing everyday objects.
Tunisian journalist Youssef Gaigi told CNN: ‘It was very interesting because you enter into the private life of a president and discover a human side which we didn’t have access to.
‘We thought he was either superhuman or a tyrant.’
Jewellery items that once belonged to the family of the ousted Tunisian dictator on display at an auction in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth
Tunisian President Zine Ali Abidine Ben Ali and First Lady Leila, who fled the presidential palace early last year
One of the luxury cars which once belonged to Ben Ali which is on display at the auction
The cars are one of the highlights of the auction, which is to be held to raise millions of euros for the government
A Porche belonging to a daughter of Tunisia’s deposed ruler parked in the grounds of the National Guard barracks
Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali kicked off viewing today for the auction of thousands of luxury items once owned by the ousted dictator and his family.
Jebali inspected 40 luxury cars, thousands of clothing, jewellery items and art works on the eve of the public auction.
The month-long sale is being held in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth in a bid to raise millions of euros for government coffers.
Among the highlights of the sale is expected to be the cars, which include a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 460, a Bentley Continental sports car, an armoured Cadillac and a Maybach 62.
Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, centre, walks past luxury cars that once belonged to the ousted dictator
Shoes, handbags and accessories once worn by Leila Trabelsi, who was well-known for her expensive taste
Footwear belonging to the couple could bring between 100 and 300 euros, organisers believe
Suits belonging to the toppled despot are expected to go for 3,000 euros each, while coats belonging to his wife Leila Trabelsi, who was notorious for her expensive tastes, could fetch as much as 4,000 euros.
Her handbags are exepcted to go for 3,000 euros, while the couple’s footwear is expected to bring in between 100 and 300 euros.
Earlier this week acting finance minister Slim Besbes said items valued at less than 5,000 euros would be sold at fixed price, but anything priced above that would be put to auction.
The month-long sale is being held in the Tunis suburb of Gammarth and is expected to raise millions of euros altogether
Organisers show suits once owned by Ben Ali, some of which are expected to go for 3,000 euros each
While some of the dresses and coats of the former dictator’s wife could go for as much as 4,000 euros
The government hopes to raise at least 10 million euros from the sale.
Mr Besbes said the items belonged to Ben Ali and 114 of his relatives.
Ben Ali, who fled in the face of the first of last year’s Arab Spring uprisings, lives in exile in Saudi Arabia with his wife.
Commentators however say his overthrow has done little to address the economic grievances that fuelled the revolt, with protests against the new government multiplying in recent weeks.
Items valued at less than 5,000 euros are to be sold at a fixed price, but anything priced above would be put to auction
Tunisian Prime minister Hamadi Jebali, centre, listens to an organiser while looking at a display of jewellery and watches taken from the palace
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