Sunday, 23 January 2011


A day after Britain's Prince William, the second in line to the throne, popped the question to long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, the couple spent the better part of the evening at Ole Sereni Hotel on Mombasa Road, Nairobi.

The General Manager of Ole Sereni Hotel received a call on the morning of October 21, 2010 from the British High Commissioner asking for a room to be reserved for a visitor.

“I had no idea that it would be for royalty,” Ole Sereni GM Ghulam Samdani said, “When the British High Commissioner called, we had a full house at the time and our best room was taken but we made an exception.”

Prince William walked into the hotel lobby that evening at 6:30pm accompanied by two people, a man and a woman who they later learnt was Kate Middleton and a personal bodyguard.

“Somehow I was unsure it was him; he had no heavy security detail and his entry was very quiet.They were all dressed in jeans and had backpacks. That is it. I meet him and took him to his room.”

Was there any indication that the Prince had just popped the question? “Absolutely not. They were not holding hands and we had no inkling that they were engaged the previous day. If we did we would have done something special for them,” Samdani said, “We were also not allowed to take photos.”

The 28-year-old prince and his soon-to-be-bride revealed to the world details of their October 20 engagement last month.

William proposed to Middleton while on a 10-day safari in Kenya in October. William is said to have asked Kate to be his wife on the veranda of their cabin at the "romantic" lakeside Rutundu Log Cabins in Mount Kenya National Park.
The pair then enjoyed a bottle of champagne – kept cool in the outdoor ‘fridge’ – a wooden cupboard - before tucking into a meal prepared by the resort staff. Before retiring to their four-poster bed, the pair are said to have snuggled happily in front of a roaring fire.

According to The Sun newspaper, the future British king chose the secluded location as the spot to propose to the 28-year-old beauty because it is so "inaccessible".

On their departure on October 21, the happy couple signed the Rutundu guest book, with William declaring: “Such fun to be back! Looked after so well. Thank you guys! Look forward to next time, soon I hope.”

That evening after their arrival at Ole Sereni, the hotel’s executive chef, Kevin Barron, was moved from kitchen duty to telephone duty at the restaurant lobby just in case the potential King of England called with an order for food or any assistance.

“He was by the phone for two hours waiting for it to ring. I was avoiding a scenario where he (Prince William) had to repeat what he is saying. We wanted to know what he would like to eat, if he had any allergies but when he called he asked for a Caesar salad and a sandwich. The simplest of things,” Samdani said.

British chef Barron describes the prince as one who “seemed like a nice guy.”

The chef who has been with Ole Sereni Hotel since October 2008 recounted his telephone encounter with the royal personalities.

“The fiancée Kate called and placed an order. She was very polite and did not want to trouble us. After placing the order I asked what drink they will have. She then called over to William asking what he will drink, and she said, ‘he will have a Sprite’”.

Barron was nervous and excited at the same time, “Knowing who he was, I did not know what he would order. I gave all the menus to the personal guard. But I was disappointed when he ordered the Caesar salad and a ham and cheese sandwich.”

The lounge

The 37-year-old chef said he would have prepared a meal that is “a mix of something modern to showcase the best of both British and Kenyan palettes. If I had known they were engaged I would have made some honeymoon food as well.”

Another staff member who had a personal encounter with the royal couple was Restaurant Manager Naomi Muita.

Muita had the opportunity to serve the Prince and the Princess-to-be with the order of their snack before their flight from Nairobi’s JKIA to London.

“I was not shaking as I had prepared myself and they are both easy to serve,” Muita said. “Prince William is very handsome and much better looking that what you see on TV and newspapers.

“When I walked up to their room, I knocked on the door and let myself in and they greeted me and asked me to come in. I served their snack and got a Coke for Kate and a Sprite for William. I wished them a bon appétit and they told me to have a ‘Good evening’. I wasn’t sure if I should reply with Your Highness,” Muita said smiling.

The Entrance

So was the royal couple looking cozy? “I did not notice it because they had just had a rest and I couldn’t tell that they had just gotten engaged either.”

Muita, 34, who started working for the hotel in January this year terms the encounter as the “highlight” of her life.

“I never thought I would serve royalty in Kenya. I have met many celebrities and now meeting royalty is a nice experience, more so now that I know Prince William and Kate Middleton will be the next King and Queen of England and they even got engaged in Kenya.”

The view from the terrace

This is not her first encounter with celebrities. Muita has met and served other celebrities who have visited Kenya enroute to safari or on their way back to their home countries. They include Johnny Depp and John Travolta.

Since William and Kate were on the British Airlines night flight back to London, they left the hotel at 10:30pm. “They wanted it to be as quiet as possible. But already word had spread that he was around and someone had put an update online that Prince was in town. The prince and his fiancée used the kitchen exit and onto the lobby, which at the time was empty,” Muita said.

The sprawling National park as seen from the hotel

The prince signed the guest book by simply scribbling “Willy Oct. 2010”.

The impressed Prince stated in a Thank You letter sent to the General Manager of the hotel from the British High Commissioner Rob Macaire stated: “His Royal Highness was in transit from a private holiday in Kenya enroute back to London and was keen to have private time away from the airport environment whilst he waited for his flight. His Royal Highness was very grateful that Ole Sereni was able to provide the private time and really appreciated the excellent accommodation and service the Ole Sereni staff kindly provided.”