BEIRUT: Some did it behind the archaeology building, others on the chemistry lab stairs, still others in the midst of a raging Civil War. They fell in love.
“Hisham proposed to me in 1995, right behind the Archaeology Department,” said Dina Katrib, an alumna of the American University of Beirut. In his proposal, her future husband said: “‘I love you, I want to marry you! Can you wait for me five years?’
“In 2000, we got married ... Beautiful and intense memories,” she added.
Dina and Hisham Katrib were just one of around 50 couples to attend a Valentine’s Day dinner over the weekend at AUB celebrating the many romances born at the university over the last half a century. Guests ranged from doctors, to local business leaders and even current students.
For some, like Pierre and Zeina Sfeir, the love simmered for years as students at the university.
“Friends during [undergraduate studies]. Best friends in medicine. Lovers in residency. Couple at graduation,” the pair said.
Other couples remembered defying the Civil War outside the campus’ walls by falling in love just the same.
“It was 1978 or 1979, the Civil War raging,” Nadim Khouri said about the couple’s AUB romance. The Khouris sent a picture of their university days to be put on display at the dinner. “The picture was taken with an automatic-timer shutter release ... and of course after an arduous session of studying.”
AUB, which has been around for over a century, has no doubt fostered countless love affairs and heartaches. For some of the couples at AUB’s Valentine’s dinner, the campus has remained an intrinsic part of their life.
For instance, Jacques and Arda Ekmekji met during a fall fashion show in Mary Dodge Hall on Nov. 19, 1969. The pair married three years later and recently celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. Now their daughter is also an AUB alumna from the class of 2004.
Organizers of the dinner transformed West Hall from its usual function as a student activity center into an exclusive place of romance and nostalgia, said Arabia Osseiran, director of alumni relations.
Flowers decorated tables, live music played and crimson lighting set the mood. Indeed, the live music began with opening words – or more accurately an opening song – by AUB President Peter Dorman and his wife Kathy. Music, he said, was what brought him and his wife together, and so they chose to celebrate their own love in song.
Couples indulged in an Italian four-course meal including steak filet and palate-cleansing sorbets.
Eight lucky students attended the fancy event as winners of the AUB love story competition.
Dorman invited the student body to tweet him their own young love story in just 140 characters.
Osseiran said the university received around 15 responses.
One tweet described in brief how Rawan Dghein and her boyfriend met at an event function to which she’d arrived too late for the food. “I had an exam, and I arrived late and hungry, so he took me aside and gave me from the food they had aside. I thought it was really sweet, and so we kept talking through the entire evening. Now we organize events together.”
The live music also set the tone for a night of waltz, tango and other ballroom dances. Others in attendance celebrated their love by snapping silly pictures or catching up with old friends.
All were given ample opportunity to reminisce about the exciting young beginnings of their love – for some still just as full of excitement after decades of marriage.
“I met an attractive girl coming out of the registration office,” wrote Victor Soussou. “But that girl didn’t need his help so she kept running away from him and he kept following her for two years – honestly for another 42 years till today.”