Luke Harding in Moscow
It is, perhaps, an unlikely setting for romance. When Sheikh Sayyid bin Maktoum al-Maktoum arrived in Belarus last month for a clay pigeon shooting competition, his only thoughts were of 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. He liked what he saw.
So much so that instead of leaving for his next tournament in Russia the sheikh prolonged his stay in Minsk, wooing Natasha and, last week, marrying her in a low-key Muslim ceremony.
Yesterday, hotel staff confirmed that the sheikh, a prince of Dubai's ruling royal family, had taken Natasha Muslimorova as his wife. She had only begun work in the hotel's restaurant two months ago, they said.
They expressed bafflement over the courtship, pointing out that it would have been difficult for the sheikh to have met Natasha since he ate all his meals in his room.
"The story is true," Pavel Novakovsky, the hotel's marketing manager, told the Guardian. "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. 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 the sensation-starved tabloids of Belarus. Natasha is a Muslim from Azerbaijan. She told the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that she had married her new husband for love.
The sheikh, 30, already has one wife and five children, the paper reported. Natasha is his second. "I can't say anything without my husband's permission. Sayyid doesn't want publicity. But for me life has become a fairytale," Natasha told the tabloid, adding: "I really love this man."
The sheikh arrived in Minsk on August 7, twice extending his stay in the capital, and is due to leave tomorrow, Interfax has reported. He was in training and did not wish to comment, said a hotel spokesman, adding that the happy couple would be flying off to another shooting competition in Cyprus. Natasha, meanwhile, had taken up temporary residence in Minsk's five-star Europa hotel.
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 ?479m bid to buy Liverpool football club.
His family is known for its sporting prowess - and as well as getting a new bride, Sheikh Sayyid leaves Belarus with silver in the trap shooting.