Zakumi, the Official Mascot of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, enjoyed an action-packed holiday in Dubai as he counts down the last few days to the kick-off of the biggest event on the world sporting calendar.

He flew in with Emirates and was welcomed to the airline’s home base by cabin crew representing each of the 32 nations taking part in the soccer spectacle in South Africa.

The fun-loving leopard was in no mood to take a break from football, though, and quickly rounded up some of the crew for a kick-about at Dubai International Airport.

He was then given the VIP treatment from South African cabin crew members Cindy Speirs and Gillian Scott who were in no doubt that he would have a ball in Dubai.

“Like Zakumi, all the football fans travelling with Emirates are going to get a great welcome,” said Cindy, from outside Durban, who believes Emirates’ multicultural crew will help make the journey to her homeland extra special.

“The crew is made up of more than 120 different nationalities and we are all really looking forward to connecting the world with South Africa.”

Emirates – an Official Partner of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ – rolled out the red carpet for Zakumi and whisked him on a whistle-stop tour of all Dubai’s top spots before giving him a bird’s-eye view of the emirate from the helipad of the iconic Burj Al Arab.

Gillian was delighted the mascot had the chance to see all the highlights of Dubai. “It is great to have Zakumi here and I am sure he is having an incredible time,” said Gillian, also from the Durban area.

“Dubai is such an exciting place with so many amazing attractions. It is fantastic that you can now use the Metro to get to places like the Dubai Aquarium and the world’s tallest building – Burj Khalifa.”

Zakumi also got a taste of the local culture as he took an abra ride on Dubai Creek before heading off on a desert safari, which saw him bouncing around the slopes in a 4×4, surfing the dunes and getting a belly dancing lesson.

He got his adrenaline fix with trips to the Wild Wadi water park and showed that a leopard can change his spots when he jumped on the snow and sped down the piste at Ski Dubai, one of the world’s largest indoor ski centres.

However, no trip to Dubai would be complete without indulging in a little luxury. Every leopard needs his rest and Zakumi got to put his feet up before setting off for the festival of football when he visited Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa.

He had a great time at Emirates’ conversation-based destination, catching up with some friends – the Arabian Oryx and some falcons and camels – before indulging in a Timeless Spa treatment during an afternoon spent lazing by the pool.

However, Zakumi quickly pounced back into action when he found out he was going to be following in the footsteps of Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and Andre Agassi by getting to play on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab – the world’s most luxurious hotel.

Three-hundred-and-twenty metres above the stunning Dubai coastline, Zakumi enjoyed a kick-about at the Burj Al Arab – a Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts property – before casting his eye towards home, where the greatest show on earth is set to get under way.

Zakumi will be just one of many thousands of football fans to travel with Emirates this summer and captain Cliff Chetcuti is looking forward to taking them to the party.

He said: “We fly into three host cities – Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban – and, as an Official Tour Operator of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, fans will be able to experience our award-winning service as part of seamless travel packages which also include match tickets, accommodation and ground transportation.

“We will be connecting thousands of fans from our network of more than 100 destinations across six continents to South Africa and have made sure they won’t miss any of the action with text updates and match screenings on our award-winning on-board ICE entertainment system.”