American woman marries Ethiopian prince she met in a nightclub

Joel Makonnen married Ariana Austin in a lavish Ethiopian Orthodox Christian wedding on September 9. Source: Dotun Ayodeji

The Ethiopian royal family claims to be descendants of the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

It began, as many relationships do, with a dodgy pickup line in a nightclub. 

Ariana Austin was on a night-out with her friend at Pearl nightclub in Washington DC when she was approached by Joel Makonnen. 

"I said: 'You guys look like an ad for Bombay Sapphire'," Mr Makonnen tells The New York Times nof their first meeting.

"Not even five minutes later I said: 'You're going to be my girlfriend.'"

One thing the practicing lawyer did not tell Ms Austin that evening he was actually Prince Yoel, great-grandson of Haile Selassie I and Ethiopia's last emperor.


Born in Rome, his parents, Prince David Makonnen and Princess Adey Imru Makonnen, had been forced into exile after a communist coup in Ethiopia, and he grew up in Switzerland and France.

Haile Selassie was the 225th emperor of Ethiopia and he ruled the east African country for four decades until he was overthrown in 1974. 

He died in 1975 under mysterious circumstances.

Mr Makonnen, 35, is related to Haile Selassie I through the emperor's second son, Prince Mankonnen. 

The royal family traces its roots back to the Biblical King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.

"It's unbeatable heritage and history," Ms Austin said.

"It combines sheer black power and ancient Christian tradition."

Ms Austin also has an impressive lineage - she is of African-American and Guyanese descent, and her maternal grandfather was a lord mayor of Guyana's capital, Georgetown.

Having studied arts, education and creative writing at Harvard, she now works in philanthropy.

Nearly 12 years after that initial nightclub exchange, the couple tied the knot in an extravagant Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony in Temple Hills, Maryland on September 9 - involving 13 priests and clergymen and more than 300 guests.

"We've always believed that when it came to our love - it was written - and we're thrilled to experience the next chapter unfold," the couple say on their wedding website

The bride and groom wore crowns and capes for the day of festivities, which started at 11am and went on until late in the evening. 

They married as close as they could to Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year, which is celebrated on September 11 and guests were given slices of Guyanese black cake and bottles of an Ethiopian honey wine called Tej.


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