"They told everybody to stop and put their hands up and asked if there were any British or Americans," said Alex Chamberlain, a British businessman. "My friend said to me, 'Don't be a hero, don't say you are British'. I am sure that is what this is all about. They were talking about British and Americans specifically."
With the possible exception of the "floating" Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur which was made famous by the James Bond film Octopussy, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel in Bombay is India's best-known and best-loved hotel.
For any serious foreign investor, businessman or wealthy tourist visiting India's commercial capital, "The Taj", as it is universally known by the cognoscenti, is always the first choice.
With best rooms in the superior old wing costing more than £250 per night - more than 250 millions Indians can expect to earn in a year - the hotel offers a world of secluded luxury, away from the grinding poverty and infrastructural decay of Mumbai.
Legend has it that its creator, a Parsi industrialist called Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, commissioned the building after being refused entry to the now-defunct Apollo Hotel, which had a strict Europeans-only policy.
However with its colonnades of shops stuffed with the world's most expensive brands, what Bombay's rich set consider the ultimate in cosmopolitan luxury, would equally be perceived by Islamist ideologues as a symbol of Western decadence.
Over the years guests have included The Queen, the former Egyptian president Gamal Abdul Nasser and the Beatle John Lennon, to name but a few of the notable personalities to have checked in to the magnificent old wing.
More recently the hotel hosted the guests for Bombay leg of Liz Hurley's two-week extravaganza of a wedding, with guests dashing straight from the front door to waiting motor launches to take them to the privacy of waiting super-yachts in the harbour beyond.
To have pictures of burning Taj Hotel broadcast around the world will have a deeper impact than even perhaps the terrorists intended, striking a blow against a symbol of Indian wealth and progress and sending shivers down the spine of some of the richest and most powerful people on the planet.