It was raining, spitting rain really, like it does in the UK. Cold and clammy in December and the wind was blowing my umbrella inside out. My sweet Rashme was taking us to see Harrods for the first time, and I was very keen being the romantic I am, to see the memorial of Dodi and Princess Diana. The whole heritage building, such a well known icon the world over, was dressed with twinkling lights for the festive season. Inspite of the rain and terrible weather the place was full of tourists braving the rain like us, hanging around the well dressed windows, especially since it was a fairy tale theme.
Reaching the big swing doors, we walked in and feasted our eyes on all the clothes on display and nothing really caught my fancy, except for the price tags! But the food area is sumptious and since we were there Christmas time, we went nuts looking at all the foods imported from everywhere, in the world. I went berserk looking at the different fruit especially, and could not believe the huge variety of fresh dates on display. Crazy about cherries too I was stunned looking at their offerings which were the size of mini apples! The pineapples too were enormous and all the exotic fruit from Kiwi to Dragon fruit, were on display and only the very best would do, obviously.
Not meat crazy, I did go around the meat areas, which even had a small roast pigling and huge cuts of gammon on display. As for the fish and seafood area, the variety and the size here too of everything from oysters to enormous lobsters, made us stand and stare at the sight.
Then it was time for my treat -- on the lower ground floor of Harrods, just below the Bill Mitchell’s spectacular Egyptian escalator, there is a quiet, candle-lit shrine to Dodi and Diana, Princess of Wales. Constructed in 1998 by Dodi’s doting father, the plan was to have it there only for weeks. But the massive fan following has kept the shrine there, to this day.
As a memory of the happy days of the couple’s last holiday together, their portraits are set amidst sculptured seagulls and Mediterranean plants and foliage. A fountain supports the images, with its endless flow of water symbolising eternal life. The interlinked ‘D’ photo frames illustrate the powerful harmony of this romantic connection. Four candles burn all the time, adding a sense of calm and peacefulness and people speak in hushed whispers.
The inscription beneath the acrylic pyramid reads: "The wine glass has been preserved in the exact condition it was left on the couple’s last evening together, at the Imperial Suite at the Hotel Ritz in Paris. Dodi bought this engagement ring for Diana on the day before the tragedy."
Above the memorial itself, in the carved walls of the Egyptian escalators on the third floor, is Dodi’s handprint set in stone. As the story goes, it was the summer of 1997 and Bill Mitchell was finishing his Egyptian escalator masterpiece, when he suggested to Mr. Al Fayed that it may be possible to have all of the family set their hands in the wet cement. Dodi came with the family and left his imprint. Ten days later, Dodi was dead, whilst the imprint of his hand remains, reminding the world of the sadness of his passing.
As history goes, on September 1st, 2005, eight years after Dodi and Diana’s death, Mohamed Al Fayed unveiled a second remembrance shrine in Harrods. The bronze statue of the couple dancing is entitled “Innocent Victims” and is located at door three. It is a life-sized sculpture of Diana and Dodi gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes as they release an albatross into the sky.
At door three, in Harrods,a large, leather bound visitors book lies open and is signed by people from all over the world, who are united in their loss. Messages, inscribed in various languages, fill one book every two weeks. Today AlFayed has sold Harrods, but the shrine has been kept on by the new owners, as it’s a must see among visitors to London.