It is an unlikely love story and stuff of fantasies. He was a Frenchman living in Paris, one of the world’s most sophisticated cities.
She a rural girl from KwaNgwanase, northern KZN.
But when Marius Coutaud, 25, first laid eyes on Sisanda Qwabe, 26, at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris in 2010, it was love at first sight.
And the Frenchman didn’t waste any time, telling Qwabe the following day that he loved her. In response she laughed at him.
Today, the couple are married after tying the knot in a traditional Zulu wedding on December 29 and after Coutaud paid a lobola of 10 live cows and cash.
A cow was slaughtered in the early hours of the morning of the wedding. Women brewed beer and children played as excitement mounted.
But let’s rewind to when the couple first met.
Qwabe, an actress and screenwriter, says she went to France for a fashion show. After landing, she found herself stranded at the Charles de Gaulle Airport for eight hours after a miscommunication with her agent.
“I couldn’t speak French and everyone was not helpful. I knew I was screwed,” she said.
Tired, hungry and frustrated, Qwabe went to McDonald’s where “this guy and his friend approached me and asked to use my phone”.
Qwabe says she became impatient and irritable “and suggested we make a deal. They show me where I need to go and I will give him my number, which is really what he wanted.”
The trio then took a train into Paris. “During the trip he asked me where I was from and I told him I was from South Africa. He told me he was going to study in South Africa the following year and suggested that we meet up.”
Qwabe said she wasn’t into Coutaud when she first saw him. “He had a funny haircut that made him look like a boy. At the time I was in a relationship with someone else who used to dress very smart so I knew this guy was no competition – and he was not my type.”
The following day the pair met for lunch. “He took me sightseeing in Paris. We had lunch at the Eiffel Tower. I would say that was our first date but he disagrees because I embarrassed him by paying for our meal.
“That same day he told me that he loved me and I laughed at him but I could see he was serious; his eyes welled up with tears and I told him he was a wimp and to b***er off…”
Qwabe left France and returned to South Africa. Soon after that they started Skyping and only then did Qwabe fall in love with Coutaud.
“I started cheating on my boyfriend with him because he wasn’t around. We spoke every day,” said Qwabe.
She went back to France to visit him at his small cramped flat. “It was the most unromantic thing ever. The food was horrible but I watched him literally sweat as he prepared the meal. I felt like a love-struck 16-year-old all over again. It was amazing. We then started dating,” said Qwabe.
The following year Coutaud came to South Africa to study business at the University of Pretoria and the pair continued to spent time together.
On Qwabe’s birthday in 2012, the couple went on a five- country trip to Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, Swaziland and Mozambique.
“We were sitting in a restaurant in Zimbabwe and he proposed to me, he just took out a ring and placed it on the table and said, ‘This is yours, you should wear it.’ And I told him I wasn’t desperate. He cried and asked me not to embarrass him in front of people. Then I told him I would marry him if he went down on one knee and he did that.”
The two discussed the complications of intercultural marriages. “He told his parents. The family read up about Zulu culture and his brother came to South Africa for the lobola negotiations.
“There were speeches, a lot of food and a lot of dancing.”
On December 29, Coutaud came with eight of his close family member and friends. They brought Izibizo, gifts for Qwabe’s family.”
“He’s the first guy in my life who gave me assurance that he’d be honest. When he says he loves me I can see it in his eyes,” said Qwabe.
They’ve settled in South Africa.