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Monaco royal newlyweds throw lavish S.Africa party

Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco threw a swank party Thursday for members of the International Olympic Committee and assorted glitterati at a five-star hotel in South Africa.

The newlyweds, who are in Charlene’s home country for a meeting of the IOC, held a dinner reception for nearly 500 guests at the Oyster Box, a seaside luxury hotel in the Indian Ocean resort town of Umhlanga.

The couple made a brief appearance on the red carpet in front of the hotel, obliging the crowd of photographers, journalists and several dozen royal-watchers with a quick kiss on the lips.

They spent about a minute posing for the cameras — Albert dressed in a black suit and red tie, Charlene in a black sleeveless gown with a diamond-shaped pattern that appeared inspired by African design — then headed back inside to the invitation-only event.

“We’re just so thrilled,” said Joanne Hayes, public relations chief for the hotel.

The Oyster Box has spent weeks preparing for the event, which follows on the couple’s wedding at the weekend in Albert’s tiny Mediterranean principality.

Guests arrived to drumming and dancing by a group of young Zulu men dressed in traditional animal-skin garb, and were also serenaded by a local choir.

Dressed mostly in evening gowns and suits, they queued on the red carpet to pass through a security checkpoint at the entrance to the hotel, which was decked out in the red and white of the Monaco flag.

Hayes said the menu would include a dish created in Charlene’s honour.

“We’ve created a special dish called Oysters Charlene. It’s created by our executive chef, Kevin Joseph,” she told AFP.

“Basically it’s oysters baked with creamed spinach, curried lentils and asparagus.”

The guest list, which ran to nearly 500 people, included IOC President Jacques Rogge, South African Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula, former Miss South Africa Jo-Ann Strauss and an assortment of business magnates, local notables and heavy hitters in the sporting world.

South African President Jacob Zuma, who had lunch with the couple Wednesday, had planned to attend but was detained on other business in the northern province of Limpopo, his office said.

Two of Zuma’s four wives did however show up for the party, which began at 7:00 pm (1700 GMT).

The newlyweds’ South African tour has been part honeymoon and part business trip.

Albert, a member of the IOC, took part in Wednesday’s election of the 2018 Winter Olympics host city, which saw Pyeongchang, South Korea beat out Munich, Germany and Annecy, France.

On Friday, Charlene will be welcomed by South African anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu at his HIV foundation in Cape Town.

She will be a co-patron of a collective of 10 charities known as The Giving Organisation Trust, carrying out her first duties as patron with visits to two charities that focus on children and HIV-AIDS and a project working to preserve the region’s unique fynbos vegetation in the winelands.

The focus of the trust’s charities range from children to health and animal protection.