That’s what most people know about him. But did you know he had a serious crush on Whitney Houston? Or that he used to ride around on horses, firing guns in the air and pretending he was a cowboy? The extensive efforts of U.S. intelligence officers and the work of brave journalists now help to provide insight into the life and habits of the man who became America’s number one enemy. The information paints a picture with some downright surreal qualities.
1. He Grew Marijuana
According to CNN’s Nic Robertson, bin Laden’s Abottabad compound included a series of gardens growing cabbages, potatoes, and interestingly: marijuana. The compound was home to an estimated one million dollars’ worth of the plants at the time of its discovery. Despite being located just miles from a Pakistani military base, the crop went unnoticed by officials.
It seems likely that the plants were intended for use by someone inside the compound. While Al Qaeda does profit from the Middle Eastern drug trade, opium poppies are the preferred crop. Not to mention, sharing space with an active drug trafficking compound wouldn’t exactly be a prudent move for a man being hunted by half the Western world.
2. He Loved Whitney Houston
Bin Laden hated music. In his younger years, he would occasionally visit the race track in Khartoum, home to wild crowds who would sing and dance between races. On days where bands were hired to perform, it all became too much for bin Laden to handle. An acquaintance of his, Issam Turabi, recalls him complaining: “Music is the flute of the devil.” That makes his love of singer/songwriter Whitney Houston all the more weird.
A book by Kola Boof, who was held against her will as bin Laden’s sex slave, describes his love for the African-American pop star, going so far as to state he was willing to “break his color rule and make her one of his wives.” Boof claims bin Laden “had a paramount desire for Whitney Houston and although he claimed music was evil, he spoke of someday spending vast amounts of money to go to America and try to arrange a meeting with the superstar.“
He was less enthusiastic about her husband, Bobby Brown. Boof says he fantasized about killing him “as if it were normal to have women’s husbands killed.” She adds: “In his briefcase, I would come across photographs of the star, as well as copies of Playboy […] It would soon come to the point where I was sick of hearing Whitney Houston’s name.“
3. He Was A Huge Sports Fan
4. He Took The Pepsi Challenge
Despite projecting the image of a humble cave-dweller to the media, bin Laden apparently enjoyed access to “all the best brands” while residing in his Abbottabad compound. This included Pepsi and Coca-Cola brand sodas, as well as products like Vaseline and Nestle milk.
“They [bin Laden’s people] always paid cash, never asked for credit.” Said Anjum Qaisar, the grocer at the shop where bin Laden’s men would buy food and supplies. He continued: “[They] never came by foot, they always drove a Pajero or a little Suzuki van, and they bought enough food for ten people.” The clerk recalls being curious as to why the men would purchase so much food, but didn’t want to be impolite.
5. He Loved the BBC
6. He Downloaded A Lot Of Porn
7. Kids Conned His Guards
8. He Studied Economics
Even after becoming involved with terrorism, bin Laden maintained his status as a business professional, overseeing billion-dollar construction projects in countries where terrorist cells were operating.
9. He Wanted To Be A Cowboy
From an early age, bin Laden had a great interest in horses, keeping a stable of up to twenty on his family ranch in Jeddah. He used to shoot guns while he rode, emulating the cowboys from his favorite television programs.
10. He Had Phone Numbers And Cash Sewn Into His Robes
U.S. authorities discovered 500 Euros and two telephone numbers sewn into the pockets of bin Laden’s robes. This would allow him to abandon his Abottabad hideout and disappear into the Pakistani countryside at a moment’s notice. By constantly being prepared to flee, bin Laden had successfully evaded capture by U.S. forces for ten years. Luckily, Al Qaeda’s intelligence failed to foresee the oncoming operation that claimed his life.