Love under lockdown: Lebanese couple defies pandemic to say 'I do'
Two months ago, Mira, 28, and Rudy Maalouf, 38, decided to get married. But as the situation in Lebanon rapidly deteriorated - with the country struggling with the coronavirus pandemic and a collapsing economy, the odds that the young couple would be able to tie the knot appeared more and more unlikely.
While Lebanon had begun relaxing confinement measures in late April, a spike in Covid-19 infections led the country to reimpose a far more stringent lockdown for four days last week. It was in these unprecedented circumstances that Mira and Rudy decided to get married on Sunday. "It’s not the right time, but… the fact is, the more we wait, the worse the situation becomes," Rudy told Middle East Eye. (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
Setting off from Beirut on Sunday afternoon, the couple and a small number of relatives decided to brave checkpoints on otherwise almost empty roads towards the village of Bkeftine, more than 80 kilometres north.
"I didn’t sleep for the whole night, I was so worried,” Mira said. “We were worried they wouldn't let us pass on the road, that they would not let us go."
"I was not anxious for the virus, but for the responsibility" of risking being apprehended and fined.
As of Tuesday, there were 954 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the small Mediterranean country, including 26 deaths. (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
Under the new lockdown measures, public roads were officially completely closed on Sunday. Army checkpoints across the country ensured that only designated exempt cases were allowed through. Weddings were not on the list.
As the wedding convoy approached a checkpoint - where photography is forbidden - Rudy prepared for the worst. "It’s a bridal convoy, so unless they are completely inhuman, they won’t stop us,” the groom said. “But in Lebanon you have to expect everything.” (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
While the couple had prepared for the worst, fortune smiled on Rudy and Mira that day. Armed soldiers waved the wedding party through with a smile and shouted out "mabrouk" - congratulations.
Mira was flooded with relief. "I was feeling 'oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!', I was going down under the seats, saying ‘hide me!’” the bride said of the moments before they crossed the checkpoint. “But they didn’t even ask!” (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
Finally, after over an hour on the road, the couple arrived at Bkeftine. In front of 18 guests, they held their wedding ceremony in Lady of Bkeftine, the 1,600-year-old Greek Orthodox monastery of their priest, who they consider to be their spiritual father. (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
Following the ceremony, Rudy and Mira were overjoyed and relieved that their risky gamble paid off. "We didn’t know until when we would have to postpone, because the situation is getting worse - only worse,” Mira said. “So we thought, what are we waiting for? Khalas (enough), let's go!"
In a country where uncertainty has long ruled the lives of its residents, the couple stands by their decision to go ahead with their big day in spite of the obstacles and risks. “It’s not something new for us,” Rudy said. “As a matter of fact, life in Lebanon is a gamble in itself.” (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
After the ceremony, the newlyweds and their relatives headed straight back to Beirut for a dinner with close family - cutting cake, drinking champagne and dancing during one of Lebanon's ubiquitous power cuts.
"We are so happy we got married and didn't postpone it despite all the circumstances," Rudy said from the couple's honeymoon in a Beirut hotel. "We had one of the most beautiful, intimate weddings."
Their married life might have started in wildly unusual circumstances, but the brand-new husband hopes they will keep the same just-do-it attitude throughout their life together. "We know each other so well, and hope we will always be living this way." (MEE/Elizabeth Fitt)
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.