Dodi Al Fayed: What to Know About Princess Diana’s Boyfriend

Princess Diana's boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed, lost his life in the same tragic car accident that took hers.

On August 31, 1997, the world was stunned by Princess Diana’s tragic death in a Parisian car crash. However, the unexpected loss of the Princess of Wales wasn’t the only grim event stemming from that fateful night. Although billions of people tuned in to Princess Diana’s funeral, hers was actually one of three untimely deaths, including the driver of the car, Henri Paul, and Diana’s boyfriend, Dodi Al Fayed. In fact, only one person survived the fatal car accident: Dodi Al Fayed’s bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones.

Although Fayed is now forever associated with Diana, he actually led a fascinating life on its own merits long before he met the iconic Princess of Wales. Here, everything you need to know about Dodi Al Fayed.

Dodi Al Fayed’s childhood

Born as Emad El-Din Mohamed Abdel Mena’em Fayed in 1955 in Alexandria, Egypt, Fayed was the eldest of Egyptian billionaire Mohamed al-Fayed’s five children. His siblings include restaurateur and socialite Camilla Fayed and businessman Omar Fayed. Fayed’s father Mohamed was the owner of Harrods, an upscale department store in London’s Knightsbridge neighborhood, the Ritz Hotel in Paris, and England’s Fulham football club. Through his mother Samira Khashoggi, he was related to both infamous arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi—his uncle—and slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—his first cousin.

Dodi’s childhood was glamorous from the outside: full of private jets, homes around the world, drivers, bodyguards, and staff. However, he was sent away to school from a young age, including to Switzerland’s prestigious Le Rosey boarding school, and English’s Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. Incidentally, Diana’s sons Prince William and Prince Harry both attended Sandhurst years later.

Dodi the film producer

The summer before Dodi and Diana died, they were photographed on Fayed’s yacht all over the Mediterranean, with paparazzi swarming every time they appeared together. But before he graced magazine covers as Princess Diana’s new boyfriend, Fayed was known as a film producer and playboy, with a £400,000 monthly allowance from his father.

Dodi was known for racing fast cars and living the high life. He was a minor player in Hollywood and produced movies including Chariots of Fire, which won a Best Picture Oscar. Fayed lavished gifts on women he dated: trinkets from Bulgari, private jets, trips to Gstaad and St. Tropez. It’s no wonder that his list of famous girlfriends is a mile long, with Fayed rumored to have dated women including Brooke Shields, Julia Roberts, Winona Ryder, Daryl Hannah, and Tina Sinatra.

Brooke Shields and Dodi Al FayedJames Andanson/Getty Images

Before he met Diana, Fayed was married to model Suzanne Gregard for eight months in the late 1980s, and he was later engaged to American model Kelly Fisher. Just a couple of weeks before Dodi Al Fayed’s death, Fisher retained famed lawyer Gloria Allred for a tearful press conference where she claimed Fayed dumped her via telephone two days before their wedding. The reason for the last-minute breakup? Fayed’s fast and furious relationship with none other than the world’s most famous woman: Princess Diana.

RELATED: Princess Diana’s Most Memorable Moments in Photos

Princess Diana and Dodi’s Love Story

Reportedly, Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed met for the first time years before they dated, but it wasn’t until Dodi’s father Mohamed invited Diana to visit his villa in St. Tropez in 1997 with then 15-year-old Prince William and then 12-year-old Prince Harry in tow that she got to know Dodi.

Following her divorce from Prince Charles, Princess Diana had dated Hasnat Khan, a Pakistani heart surgeon later claimed by close friends to have been the love of her life. Upset from her breakup with Khan and not invited to summer at Balmoral with her sons and the rest of the royal family, Diana allowed herself to be caught up in the lavish al Fayed whirlwind, accepting gifts from Dodi such as tropical fruits, a roomful of roses, and a Cartier watch and spending an increasing amount of time that summer on his mega-yacht Jonikal.

Dodi was known by friends to be gentle and kind, but he also yearned for fame and his father’s elusive approval. One friend, Jack Martin, even claims Dodi repeatedly said to him over the years, “When am I going to meet a woman so famous she will get my face on the cover of People magazine?” The answer—to both Mohamed’s approval and international fame—lay in the Princess of Wales.

That fateful night in Paris

After Princess Diana and Dodi al Fayed’s fast-paced and glamorous courtship, it was only natural that Fayed would take Diana to the Ritz Paris—after all, his father Mohamed owned it. According to friends, Diana was simply enjoying a summer of fun with Dodi and didn’t plan to continue dating him for long; for Fayed, however, the relationship represented something more promising and more serious. That night, he reportedly planned to propose to Princess Diana and even had a diamond ring waiting for them in Paris.

Would Diana have accepted? It’s impossible to know, although Richard Kay, a royal reporter who Diana called in the hours before her death, has an inkling. Kay later interviewed Diana’s private secretary, who thought Diana would have soon called it off. “It’s very much a personal view,” she is reported to have said, “but I don’t think she would have seen Dodi again once she got back.”

Sadly, the world will never know. After leaving the Ritz Paris in the early morning hours of August 31, 1997, Diana and Dodi were chased by paparazzi into the Pont de l’Alma tunnel—and the rest is tragic indelible history.

RELATED: These Were the Four Words Princess Diana Said Before She Died

Dodi Al Fayed’s legacy

Following the devastating deaths of Diana and Dodi, Princess Diana’s funeral was televised and watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people around the world. By contrast, Fayed’s funeral was a much more low-key affair, taking place at Regent’s Park Mosque in London and with Fayed buried in Woking at a Muslim cemetery. Eventually, however, Dodi’s body was exhumed with permission from Britain’s Home Office and moved to the Al Fayed countryside compound in Oxted, Surrey.

shrine to Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed is an attraction at Harrods department store in London, England.Robert Alexander/Getty Images

A shrine to Diana and Dodi was erected in Harrods department store after their deaths, with fans flocking to pay their respects. Later, Mohamed commissioned a bronze statue of the ill-fated lovers unveiled in 2005, called Innocent Victims, depicting the two dancing underneath a dove.

Mohamed Al Fayed sold Harrods to the Qatari Royal family in 2010. After a Kensington Palace memorial to Princess Diana was announced in 2018 (an original statue of the late-princess is slated to be unveiled on July 1 of this year), Harrods took down the statue and returned it to the Fayed family. The statue is currently under the care of Dodi’s father, Mohamed, who is still alive and in his 90s—more than 30 years after the tragic loss of his son.

Nadine Jolie Courtney
Nadine Jolie Courtney is a Virtuoso travel advisor and regular contributor to Reader's Digest, covering travel, culture, and health. A former magazine editor based in Santa Monica, she also covers lifestyle and parenting, with regular outlets including The Healthy, Oprah Mag, Town & Country, Business Insider, and many other publications. Courtney is the author of four books, including ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM GIRL, a Kirkus Best Book of 2019. Follow her on Instagram @nadinejoliecourtney