Meeting a billionaire

I’m amazed at my son’s memory: He’s only seven years old. We were eating dinner on Friday night and recounting our coolest vacations.

Somewhat out of the blue, he recalled our unexpected meeting with Mohamed Al-Fayed, the billionaire Egyptian, in Harrod’s Food Hall in London.

The Food Hall is a highlight of any trip to London; in this case, we had rented a flat and went to Harrod’s to shop for a special occasion.

The place has an amazing selection of foods from all over the world: I was amazed at the fresh fruit, in the dead of winter, from Africa.

As we were wandering around, I spotted Mohamed Al-Fayed — Harrod’s controversial owner and father of the late Dodi, Princess Diana’s boyfriend — walking into the Hall.

I was holding my son in one arm and a bag of fruit and fresh fish in the other. Being, well, me, I said: “Hello, Mohamed Al-Fayed!” in a somewhat loud voice. Suddenly, a bunch of undercover guys shifted around in the room, looking nervous.

I don’t think anyone else recognized Al-Fayed. But he was wearing that trademark tailored suit. Plus, you don’t see that many Egyptians hanging out in Harrod’s, even though London is a diverse place.

But Mohamed was cool: He walked up to us and extended a warm greeting, asking how we liked the selection of foods. We exchanged pleasantries but not “Hello, Mate!”

Despite his age, my son remembered this whole experience. When he gets older, I’ll clue him in on the sad background of the clash between the Al-Fayed’s and the Royal Family.

The encounter was a reminder of how small the world can be, much removed from media hype. We might as well have been meeting Dave Painter, one of the owners of SPD in Nevada City.

I’ve never seen any Egyptians in Nevada City, though.

Al-Fayed has a blog now; it’s here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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