Part III: The story of the forgotten Arab victims of the Titanic, told 100 years later


The 27-year-old Egyptian, Hammad Hassab, is the most famous among the Arab passengers of the ill-fated Titanic. He was also the only non-Lebanese.

Hassab is one of the victims for which several results appear when you run a search for him on the Internet. His fame is basically attributed to the fact that he accompanied a rich American man on board the Titanic.

This man bought Hassab a ticket for 76 sterling pounds, 14 shillings, and 7 pence, an amount that is now equivalent to $8,000 whereas Hassab’s annual income did not exceed 60 sterling pounds.

The name “Hassab” was written in the list of victims even though he wrote it “Hammad” on his identification card. Information about Hassab reveals that he worked as a tour guide and a translator aboard the ship and his identification card says “Dragoman.” Hassab used to earn 1.25 sterling pounds from the British travel company Thomas Hook and Sons and which had a branch in Cairo, specifically in the Shepherd Hotel.

The story of Hassab’s trip on the Titanic goes back to winter 1912 when an American millionaire called Henry Harper came to Cairo with his wife and stayed at the Shepherd Hotel in Downtown Cairo. Harper asked Thomas and Hook for a translator and he got Hassab.

When the trip was about to come to an end, Harper told Hassab that he was most welcome to come with them to the United States if he wanted. Harper agreed immediately to what seemed to have started as a joke then was later taken seriously.

Harper and Hassab first traveled to Paris where the former bought a dog that he named Sun Yat-sen after a Chinese revolutionary who became famous in 1911. Then they headed to the French port of Cherbourg where they boarded the Titanic on April 10, 1912 with the other Lebanese passengers.

Harper, his wife, and Hassab as well as the dog, all survived since they were quick to get on a life boat. The boat that embarked on was the third out of the total of 20 which was equipped. Harper and Hassab were not supposed to have access to a life boat that quickly since priority was given to women and children.

There are no pictures of Hassab or Harper’s wife available, either online or through other sources on the Titanic, whereas Harper himself had only one photo. There is a photo of a life boat that might have been the one they got on when the ship started sinking.

The life boat picture ─ taken by J.W. Parker, crew member of the boat Carpathia, which rescued the 706 passengers who survived the Titanic disaster ─ shows two men among many women. They are seated next to a woman holding a puppy. The dark man is believed to be Hassab and the woman is most likely Harper’s wife.

According to reports on the sinking of the Titanic, Mr. and Mrs. Harper and Hassab were having dinner when the ship hit the iceberg. Because they were first class passengers, a crew member asked them to head to their rooms, take their valuables, and put on a life jacket. They were then taken to a life boat.

The three of them hurried to their rooms, collected their most precious possessions and then headed towards the life boat. On their way, Harper remembered that he had forgotten his hat and wanted to go back and get it, but his wife prevented him from doing so.

The boat, which the three boarded, did not wait for more passengers and left at half its capacity. That is why the boat appears empty in the photograph even though it was designed to accommodate 60 people.

The director of the movie “Titanic,” James Cameron, sent in 2001 a robotic devise to the ship wreck to record findings. The robot entered Harper’s suite and took a picture of the hat that remained at its spot for 100 years.

Hassab is said to have left the United States to Cairo, where he resumed his work as a translator. In 1927, he sent a postcard to someone in the United which depicted a boat crossing the Nile. The envelope also included Hassab’s business card. That card was later displayed at the Brooklyn Museum and is considered one of Titanic’s paraphernalia.

Harper, who is said to have stopped wearing hats, married another woman at the age of 59 after the death of his wife in 1923. He fathered a child with her and then died in 1944 in New York leaving behind an unsolved mystery as to why he had invited a man he barely knew to travel with him and his wife to the United States.

The list of Lebanese passengers who were on board the Titanic is mostly taken from the “The Dream and then the Nightmare” by Syrian-American writer Laila Salloum Elias, who currently lives in Pennsylvania.

In addition to sinking with the ship, some Lebanese passengers died after surviving the tragedy like five-month-old Mariam Nakad who died on July 30, 1912 and the Lebanese girl Eugene Baakelini, who died on August 12 the same year.

