[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 2 March 2006, 15:18 GMT
Couple remember wedding bombing
By Jo Meek
Producer, The Wedding Party

Bride and groom, Nadia al-Alami and Ashraf Da'as al-Akhra
The couple say the attack has strengthened their marriage

On 9 November 2005, two Iraqi suicide bombers entered a hotel in Amman and attacked the wedding of a young Jordanian couple, killing 27 guests.

In a BBC Radio 4 documentary, Nadia al-Alami and Ashraf al-Akhra talk about the traumatic events of that night and how their marriage has since found strength in adversity.

The music, singing and dancing were hard to miss in the lobby of the Radisson SAS hotel on the evening of 9 November 2005.

Bride Nadia al-Alami and her groom Ashraf al-Akhra were enjoying every minute of the Zeffa, the traditional Arab procession of dancers and musicians leading the way for their wedding party into the heart of the celebrations.

"I remember seeing my mum and dad clapping and laughing and smiling. It was wonderful," says Nadia.

"The music ended and I remember looking behind me and seeing my sister fixing my dress, then I felt the hotel shake. I saw my father with his hands clasped to his heart, his eyes rolling. Then Ashraf covered me with his body."

Attack 'waiting to happen'

As the couple prepared to enter the room where the party was being held, two suicide bombers - ironically husband and wife themselves - were already there.

Everything was white at our wedding, but it all turned red because of the blood
Ashraf al-Akhra
Seconds later, the male bomber detonated his explosive belt packed with deadly ball bearings. Ashraf immediately saw the dead and injured.

"I could see my father-in-law had died. I went to my father, he was near the door, my mum was there screaming and calling for help. He was already dead, I saw his brain outside his head.

"I went inside and saw a lot of bodies on the floor, it was a big mess, everything was white at our wedding, but it all turned red because of the blood."

A police officer stands by the shattered front of the Hyatt hotel
Three hotels were targeted in the attacks in the Jordanian capital
Sixty people were killed that night in bombs at three American-owned hotels.

Ashraf lost 16 relatives, among them his father.

Nadia lost eight members of her family including both her father and later her mother, who died of terrible injuries.

In all, 27 people at their wedding were killed. Some said it was an attack waiting to happen.

But no-one could have predicted that husband and wife suicide bombers would target a wedding, especially one attended by so many Muslims.

Four months on

In their bright new flat in a middle class suburb of Amman, conspicuously bare because of the lack of wedding gifts, Ashraf and Nadia reflect on their wedding day and how they have coped in the four months after it.

The couple are both calm as they recall the evening of their wedding party.

It is only when Nadia turns to look at a photo which takes pride of place on the sideboard that her emotions show.

Tears welling in her eyes, she describes the perfect family moment, a beaming bride and proud parents, captured just minutes before the explosion.

"This picture shows my whole family, maybe God wanted us to have this picture taken together. My Dad was so happy, you can see that in his eyes."

Modern times

Nadia and Ashraf are like many modern Jordanian couples - they both work, they wear Western dress and speak almost flawless English. And their relationship began in an equally modern way.

Nadia al-Alami and Ashraf Da'as al-Akhra with their fathers
Their faith has helped the couple to cope with the events of their day

Three years ago, when Ashraf was working as a medical supplies salesman, he caught his first glimpse of Nadia whilst she was still a student working in a hospital in Amman. He knew he had to approach her.

"I spoke to her a few times then asked her to go for a coffee. I told her I was 30 and looking for a girl to marry. I gave her my business card and asked her to think about it and give me a call. It was love at first sight. I wanted to marry her because of her confidence."

The video taken on their wedding day is still with the Jordanian authorities, regarded as evidence in the criminal investigation.

Nadia and Ashraf want it back, to see their last moments with family and friends. But they still have, and treasure, their engagement video.

They sit down to watch the day when they signed their marriage contract in front of many of the same people who would be at their wedding party eight months later.

The video starts like many others, a couple slow dancing to a Shania Twain ballad, both faces radiating huge smiles.

The couple still seem excited to be watching such a momentous moment in both of their lives.

But instead of the usual comments about who wore what or which family members didn't get along, the poignancy of this film is apparent as both start pointing out who did - and did not - survive their wedding day.

Nadia and Ashraf are both from Muslim families, both with Palestinian roots.

Before the wedding, they didn't attend a mosque regularly. Now they both say their faith has been strengthened.

If I wanted to be angry I'd do the same as them, but we want to live in peace
Ashraf al-Akhra

What happened, they believe, is down to destiny.

"That night I did not think I could go on again with my life," says Nadia. "We could not understand the amount of damage caused. All these people came to share our happiness and they were killed. From the faith in God we were able to move on."

Neither say they feel any anger towards the bombers who destroyed their wedding day and killed 27 of the people closest to them.

"Even if we are angry, what are we going to do? Can you tell me where I can find the al-Qaeda people?" says Ashraf.

"They are the enemy of humanity, they're playing the role of God and that is totally wrong. They should go back to our holy book and read it again so they can understand Islam. They are not real Islam," he adds.

"These people want us to go back to the dark ages. If I wanted to be angry I'd do the same as them, but we want to live in peace," he says.

The opportunity to move on with their lives in peace, without the sad recognition that their faces bring wherever they go in Amman, is all the couple want.

Nadia says that her married life started so tragically, but that things can only get better.

"I will have good days, I will have bad days. But I have married a wonderful person, I love him and he loves me.

"We will have a small family and I will try to be a better person. I think I will have a good life, I didn't get a chance to have my wedding, so I will work hard to make this a good life."

It's My Story: The Wedding Party will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 2nd March at 20.00 GMT or afterwards at the Listen again page.



Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific