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Marian Aguiar

Muammar al-Qaddafi (also spelled Moammar Gadhafi, or Mu’ammar al-Qadhdafi) was born to a Bedouin family near the town of Surt in Libya. The strict Islamic Bedouin way of life profoundly influenced Qaddafi’s later asceticism, as well as his political philosophy. As he once noted in an interview, growing up Bedouin helped him discover “the natural laws, natural relationships, life in its true nature, before life knew oppression, coercion and exploitation.”

When Qaddafi was a young man, both Gamal Abdel Nasser’s nationalist struggle in neighboring Egypt and the Arab struggle for Palestine drew him to Arab populist politics. In 1961 he entered the Libyan military academy in Benghazi, where he helped found a student military group called the Free Officers Movement and met the men who would eventually plot to overthrow the Libyan monarchy.

In September 1969 at a time when anti Western Arab nationalist sentiments were running ...


Diana Murtaugh Coleman

Libyan leader and Arab statesman, was born into a Bedouin family in the Sirtic Desert in 1942. An alternative form of his surname is al-Gaddafi. His parents, Abu Minyar and ʿAʾisha Qaddafi, were nomadic herders of Berber origin, and Muʿammar was their youngest child and only son.

Qaddafi spent his early years in the desert with his parents and three older sisters, tending to the goats and sheep the family kept, and living a traditional Bedouin lifestyle. His first instruction was from a local religious teacher, but at age ten he was sent to an Islamic day school in the coastal town of Sirte, about 20 miles from where he was born. He slept in a local mosque at night and journeyed home each Thursday to be with the family for the traditional Islamic weekend. From 1956 to 1961 Qaddafi attended the Sebha Preparatory Academy in the Fezzan ...