Dubai royal wedding venue’s low-profile preparations for a very big day
The wedding celebrations of Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Maktoum and Sheikh Ahmed have been months in the making
The flowers are cut, the halwa cooked, and coffee will be brewing in just a few hours but at the World Trade Centre wedding venue there is still no sign that Dubai’s wedding of the century is about to begin.
Thousands of guests will arrive by private jet, helicopter and limousine on Thursday afternoon to celebrate the wedding of Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, and his two brothers, Sheikh Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation.
There is yet no sign inside or out of Dubai World Trade Centre that a production months in the planning is in the final stages of preparation, but for a few extra security guards.
“They bring everything in containers and work at night after the shops close,” said Ansari Shaikh, a pharmacist at the convention centre, where the wedding party will take place. “Everybody knows one piece of the production and nobody knows the whole.”
Pomp and circumstance may be standard for monarchs abroad but royal weddings in the Gulf are discrete but glamorous affairs. Forget the fanfare. There will be no television, live broadcasting and no photos of the bride. This is an evening for the royals and a few hundred guests.
On Wednesday, cafes around the venue were empty and shops closed for the Eid Al Fitr holiday. Residents of Dubai’s trademark tower have left en mass for holidays in cooler climes or travelled to hometowns elsewhere in the Gulf.
Mr Shaikh and his colleague Yasmine Manna were nearly the only ones working at the centre on Wednesday who were not in some way connected to the nuptials celebrations.
Although they saw preparations begin three weeks ago, the names of the groom were a tightly guarded secret.
“They have been preparing,” said Ms Manna, the pharmacy’s manager. “They are building, building up for the wedding. And there’s a big stage.”
“But we cannot even see anything,” said Mr Shaikh. “Just every day there is security, Dubai Police standing there.”
Ms Manna knew it had to be for a high-ranking official when she saw four large sniffer dogs brought to the wedding hall venue.
“We are living in action,” she said. “But it’s nice to be the centre of the action.”
She was delighted to discover it was for the Crown Prince of Dubai and his brothers.
“I asked why they want the World Trade Centre because they have so many palaces,” said Ms Manna.
“Last night we could hear the songs,” said Mr Shaikh, who worked a shift until 11pm on Tuesday night. “Some grand music playing.”
Sheikh Hamdan: Dubai's Crown Prince, in pictures:
Ms Manna hoped to hear another sound check on Wednesday night, their only clue as to the splendours planned for Thursday.
Everything has been a guarded secret. Dubai World Trade Centre prides itself on the discretion of its many entrances for guests and event planners.
Security gates around the hall’s entry doors were put up on Sunday, and nothing is visible past the hall’s large wooden doors. Organisers are not even permitted to bring phones into the venue.
As of now, organisers have not been told the time Sheikh Hamdan, Sheikh Maktoum and Sheikh Ahmed will arrive.
For the lucky grooms, there is not much left to do but enjoy the day. Officially, they are already married, under Islamic law, after signing wedding contracts at private ceremony on May 15.
Their brides are all from Dubai’s ruling Al Maktoum family.
Sheikh Hamdan, 36, married Sheikha Sheikha bint Saeed, Sheikh Maktoum, 35, married Sheikha Maryam bint Butti, and Sheikh Ahmed, 32, married Sheikha Midya bint Dalmouj.
In keeping with tradition, men celebrate together following the signing of the marriage contract and women will host their own party later. After the women’s celebrations, the couples can begin their new lives together as newly-weds.
For Marie Pulvera, a clerk at a WTC shop selling toy camels, it is the brides’ ceremony that has her intrigued. “Actually, as girls we are so curious about the bride but they are not showing her picture,” she said.
Next door, Ms Manna and Mr Shaikh did not hide their excitement.
“We’re hoping to get a just glimpse,” said Mr Shaikh.
Updated: June 6, 2019 03:51 PM