It is an unlikely setting for romance. And when Sheikh Sayyid bin Maktoum al-Maktoum arrived in Belarus last month for a clay pigeon shooting competition, his only thought was how to win a medal.
But soon after checking into the presidential suite of the Hotel Minsk the Sheikh's gaze fell on an attractive 19-year-old waitress. Her name was Natasha. The prince liked what he saw.
So much so that instead of leaving for a tournament in Russia the sheikh prolonged his stay in Minsk, wooing Natasha and, last week, marrying her.
On Monday hotel staff confirmed the prince -- a member of Dubai's ruling royal family -- had taken Natasha Muslimorova to be his wife. She only began work in the hotel's restaurant two months ago, they said. They also expressed bafflement over the courtship, pointing out it would have been hard for the sheikh to meet Natasha since he ate in his room.
"The story is true," Pavel Novakovsky, the hotel's marketing manager said. "The Sheikh was initially booked in for one week. He arrived from Italy by car. He's been staying in the presidential suite.
"I'm still not sure how the sheikh and Natasha managed to meet," he said. "The sheikh spends most of the time in his room. He prays five times a day. He has four cooks who prepare his food. They make it in the restaurant but then bring it upstairs. The only person who would normally enter his room is the maid."
The story has captivated Belarus's tabloids. Natasha is from Azerbaijan and a Muslim. She told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that she had married her new husband for love.
The sheikh, 30, already has a wife and five children, the paper reported. "I can't say anything without my husband's permission... But for me life has become a fairytale," Natasha told the tabloid: "I really love this man."
The sheikh arrived in Minsk on August 7, twice extending his stay, and is scheduled to leave the city with his new wife on Wednesday, Interfax reported. The sheikh did not wish to comment, the hotel said, adding that the happy couple were now flying off to a shooting competition in Cyprus.
The al-Maktoum dynasty has ruled Dubai since 1833. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai's ruler and prime minister, is a major figure in the world of thoroughbred racing, and was last year linked to an unsuccessful ?479-million bid to buy Liverpool FC.
His family is known for its sporting prowess. As well as a bride, meanwhile, Sheikh Sayyid leaves Belarus with something else: a silver in the trap shooting. - Guardian Unlimited c Guardian Newspapers Limited 2007