Tunis, Tunisia – Former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had a well-documented penchant for luxury.
When he fled the North African nation in January 2011, the deposed leader left behind a catalogue of luxury cars, boats, artwork, antiquities, and personal belongings that will now go on exhibition and auction in the coming weeks to generate funds for the country’s cash-strapped government, helping to reduce the budget deficit and fund development projects.
The items, except for the cars and boats, will go on display inside the palatial dwelling of Ben Ali’s water-front home in the wealthy Tunis suburb Sidi Bou Said.
The setting itself is an unnervingly luxurious home, reflecting 23 years of unchecked power and corruption that characterised the Ben Ali regime. Towering over the sea on a Sidi Bou Said hill, the house includes all the trappings of an exorbitant lifestyle: vaulted ceilings, a seaside helicopter landing pad, a grandiose pool, two antique cannons, and a chandelier in nearly every room.
In a ghostly time capsule, the opulent lifestyle of the Ben Ali family remains eerily accessible through their belongings. Family portraits, furniture, toys, artwork, movies, toothbrushes, and musical instruments remain nearly untouched inside the home.
Ben Ali’s fleet of cars and boats, although not for public display, will also go on auction. The family cars included dozens of luxury vehicles, ATVs, and an RV, and represent nearly every luxury brand, from Maybach to Rolls Royce. Some reports say that 234 luxury cars were seized from Ben Ali’s family and allies when he was swept from power.
Newly unveiled by the Islamist-led Tunisian government, Tunisia Live provides Al Jazeera an inside look at the gaudy possessions that captures the enormous disconnect between Ben Ali and the rest of the country during his years in power.