Sheikh Mohammad bin Khalifah al MaktoumSheikh Mohammad Bin Khalifa Al MaktoumThe countdown to the arrival on Thursday of His Royal Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Khalifah al Maktoum has begun. For once, our Zulu staff love these occasions and being the great entertainers they are, they are practising madly in anticipation of the Sheikh’s arrival. This will involve a trance dance on the part of our resident sangomas (shaman), performance from three choral groups, a gumboot dance and a Shosholoza “guard of honour,” which will serenade the arrival in the Sheikh’s colours of Hobb Alwahtan in the traditional Summerhill way.

By any standards, Sheikh Mohammad’s team travel in some style. There will be four aircraft, eleven air crew, besides the fourteen people in his private party, and the catering arrangements connected with the feeding of a multitude.

No doubt, there will be those who will be intrigued at the list besides those that make up the more than one ton of baggage that accompanies the party, and which will be imported from Dubai. An empty aircraft has been allocated the task of carrying this load.

The Premier of Kwa Zulu Natal, Mr. Sbu Ndebele and his Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Dr Zweli Mkhize were among the first to acknowledge their interest in attending. Whilst final arrangements are still to be settled, the likelihood is that we will be seeing them on Thursday. The security arrangements around this visit are intricate, with the South African authorities and the United Arab Emirate Consulate having embarked on a programme on their own, whilst the impending arrival of the Premier and the Minister of Finance involves another substantial team altogether.

Some of us have already attended private banquets at Sheikh Mohammad’s private palace in Dubai. He is one of the most charming men one could wish to meet, and entertains generously in the traditional Arab style. The team at Summerhill are in for some delightful surprises during the course of the week. As they taste for the first time the dishes our friends from the desert have feasted upon for centuries.