How one Iraqi cafe owner in London is keeping Diana’s legacy alive 20 years on

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‘Cafe Diana’ is bestowed with a namesake who was once one of the most famous women in the world. (AN photo)
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The Iraq-born entrepreneur and owner of ' Diana Cafe' Abdul Basit. (AN photo)
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Updated 03 September 2017
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How one Iraqi cafe owner in London is keeping Diana’s legacy alive 20 years on

LONDON: On a balmy September afternoon, one boutique cafe on the fringes of London’s Hyde Park is doing a brisker trade than most. After all, ‘Cafe Diana’ is bestowed with a namesake who was once one of the most famous women in the world.
The iconic princess, who died 20 years ago last month, lived just a stone’s throw from the eatery, so owner Abdul Basit decided to name his cafe after her. “I was stuck for a name and then someone told me she lived just across the road in Kensington Palace,” he says, “then I had the idea — ‘Cafe Diana.”
The Iraq-born entrepreneur, who opened Cafe Diana in 1989, says he was surprised when he saw the princess at the gate opposite his cafe two weeks later. But he was even more surprised when HRH Diana popped in to say ‘hello’, ordered a cappuccino, and casually introduced him to her two boys, the young kings-in-waiting William and Harry. “She was beautiful, so gracious and had such a presence,” says Basit, “I was very fond of her.”

 

In the coming years, the unlikely pair developed a friendship and the princess would visit ‘Cafe Diana’once a week, says Basit. “She was very happy that I named the cafe after her. She was a good person, very unique and she had a personality full of love and beauty.
“Most importantly, you feel like she is genuine; when she spoke to you, you could see that she was genuine and true.” Notably, Basit wavers between the present and past tense, as if he can’t quite believe she’s gone.

 

On 31 August 1997, the world mourned the untimely death of the fondly-named “People’s Princess” and millions of visitors flocked to Kensington Gardens to offer their condolences. Twenty years on, there has been similar, if less frenzied, visits from all over the the world as loyal Diana fans visit the princess’s former home to pay their respects two decades on.
Patrons that visit Cafe Diana today are surrounded by nostalgic pictures of the princess with Harry and William as children as they tuck into their Diana salads or Diana burgers. However, it was not until she passed away that the walls started to fill up with Diana memorabilia and cafe began to fill up with yet more customers.

 

Basit says, “We always had visitors who came to the cafe because of Diana, even when she was alive but we kept it quiet because she didn’t like the publicity.
“I counted her as a friend and a neighbor as well as customer. But since she passed away, I now see it as my duty to help continue her legacy.
“Since she died, I have put up more photos and memorabilia. People send me photos of her and also I have all the letters she sent me.”
Basit says that he has since sent Diana’s son Prince William a congratulatory note on his marriage to Kate. “And I received a reply,” he says with smile.
The cafe owner says he has experienced a lot of interest from the press, particularly in the last week. “But I’m not interested in that,” he says. “I’m interested in remembering Princess Diana. People always smile when they realize that she lived across the road and they light up when I tell the story.

 

“This anniversary brings back a lot of sad memories but people have remembered her in a nice way and appreciated her hard work and all the charity work she was doing. It’s a been a good period of respect for her.”
Basit says he plans to expand the Cafe Diana concept and possibly “create a chain” in the UK and globally.
“I have plans for more cafes. I want to do two things: I want to keep her legacy and at the same time build a business. If I do decide to open more cafes, ‘Cafe Diana’ could be the best name I ever choose,” he says.


Ethiopia’s capital to ban motorbikes in bid to curb crime spree

Updated 19 June 2019
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Ethiopia’s capital to ban motorbikes in bid to curb crime spree

  • Addis Ababa Mayor Takele Uma said motorbikes had been used in recent crimes and the city would prohibit them from July 7
  • Takele Uma said the Addis Ababa municipal administration will also impose a ban on trips by most freight vehicles in the city during daytime

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa plans to ban motorcycles in the city from July in a bid to curb a spree of muggings and robberies, local authorities said on Wednesday.
Addis Ababa Mayor Takele Uma said motorbikes had been used in recent crimes and the city would prohibit them from July 7 though people using bikes for business may be exempt.
“Exceptions will be made to those conducting licensed businesses with motorcycles as well as those who use motorcycles as postal carriers and motorcycles affiliated to embassies,” the mayor told journalists.
Addis Ababa, a city of an estimated five million, is generally considered safe for residents and foreigners. But a growing number of violent crimes involving suspects on motorbikes or in cars has caused alarm.
The mayor said the proposed ban came after a study of criminal activities in the city found a significant number were carried out using motorcycles.
Takele said the Addis Ababa municipal administration will also impose a ban on trips by most freight vehicles in the city during daytime to alleviate traffic congestion in the capital.