Like most journalists, I have a very romantic relationship with my cell phone; at the peep of dawn, it is the first thing I gladly stare at. This love never felt so right as yesterday marked the day I landed my first exclusive scoop regarding the Egypt Air hijacked flight. I guess loyalty and commitment pays off after all!
With one eye still shut, fighting the weight of my heavy lids, I unlock my phone to come across a breaking news notification “EgyptAir flight hijacked’’ and there you have it, lethargy gone - I am up, wide awake, and scrolling through my social media accounts scouting for more information. I registered the following key words from the news headline ‘‘Egypt” and “Larnaca,” which triggered a gut feeling that, as an Egyptian journalist, I would be able to encounter a relevant source connected to the incident in one way or the other.
After sifting through one generic Facebook status after the next, I finally find one that read in Arabic ‘’Thank God you have made it safe and sound my sweetheart Farah’’ posted by a Facebook user who was out of reach at the time. After a lack of response on Facebook and unfinished small talk with hesitant individuals who knew her, I was stirred by the feeling of urgency, determined to make Al Arabiya News Channel the first broadcaster to contact a passenger on the hijacked plane.
Then, mission accomplished! Finally, I managed to speak to the people that would soon lead me to Farrah El Dibbany, a passenger on the EgyptAir flight that was hijacked by a man by who – as it turns out – was wearing a fake suicide vest.
Farrah El Dibbany is an Alexandrian opera singer currently undergoing a master’s degree in Germany.
I initially tried to reach Farrah on her German number with no luck. I then spoke to her on WhatsApp introducing myself as a friend of her relatives, and later as an Al Arabiya member of staff. She had seen the message but it took her a while to respond. This is when I decided to give her relatives a call (I requested their numbers too) asking them about the last time they contacted Farrah. Minutes after the call, they were comfortable enough to share her Egyptian number with me instead.
I was concerned about Farrah’s well-being so before transferring the phone call to a live interview on air, I decided to personally speak to her first and make sure that she is okay and willing to speak about her experience to the media. Farrah had a slight pant in her voice. It could have been adrenaline rush, as well as fear, but she spoke confidently regardless and managed to talk me through her experience! We had to cut our conversation short as her phone battery was dying. I transferred her to Al Arabiya’s Interview Desk and soon Farrah was with us in a live phone interview from Larnaca just hours after the incident.
Farrah said she was on the flight from Alexandria to Cairo when she noticed it was taking longer than usual. Shortly after, she was informed that her plane was hijacked. “The cabin crew informed us individually, there was no official announcement,’’ Farrah explained.
Dibbany praised the calm attitude maintained by the cabin crew. Her full interview can be viewed below.
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