LANGSTRAND, Namibia—The retirees and German tourists who populate this quiet, seashell-strewn beach in southern Africa have lately seen—or at least heard about—an attractive new couple in the neighborhood.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have rented out a 14-room lodge in this enclave of gaudy vacation homes on Namibia's cool Atlantic coast, where Jolie is expected to give birth to their first child in the coming weeks.
Since they arrived by chartered plane earlier this month, Pitt, Jolie and her two children have tried to keep a low profile. With a passel of security guards to keep curious locals and a handful of determined paparazzi at bay, the family has hopped around Namibia aboard three Cessna jets, sampling the country's best safari parks and wildlife sanctuaries.
Earlier this week, Pitt and Jolie were seen entering an upmarket jewelry store in Swakopmund, a breezy resort town to the north, prompting speculation that they'll be married in Namibia, perhaps even this weekend.
The latest rumors have the wedding taking place in a remote northern desert region called Kaokoland, which is practically inaccessible by car. The move could be to evade the media, or it could have a deeper significance: The region's dominant tribe, the Himba, believes a woman should give birth before marriage to demonstrate her fertility.
Namibia would be an unusual choice for a Hollywood wedding, to say the least. Its coastline is a vast desert fringed by beach, with a few well-ordered, German-speaking towns—remnants of the country's colonial past—scattered along a flat, two-lane highway.
But with its colossal sand dunes and rainbow-hued sunsets, Namibia offers a taste of Africa's natural beauty without the travel hassles that are common in much of the rest of the continent. The roads are good, the climate is dry, and the resort towns—with their Teutonic restaurants and architecture—are pleasant, if a bit dull.
The 30-year-old Jolie—an Oscar-winning actress who's still better known for her looks—reportedly fell in love with Namibia after she spent several weeks here in 2002 for the filming of "Beyond Borders," a romance set against the backdrop of an African war.
She has returned to the continent a few times, often in her role as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Last year, she adopted a daughter from Ethiopia named Zahara; she also has an adopted 4-year-old son, Maddox, from Cambodia.
While filming "Beyond Borders," Jolie would stroll freely along Swakopmund's palm tree-lined streets and drop in on shopkeepers with little fanfare.
"She once came into our office—she was just so dead normal," said Almuth Styles, the head of the regional tourism office.
This trip has been different. The couple rarely ventures into town, and when they do, it's with a security detail, which includes several ex-Namibian military officers. Earlier this week, on the road to Swakopmund, their caravan of SUVs played high-speed cat-and-mouse with a photographer from South Africa who was trailing them.
With magazines offering as much as $5 million for a photo of the baby, paparazzi from Europe and Australia have descended on Langstrand, staking out vantage points in the windows of adjacent houses or behind palm trees a few hundred yards from the lodge.
Most days, a burly, ruddy-faced member of the security team is stationed on the back lawn of the lodge, peering across the beach with a pair of binoculars. Last week, an Australian was sprayed with pepper spray when he photographed Pitt, 42, playing catch with Maddox on the lawn.
"Fight Club finally came to the beachfront," cackled South Africa's Sunday Times, referring to one of Pitt's movies. The newspaper ran large photos of Pitt and Maddox—sporting matching bracelets—over the weekend.
But apart from the odd brush with the paparazzi, or the occasional tour bus stopping to glimpse the lodge, it's been a relatively unsexy holiday for the world's sexiest couple.
Jolie, reportedly more than eight months pregnant, took the family to a private game lodge to visit a vulture used in filming "Beyond Borders." Pitt and Maddox raced quad bikes over sand dunes one afternoon—which Pitt loved so much, the bike shop owner said, that he promised to be back.
It's just the right speed for the people of Namibia, who dislike a fuss and are happy to give the couple their space.
"It's not like Paris Hilton is coming our way," Styles said. "We're not fast enough for her."
(c) 2006, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): NAMIBIA-JOLIE
GRAPHIC (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): 20060420 NAMIBIA JOLIE
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