The list of the 59 Lebanese passengers who died on the Titanic

From Kafr Mishki: Catherine Barbara (Barbar), Saeida Barbara (Barbar), Karam Yusuf Karam, Assad Hanna Rizk, Maria (Mariam) Elias Wahba- Mikhail Assaf Taama, Suleiman Khalil Attalah, From Mansour: Hanna al-Hajj, Assaf Yusuf Tamma al-Sikli, Elias Tanous Ibrahim Nasrallah, Elias Yusuf Shahine, Hanna Yusuf.

From Hardine: Zohair Badr Khalil, Matanyuos al-Hourani, Asaad Tanous, Antone Moussa Yazbak, Botrous Khalil Tanyous (Moussa), Hanna Elias Samaan (Abu Fadel al-Bayadia)- Boules Hanna Deeb, Bashir Tanous Bashir (Raad), Yusuf Grace, Samaan Assi, Botrous Samaan (Aassi)

From Tibneen: Masfi Nasr Almi, Amin Hussein Saad, Khalil Hussein Saad, Hassan Saad, Yusuf Ahmed Wazna, Rashid al-Hakk Abdul Hussein Bazzi, Tawfik Nakhle al-Khouri

From Beirut: Constantine al-Labki, Yusuf Hani (Ibrahim), Malaka Attalah, Ibrahim Mansour Meshaalani, Prince Fares Shehab, Graceal- Labki

From Saraal: Boules (Bakhus) Rafoul Bakhous, Catherine (Katrina) Rizk Botrous Yusus, Soaadou Hanna Nasr Rizk, Nour al-Ain Boules, Akar Boules, Sultana Rizk Boules

From Zagharta: Sarkis Lahoud Ishak Moaawad, Botrous Kaawi, Kaatous Botrous Kaadi, Hanna Mikhail al-Aam

From Tahoum: Tanous Daher, Girgis Yusuf Abi Saad, Hanna Tanous Moaawad Bu Shahine, Tanous Hanna Moaawad.

From Tripoli: Mohamed Badr, Elia Deebou
From Chanay: Hussein Mahmoud Hussein Abi al-Muna, Farid Qassim Hussein (Abdul Khalek)

Others: Nicola Khalil Nasrallah from Zahle, Asaad Hassan Tarfa from Bint Jbeil, Suleiman Abi Nader from Beksine, Daher Shadid Abi Shadeed from Abreen

List of the survivors

From Cairo: Hammad Hassab

From Hardine: Thamine Iskander Khouri Tanous Raad, Silana Iskanfer Abi Dagher Yazbak, Amina Mubarak, Girgis Mubarak, Halim Mubarak, Mubarak Hanna Suleiman Abi Aasi

From Tibneen: Hanna Yusuf Razi Darwish Taama, Marian Yusuf Darwish Taama, Girgis Yusuf Darwish Taama, Fatma Mohamed Muslimani

From Al-Shuwair: Adal Najuib Kiyama, Latifa al-Hajj Kurban al-Baakilini, Maria al-Baakilini, Eugene al-Baakilini, Helana Baakilini

From Zagharta: Hanna (Mama) Makhlouf, Mantoura Boules (Moussa)

From Kafr Delajous: Saeid Antoine Nakad, Wadeea Nakad, Mariam Nakad

From Al-Hakour: Jamila Nicola Yard, Elias Nicola Yard

From Al-Fakeeha: Sourou Murad, Mikhail Murad, Rahma Razouk

From Saraal: Mary (Nabiha) Botrous Yusuf, Michael (Shafik) Botrous Yusuf

Other areas:
Banoura Ayoub Daher from Kafr Ebeida, Nassif Qassim Abi al-Muna from Chanay, Adale Habib Nasrallah from Zahle, Fahim Rouhani al-Zoani from Toula, Reem Assaf, Zaad Khalil Khalil Assaf Nasrallah from Kafr Mishki, Shanina Gi8rgis Shahine Yusuf Wahba from Tahoum, Safia Halout (or Mariam Yusuf Ibrahim)

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)