With migrants only allowed one backpack each on the smugglers’ boats that carry them from Turkey to Greece, Ahmed, his wife Hanin and her family packed a few possessions and sent the rest of their belongings to friends, APA reports citing Reuters.
Then they waited.
It should have been the defining moment of a journey which began as Syria’s conflict escalated, forcing two Palestinian families to flee their homes in the suburbs of the capital Damascus.
Hanin and her family left in 2014, and Ahmed two years later for Turkey where they were introduced in the winter of 2017.
Living in different cities, they exchanged text messages for months before Ahmed took a 20-hour bus trip from Izmir - Turkey’s third largest city located on the Aegean Sea - to the border town of Kilis to meet her, which led to their engagement.
They were quickly swept up in a flurry of wedding preparations: searching for the perfect dress, struggling to wire money across Western Union offices, planning a two-night party. Their engagement party was in Kilis, right across the border from war-torn Syria.
More than 3.5 million Syrian refugees now live in Turkey as a result of a conflict that has raged since 2011. In 2015, more than 800,000 mainly Syrian and Afghan migrants took to the seas off Turkey to make the short but perilous trip to Greece.
The numbers fell dramatically the next year after a deal between the European Union and Turkey to stem the exodus.
Hanin’s younger brother Hamza was among those who left earlier, heading to Germany four years ago. The family yearns to stop communicating via patchy video calls and reunite in Europe.
“All the sorrow for my son is in my heart,” said Turki, Hamza and Hanin’s mother. She said her weak heart swelled on dreams of seeing her son again.