Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was not only preoccupied with tightening his grip on power, holding as many titles as possible, and wearing the most peculiar type of clothes, but he was also conscious to keep his looks ‘youthful’.
When Gaddafi was 53 in 1994, he looked almost a decade older with his face full of wrinkles, folds, and creases and his hair started to thin even more. During preparations to celebrate the silver jubilee of the First of September Revolution that brought him to power, Gaddafi then decided to undergo a makeover.
“I do not want to look like an old man in front of Libyans,” he told Fabio Nakkash, a Brazilian doctor of Syrian origins.
Nakkash, who was born in Aleppo and is currently one of the most famous plastic surgeons in Brazil, travelled to Libya in mid-1994 upon the request of another plastic surgeon from Rio de Janeiro called Eliasir Ribeiro.
“Ribeiro told me that the Libyan health minister contacted him and told him that Gaddafi wants to be young again,” Nakkash told AlAraiya.net in a phone interview from São Paulo, where he works in the Syrian-Lebanese hospital.
Facelift and hair implant
The plastic surgeons headed to Bab al-Azizia where Gaddafi’s military barracks are located in the southern suburbs of the capital Tripoli, and told him that he needed a facelift and hair implants but without general anesthesia.
“Make me look as young as a 28-year-old man," he told us. He wanted to start at midnight, but we said we preferred to start at 8:00 pm. He agreed, but was five hours late so we finished at 5:00 am.”
After Ribeiro was done with the facelift, Nakkash worked on the hair implant by taking vesicles from the nape of his neck and implanting them one by one in the front scalp and on the sides.
“I didn’t feel that the Libyan leader was annoyed at the fact that he placed his head and neck in my hands.”
Nakkash, 55, declined to mention the cost of the operation, yet admitted that this same procedure would cost 5,000 U.S. dollars if done in his São Paulo clinic.
Nakkash described his trip and the place in which he and his colleague performed the operation as “unusual”.
“We flew to Rome first then to the island of Djerba in Tunisia and from there a car took us to Tripoli because at the time a no-fly zone was imposed on Libya.”
Nakkash added that they did the surgery in an underground floor in the compound of Bab al-Azizia.
“It was a place that had several corridors and cellars.”
A year later, the two doctors visited Gaddafi once more to make sure that the results of the operation were as desired by the Libyan leader.
“We ensured that his skin was tight and his hair is no longer falling. We never saw him again and I forgot about him until he reappeared in the current events.”
Although Gaddafi looks old again and his wrinkles returned, Nakkash expressed his relief that his hair is still not falling.
“His hair is the most important thing for me and as far as I can see, it has been thick and good since the time of the operation,” he concluded jokingly.
(Translated from the Arabic by Sonia Farid)