Middle East

Bride of Beirut: When joy turned into terror

Israa Al-Seblani’s video of her wedding being interrupted by last year’s massive Beirut port explosion went viral

Naim Berjaw   | 05.08.2021
Bride of Beirut: When joy turned into terror Lebanese doctor Esra Seblani and her husband Ahmed Sibayh who was caught Beirut explosion while taking their wedding photos in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut speak to media on the streets of Sayfi Neighborhood, where they were caught in the explosion, aftermath of the blast at the port of Lebanon's capital Beirut that took place on August 4, 2020, in Beirut, Lebanon on August 02, 2021. ( Houssam Shbaro - Anadolu Agency )

BEIRUT, Lebanon

When the catastrophic Beirut Port blast took place last year, a series of horrific scenes went viral on social media, and the wedding video of Esraa Al-Seblani's, who came to be known as the Bride of Beirut, was among those that topped the list.

On August 4, 2020, Al-Seblani, a medical doctor, was on course to tie knots with his fiancee Ahmed Sobeih who is a businessman.

Dressed in her white ball gown and posing for a couple of pictures in one of Beirut's most beautiful squares, the merry moments were suddenly disrupted by the Beirut Port explosion that sent shockwaves beyond the city.

In a blink of an eye, the joyous event dissipated, turning into a moment of panic and terror, one that was recorded by her cameraman Mahmoud Al-Naqeeb.

To many, the video summed up the dreadful impact of the blast that left at least 200 people dead and thousands injured besides massive material damage.

A year on, our Anadolu Agency crew visited the famous Beirut square that attracts new couples to meet Al-Seblani.

While a new couple nearby was having their best time posing for photos, Al-Seblani's memories of the scary moment she witnessed last year are still fresh.

Just about 1.5 km from the explosion site, the square was definitely not spared from the effects of the explosion, with the area it damaged estimated to have extended over 8km diameter and affected about 62,000 housing units and 20,000 commercial establishments.

"The day always accompanies me," Al-Seblani told Anadolu Agency. "It is a collective memory that will remain stuck in the minds of all citizens."

For her, the title Bride of Beirut sometimes bothers her because it reminds her of the "dark day" that flattened Beirut and which canceled her wedding.

A tragic sadness

Ahmed Sobeih shared his wife's feelings noting that Lebanon will never be the same.

"The entire Lebanese people will not forget that day," he said.

"Our wedding was supposed to be one of the happiest days in our lives, but it turned into a tragic mark of sadness for us and for all of Lebanon."

Sobeih feels that life in Lebanon has worsened after the explosion but expressed his faith in the country's ability to recover and for the people to stand steadfast for a better tomorrow.

The explosion has further deteriorated Lebanon's economic crisis, the worst in the Arab nation's modern history, leaving it on the verge of a financial collapse.

The country is suffering from an acute shortage of imported drugs, fuel, and high prices of food commodities amid a lack of foreign exchange in the country.

In light of these multi-faceted crises, the couple revealed to Anadolu Agency their plans of moving to the US or Canada once their paperwork is done in the hope of a better future.

They said they wished Beirut would rise again from its rubbles and reclaim its place as the bride of the Arab world.

To this day, life in Beirut has not returned to normal. The huge blast left hundreds of residential buildings, commercial establishments, heritage buildings, and a chain of wrecked infrastructure, costing the country billions of dollars in financial losses.

Most of those affected by the explosion complain about not being compensated by insurance companies, with the exception of small compensations, with the companies citing that the results of the official investigations into the cause of the explosion have not been released.

Besides, it left thousands unemployed, creating a general state of frustration among youth.

Meanwhile, environmental experts have warned that the blast caused high air pollution.

Lebanon is facing a political crisis as Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has not yet been successful in forming a new government.

Observers believe that the failure to form a government makes it difficult for Beirut to rise again and especially reconstruct its port since the government formation opens the door to foreign aid.


Bride of Beirut: When joy turned into terror

*Writing by Ibrahim Mukhtar in Ankara

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