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The Brangelina no-show

By CNN's Robyn Curnow


Angelina Jolie
Brad Pitt

SWAKOPMUND, Namibia (CNN) -- To get away from the public scrutiny that befits one of the world's most famous showbiz couples, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie decamped to Swakpomund -- a sleepy little town on the southwest coast of Africa.

Not that you would know it by walking around town.

Hardly anyone here has seen their famous neighbors and if they have, it has been a sneaked glance from a distance or a chance glimpse in the street.

The press have been even more unlucky. British paparazzo Steve (he wouldn't give his last name) told us this assignment was the worst he has ever had to cover, saying it was "impossible" to get a photograph of the couple and their children. But he's trying.

Most foreign paparazzi and foreign media didn't even make it out here, to the edge of the Namibian desert.

There is a conspicuous absence of a press pack, even though the birth of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt last weekend was one of the most eagerly awaited celebrity births this year.

The Namibian government has gone out of its way to protect the privacy of its famous visitors, by restricting press visas into the country.

Swakopmund is small town, nestled between soaring red sand dunes and a cold, wild Atlantic ocean.

It has not experienced an influx of media hounds with long lenses and sharp elbows, in spite of world-wide curiosity about the birth of the Hollywood couple's first baby.

Instead, just a handful of foreign paparazzi like Steve hang out at the windy shore or in the town's modest hotels each day -- trading on rumors, conjecture and speculation that Brad and Angelina will: a) Have a water birth in their hotel b) Have a caesarean birth at a Walvis Bay hospital c) Be discharged from a Swakopmund clinic d) Have a celebratory birth party at a beach restaurant.

All are possible photo opportunities. All create a sense of panic and competition. All amount to nothing, except the small media contingent covertly running around in circles chasing their tails.

Brad and Angelina must be chuckling away in their beachside resort, thinking "Brangelina 1, Media 0."

The local press is also unhappy about the lack of access to Namibia's famous visitors.

The editor of the Namib Times, Floris Steenkamp, recounts what he calls a "low point" in the relationship between the stars and the media.

This came when the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation news crew accompanying the First Lady was refused entry into the Burning Shore resort when she made a courtesy visit to the Hollywood couple.

In Africa, hospitality is important. Not inviting people into your home is considered rude -- even if you are People magazine's Most Beautiful Person in the World.

The local press has been eagerly waiting a "meet the local children" photo opportunity or even just a "hello and thank you" interview. Steenkamp and other local reporters say neither has happened, much to their disappointment.

But still, the local press and public remain supportive of the Hollywood superstars sequestered in their midst.

They are grateful the couple's presence has put Namibia on the the world's radar screen and hope the country's heightened profile will help boost tourism.

No longer is the old German colonial town of Swakopmund one of the few places in Africa where you can order a Wiener Schnitzel in German, drive along Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse or have a dental check up at the Bismarck Zahnartzt.

Oh no, Swakopmund is the birthplace of one of Hollywood's most famous newborns -- Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt. Perhaps a Shiloh strudel or a Nouvel cocktail will lure more visitors to Namibia's remote coast? The Namibians are counting on it.

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