Mohamed Al Fayed often said that when he died he wanted to be entombed on the roof of Harrods in a pyramid, like a modern pharaoh.
That long-held ambition dissolved when he sold the Knightsbridge store in 2010 – something he once vowed never to do.
In the event, his final resting place was less extraordinary but still remarkable – a burial chamber next to that of his son Dodi in a mausoleum guarded by statues of lions and sphinxes on the family’s 226-acre Surrey estate.
Consisting of a simple wooden pergola with a pine-beamed roof, it has 12 wooden supporting pillars and a natural stone floor.
Four continually burning candles surround the grave of Dodi, who was killed alongside Princess Diana in a Paris car crash 26 years ago. In his final years, his Egyptian father – who died aged 94 on Wednesday and was buried on Friday – spent long hours in the shadows of the mausoleum, mourning his son.
‘I come here every day, perhaps for two or three hours and memories come back to me as I sit,’ Mr Al Fayed once said.
Mohamed Al Fayed often said that when he died he wanted to be entombed on the roof of Harrods in a pyramid, like a modern pharaoh
Mr Al Fayed with his son Dodi, who was killed in the same crash that killed Diana in 199
Mr Al Fayed (right) with Prince Charles (with his back to camera) and Diana during a Harrods-sponsored polo match in 1987
‘I say prayers and think of Dodi, but I sometimes do my work here or take breakfast.’
According to a source close with the family, it was ‘fate’ that he passed away on the eve of the anniversary of Dodi and Princess Diana’s death, 26 years ago.
The 18ft mausoleum, which lies across a stream just a few minutes’ walk from the 17th Century family home, was built on what used to be Dodi’s polo field. One of Mr Al Fayed’s brothers is buried in another of the eight chambers.
For such a flamboyant billionaire, Mr Al Fayed’s funeral at the London Central Mosque in Regent’s Park was surprisingly low-key.
This, after all, was a man who, besides Harrods, had also owned The Ritz in Paris and Fulham Football Club and whose business interests stretched across the globe.
He ran a fleet of ships and built an empire of properties in London, Paris, New York, Geneva and St Tropez. He installed the Egyptian Room in Harrods, which boasted several busts of himself, and he also created a memorial to Dodi and Diana, who were dating at the time of their deaths.
Mr Al Fayed cultivated prime ministers, yet there was not a single dignitary at his funeral, not even the Egyptian ambassador. Catching the media by surprise, there was a hasty invitation – photocopied notices pinned to the mosque’s pillars – asking for worshippers to join the service after the jummah, or Friday midday prayers.
Mohamed Al Fayed pictured in Paris in 2016. He sold Harrods and Fulham FC – his largest British business interests – in 2010 and 2013 respectively
Mr Al Fayed bought Fulham FC in 1997, with his cash injection helping to send the club into the Premier League and European competitions in just a few years. He is pictured here in 2011
Mohamed Al Fayed with the Queen in 1997. His business connections and charity work saw him mixing with high society
Undertakers SM Funerals said that it was deliberately understated in accordance with the family’s wishes.
It is unclear whether Mr Al Fayed, who had dementia, died at home, though his body was collected from a London hospital on Friday and brought to the mosque where a ritual bath was performed, after which he was placed inside the coffin.
Only about 30 mourners – family members and close friends – travelled with the hearse.
A 45-second mobile phone video emerged on Arabic social media sites showing Mr Al Fayed’s coffin being laid on the foyer of the mosque, guarded by family members and friends, as worshippers filed past staring at their mobiles.
The coffin was draped with a green cloth bearing verses of the Koran. Mr Al Fayed always maintained Dodi and Diana were killed by the British security services. His claims led to the Harrods store being stripped of its four Royal warrants – the right to declare that a company supplies goods by appointment to the Royal Family.
Michael Cole, a former journalist who worked as director of public affairs for Harrods, said some people could never ‘forgive’ his boss for buying the store. ‘He was not self-important, he didn’t fit into the British establishment,’ said Mr Cole.
‘And I think some people could never forgive an Egyptian for having bought their favourite store in Brompton Road, Harrods.’
He added: ‘He was never happier, going down to the trade counter, and slicing off some salami for some of his customers and talking to them. The fact is that if you talk to the people who actually knew him, who worked for him, who were his customers, they have a completely different view from people who sit in ivory towers and take pot-shots at him.’
Mr Al Fayed made his first application for British citizenship in 1995 but was turned down. In 1999, weeks after it was granted to his brother Ali, he applied again. This time he was declared unfit to hold a British passport by then-Home Secretary Jack Straw.
He appealed against the decision but three Appeal Court judges dismissed his claim.
Jonathan Aitken, whose ministerial career was brought down with the help of Mr Al Fayed when he revealed the then Tory frontbencher stayed for free at the tycoon’s Paris hotel, Ritz, at the same time as a group of Saudi arms dealers, said yesterday: ‘Mr Al Fayed was a five-star weirdo, but I have no grudge against him.’