Back in 2002 it was hard to miss Hussein Bisad’s story, as he made headlines around the world.
In fact it was hard to miss Hussein himself – as he was claiming to be the world’s tallest man.
Aptly it turned out to be a tall story, as sadly for Hussein he didn’t turn out to be quite as tall as he thought.
He claimed to be 7ft 9ins tall – and still growing – taller than Tunisian giant Radhouane Charbib, who at 7ft 8.9ins was recognised at the time as the world’s tallest human.
But when he came to be measured by Guinness World Records his official height came just short of the mark, at 7ft 7.5ins.
Nonetheless the story of an ordinary guy from Neasden who claimed to be the world’s tallest man captured the public’s imagination.
His 15 minutes of fame came and went, and in the 19 years that have followed he’s disappeared from the public eye – which is pretty hard to do when you are this tall.
Was he still living in London? What’s he been up to? And has he grown any taller?
Now 46, he got married in Somalia – where he was born – in 2015 and has been battling serious illness.
Chatting to us in the garden of the care home, Hussein explained how, growing up in Somalia, he was a “normal” height until Year 2 at school.
At this point his body went through a growth spurt so severe his headteacher wouldn’t believe he was the same child.
“When I was in school in Year 1, I was normal. I was the same height as everyone my age but in Year 2 I started growing,” Hussein said.
“My headteacher said ‘Are you sure you’re Hussein?’ He said ‘go home and bring your father’, I went back home and my dad took me back to the school.
“When I was in Year Two I was the same height as the teacher and he also said ‘Are you Hussein?’
“I was around six to seven years old.I had a bigger chair, bigger desk, everything changed.”
Hussein was only 13 when he outgrew his mum and dad. And his siblings, including his 5ft 5ins twin sister, are all normal height.
Living in the north of Somalia, Hussein was “just as famous there” as he would become when his story made headlines in the UK.
“People always stopped me in the street in Somalia,” he said.
Hussein claims his current height is 7ft 9 inches, whilst the Guinness world record is not held by Sultan Kösen a 38-year-old farmer from Turkey, who is an extraordinary 8ft 2.8 inches tall.
While Hussein couldn’t ever officially claim to be the world’s tallest man, he did, however, hold the world record for the largest hands before again being beaten by Sultan who has held the record since 2011.
Hussein is still one of the tallest people in the world, and the tallest known person in the UK, but the fame and attention that comes with being so tall isn’t all fun and games.
Hussein has size 22 feet which means his shoes have to be specially exported.
He has to get some of his clothing custom made, and that’s pricey, costing him around £700 for a suit, for instance.
And he can’t buy a standard-sized bed either. His is nine foot long.
Hussein has also had to put his life on pause for the last five years as he’s faced life-threatening health issues which leave him needing dialysis three times a day. He’s moved into the care home in Brent as a result.
After finally receiving a kidney transplant in February 2020, he has since begun to walk again, although he needs crutches and gets tired very easily.
MyLondon’s brilliant new newsletter The 12 is packed with news, views, features and opinion from across the city.
Every day we’ll send you a free email at around 12pm with 12 stories to keep you entertained, informed and uplifted. It’s the perfect lunchtime read.
The MyLondon team tells London stories for Londoners. Our 45 journalists cover all the news you need – from City Hall to your local streets.
Never miss a moment by signing up to The 12 newsletter here.
Doctors believe that Hussein has a condition called pituitary giantism leading to a person producing more growth hormones than usual.
Hussein said: “I don’t like being this tall. It’s too many problems, you’re a different person.
“Everyone else is normal and I’m different. Everyone can see me, people ask me sometimes why I’m so tall, I ask why I’m so tall. I know it’s Allah.
“My friends would say Hussein is a giant and make jokes about my height.”
Hussein, who doesn’t yet have any children, does have some big dreams for the future.
First on the list is to fully recover and then he wants to go back to Somalia and bring his wife, Yasmin, back to London to live with him in Neasden. She, in case you are wondering, is a relatively short 6ft tall.