28 AUGUST 2007

There was a public engagement with a difference in store this week for Norway's Prince Haakon and Princess Mette-Marit. The royal couple swapped the luxury of their usual surroundings for the humble shelter of a laavt gaetie, the traditional tent of Scandinavia's indigenous Sami people. Inside, they reclined on animal skins and sipped tea with a family dressed in traditional costume.

The pair - who celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary at the weekend - were in Olderdalen, in one of the most northern parts of Norway, where they visited a cultural centre for the ethnic people of the region. The tiny settlement, which numbered just 512 inhabitants two years ago, lies in the shadow of dramatic Lyngen fjord.

As well as their fireside refreshment, Mette-Marit and her husband were also shown round a typical dwelling, which, with its rounded grass-covered walls and puffing chimney, was reminiscent of something out of The Lord Of The Rings.

The Sami people, who share a rich cultural heritage focused around mythology, folklore, crafts and art, have their own language which varies from tribe to tribe and traditionally make a living from reindeer herding. Today many lead modern lives in cities away from their traditional settlements, although every effort is made to keep their customs and traditions alive.

Photo: ©
Reclining on animal skins and drinking tea, Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit got a taste of the lives of Scandinavia's indigenous Sami people as they visited a cultural centre in the north of NorwayPhoto: © RexClick on photos for gallery
Photo: ©
Mette-Marit and her husband also visited a typical family dwellingPhoto: © Rex
Photo: ©
The cultural centre is situated in the shadow of the dramatic peaks of Lyngen fjord, a largely unpopulated region Photo: © Rex