Nelson Mandela has given instructions that he should be buried on a remote rural hillside in a grave marked with a simple stone.
South Africa's former anti-apartheid leader has shunned the suggestion that he be buried in the capital, Pretoria.
Instead, he wrote a will on a single page of A4 paper instructing his family to let the state hold its ceremonies, but then to bury him more than 600 miles away in his ancestral home of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
"Nobody likes to think about death and Mr Mandela, like most people, was reluctant to make a will," a former associate said. "He was clear he wanted to be buried in Qunu. He is a traditionalist and that's why he wanted to be buried there."
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will meet members of his family in South Africa but won't go to the hospital.
"Out of deference to Nelson Mandela's peace and comfort and the family's wishes, they will not be visiting the hospital," the White House said.
Yesterday, Mr Mandela spent his 21st day at Pretoria's Mediclinic Heart Hospital where he was admitted for a lung infection and is now believed to be on a ventilator.
Shortly after visiting him in hospital, his ex-wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, said: "From what he was a few days ago there is great improvement, but clinically he is still unwell."
She expressed concern about the intense public interest driving speculation and, on occasion, forensically detailed reporting about his health.
"It becomes very difficult to understand the seeming impatience and statements like 'it is time for the family to let go'. These are insensitive statements that no one would like to be made about their grandfather," she said.
Last night, US President Barack Obama and his family arrived in South Africa for the second leg of his first major trip to the continent.
Speaking to journalists on board Air Force One as he flew from Senegal to Johannesburg, Mr Obama said he didn't want to be "obtrusive".
"Right now, our main concern is with his well-being, his comfort and with the family's well-being and comfort."
Hundreds of people demonstrated against Mr Obama's visit in Pretoria yesterday, marching near the hospital where Mr Mandela lays critically ill.
An estimated 1,000 trade unionists, Muslim activists and South African Communist Party members marched through the capital to the US Embassy where they burned a US flag in protest, calling Mr Obama's foreign policy "arrogant and oppressive".
Mr Mandela's last wishes were contained in a will that the then 78-year-old made in January 1996.
Events in Qunu in the past week suggest that they have not changed as workmen began laying soil for a new road leading to a 10-acre meadow where his grave is expected to be.
Dozens of red-flowered aloes, the Eastern Cape's signature plant, have recently been planted across the hillside, and a cluster of boulders marked its northern boundary.
A source close to the Mandela family told South Africa's 'Mail & Guardian' that his family plan to create a garden of memory in Qunu for tourists and pilgrims to visit instead of the actual grave. Makaziwe Mandela, his eldest daughter, has said that Mr Mandela's grave would be considered private.
It is believed that the same hillside will be where two of Mr Mandela's sons and one of his daughters, who all died before him, will be reburied.
They were moved to Mvezo, where Mr Mandela was born, by his grandson and local chieftain, Mandla Mandela, who caused a family feud because he failed to consult relations before he ordered the bodies to be exhumed.
Four of Mr Mandela's relations yesterday won a court order compelling Chief Mandela to move the bodies back to Qunu. The former South African president said on several occasions that he wanted to be buried alongside his children. (© Daily Telegraph, London)