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Our Weird Middle East: Grandmaster Gaddafi, Lion-fighting Egyptians, Iranian Space Missiles, and more!

Al Jazeera English this morning showed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi receiving a visit from International Chess Federation (FIDE) president Kirsan Ilyumzhinov. Since Ilyumzhinov is also president of the Russian autonomous region of Kalmykia, this was a historic meeting–two of history’s most bizarre heads of state in one room. Gaddafi’s oddities–his Amazonian bodyguards, his rambling speeches, his rumored dabblings in prostitution and drugs–are likely well-known to readers of this blog. Ilyumzhinov is quite possibly even stranger than Gaddafi. His most famous oddity is that he claims to have had extensive contacts with alien visitors from another planet. Among other unusual decisions: building an entire city in Kalmykia dedicated to chess and constructing a grandiose Roman Catholic cathedral to commemorate a papal visit. Considering Kalmykia is reported to have one Catholic resident, he will likely have plenty of seats to choose from! As president of FIDE, Ilyumzhinov has made a number of odd decisions, including an attempt to have the World Championship contested in Saddam Hussein-era Baghdad.

Gaddafi played a match with Ilyumzhinov, footage of which can be seen here:

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