Any Lebanese passengers in Second Class?


Arun Vajpey

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I am assisting a friend who is attempting to write a story that involves the Titanic disaster in the plot. One of the protagonists is a young Lebanese woman travelling with her infant son and two middle aged aunts in Second Class. They are scheduled to join the former's husband already settled in New York.

I like to be as close to known facts as possible and AFAIK, almost all Middle Eastern passengers on board the Titanic were in Third Class. But the plot of the story requires that the above passengers travel Second Class.

My question is, were there any Lebanese (or other Middle Eastern) passengers travelling Second Class on the Titanic?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Niqula Nasrallah (also known as Nicholas Nasser) was born in Zahle, Lebanon and was an established immigrant in the US by 1911, when he returned to Zahle to marry 13-year old Adele Hakim. Following a lengthy honeymoon, Niqula and Adele (who was by then pregnant) were on their way to New York on the Titanic. She survived, he died but his body was recovered and eventually buried in New York.
 
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Arun Vajpey

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Thanks for that Bob. At least there is some plausibility to the story then. This gist is as follows:

Mrs Layla X is a spirited 22 year-old Muslim Lebanese woman travelling on the Titanic with her 15-month old baby son to New York to join her husband who is already settled there in the local Middle Eastern community. Layla shares her second class cabin with a couple of very conservative middle aged "aunt" type relatives who are rather overwhelmed by the huge ship and diversity of other passengers and crew. Therefore the aunts spend most if their time in the safety of the cabin, venturing out for only meals etc. Layla on the other hand, rather spirited and independent by nature, likes to explore ares of the ship where she is allowed and meet some of her fellow passengers. With her aunts available to babysit, this is not a problem even though the forbidding older women are not too happy with this display of independent behaviour.

A bit of background about Layla's marriage to Mr X a few years earlier in their native Lebanon. As was common in those times, it was an arranged marriage to a distant cousin and although Layla was not happy with the idea, she had little chance to refuse given her circumstances. Her husband was all right but rather conservative and mundane by nature. There was no real love between them but when Mr X got the chance of moving to New York, Layla was thrilled, believing that this was her chance to move out of the stifling community life in Beirut. She was pregnant when her husband left for New York and it was decided that she would be joining him in about 18 months. During that time his letters and other information made Layla realise that living within the almost equally insular Lebanese community in New York would not be the kind of life that she had hoped for in America. Therefore, there was a certain amount of disillusionment as she sailed West.

On the Titanic, she meets another Second Class passenger, a young Danish engineer named Nils travelling alone to America for a job in Colorado. Both are fluent in French and during the course of the next 3 days a shipboard friendship develops between the two, each liking the other's nature and personality. Knowing that they would not approve, Layla tells nothing about Nils to her aunts but during the course of their conversations, talks about her life and situation to Nils.

After the collision and subsequent enquiries with the crew, Layla realises that the ship is in danger of sinking. She decides to follow a crew member's instructions to don a lifebelt and go up to the boat deck. Her terrified aunts absolutely refuse to budge out of the 'safety' of the cabin to go to the open decks so that in the end Layla has to go with the baby alone. On the starboard side of the deck she is met and helped by Nils and eventually they find themselves in the vicinity of Lifeboat #11. Layla boards while Nils is holding the baby for her then passes him to her. As he is about to step back onto the boat deck, a crew member, perhaps in the mistaken assumption that Nils was Layla's husband, waves him on board the lifeboat just as it is launched.

The arduous tragic night on the lifeboat, the death of her aunts and subsequent rescue on board the Carpathia while caring for her baby all the time is a huge strain on Layla. Nils is very helpful and supportive throughout and by the time they near New York, a strong bond develops between the two. The idea of being met by her husband in New York and later having to answer all the questions of the entire Lebanese community becomes intolerable to Layla. She therefore makes a decision and asks Nils to help her to disappear with the baby, promising that once she is settled somewhere, she will not burden him with the responsibility. Already half in love with Layla, Nils agrees and upon arrival in New York, Layla and Nils do a Kate Buss type disappearance into the crowd. Later she uses a false name to pretend to be Nils' French-Algerian wife, explaining that she bought a ticket just before the Titanic left Cherbourg. The two travel to Denver with the baby and eventually settle down there as a couple; the baby is renamed Ben and later the couple have 2 more children of their own.

Thus, Layla X and her baby are officially listed as Titanic victims for decades. Ben grows up believing that he and his mother are French Algerians and that she was a young widow when she met his stepfather Nils. The family have a long and happy life, but when Layla dies in 1985 at the ripe old age of 95 (Nils having passed on a few years earlier), their family lawyer presents a 74 year-old Ben with a sealed letter that his mother had secured with the legal firm decades earlier with instructions to be given to son after her death. In that letter Ben discovers the full truth about his mother and himself, including proof by the way of some old family papers that Layla had rescued from the ship and kept hidden.

It sort of goes from there.
 

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