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Prince William chose rustic Kenyan cabin for engagement

By Faith Karimi and David McKenzie, CNN
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Site of Prince William's proposal
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Prince William chose a rustic cabin for the engagement
  • He and Kate Middleton secretly flew into Kenya
  • It features the bare minimum; a fireplace, a couch and a canopy bed with thick woolly blankets
  • The cabin has panoramic views of Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley

Rutundu, Kenya (CNN) -- When Prince William marries Kate Middleton with the whole world watching Friday, it will be a far cry from the private engagement at a rustic log cabin in the quiet African wilderness.

The couple was engaged at the Rutundu cabin on the northern slopes of Mount Kenya, a secluded getaway near a sprawling animal reserve where rhinos and giraffes roam freely.

Prince William and Kate Middleton secretly flew into the country in October and headed to the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, where he had spent a year before going to the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

"Kenya has always been very close to Prince William's heart. He's been coming here for many years. He loves it," said Ian Craig, founder of the Lewa and owner of the cabin.

However, the October visit was different. The prince was waiting for the perfect opportunity to pop the question, his mother's ring stashed in his backpack.

"I had been carrying it around in my rucksack for three weeks before that, and I literally would not let it go," the prince said in an official interview after the engagement. "Wherever I went, I kept hold of it because I knew this thing, if it disappeared, I would be in a lot of trouble."

It was very romantic and it was a very personal time for both of us.
--Kate Middleton
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He finally found the perfect spot at the cabin, which has a clear view of Mount Kenya, the nation's highest mountain. He proposed to his college sweetheart at the secluded spot surrounded by crisp lakes and whistling birds.

Prince William, the second in line to the British throne, will marry Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London on Friday.

Middleton said the proposal left her shocked.

"We were out there with friends and things, so I really didn't expect it at all," she said.

The royal family's relationship with Kenya is not new. Princess Elizabeth was in the east African nation in 1952 when she found out her father had died and she was to become queen.

More than half a century later, the country's tie to the royal family remains.

"I think he wanted to share Kenya with his new bride, unknown to us at the time," Craig said.

Prince William and his bride-to-be stayed in the more spacious of the two log-cabins near the Lewa wildlife reserve, nothing like the lavish Buckingham Palace.

It features the bare minimum; a fireplace, a couch and a canopy bed with thick woolly blankets. Guests fish in private rivers near their cabin. At night, candles and cackling fires provide light.

What the cottage lacks in luxury, it makes up in the view, with panoramic scenes of Mount Kenya and the Rift Valley.

"He's a true romantic and we had a wonderful holiday in Africa," Middleton said after the engagement. "It was very romantic and it was a very personal time for both of us."

Temperatures in the high altitude area drop drastically as the sun sets. Simple surroundings and chilly nights aside, the prince was well equipped for the trip.

"Brought more warm clothes this time!" he wrote in the cabin guestbook.

There was one problem, though. The pair did not catch any fish during their stay.

"Sadly no fish to be found but we had great fun trying," Middleton wrote in the guestbook.

She however headed home with a far bigger prize: a sapphire engagement ring.

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