Photos provided by Irida Mete
The polar vortex was in full swing Jan. 8, trying to thwart Troy resident Andrew Alayoubi at every turn.
Alayoubi, an Athens High School Class of 2003 grad, had made grand plans to propose marriage to the love of his life, Shelby Township resident Angela Shamoon, at the Belle Isle Conservatory in Detroit that day, her birthday.
The two had met at a four-day religious retreat at the Capuchin Retreat in Washington Township about a year and a half ago.
“We hit it off,” he said.
When it came to popping the question, he searched for a special place to propose.
“I thought someplace green would break up the cold,” he said.
He enlisted the help of Shamoon’s best friend, Sterling Heights resident Irida Mete, a freelance photographer, to capture his proposal on film. He had spoken to staff at the conservatory beforehand, but when Mete arrived there just after 2:30 p.m. on the big day, it was chained shut, likely due to the snow and cold.
So she phoned Alayoubi, and they made a quick change of venue, the Butterfly House at the Detroit Zoo. Alayoubi and Shamoon, who graduated from Sterling Heights High School in 2005, arrived at the zoo at about 3:45 p.m., just 15 minutes before it was set to close.
The problem was, Mete got stuck in the snow on Belle Isle.
“The roads were horrible. I was trying to park, and I got stuck in the snow,” she said. She got herself out of that, but she had a long drive to the zoo.
“The drive was kind of crazy,” she said. “There was a lot of traffic.”
Alayoubi ducked into a restroom at the zoo and phoned Shamoon’s sister Rachel, who enlisted the help of Detroit Zoo officials. The officials agreed to keep the zoo open for a few extra minutes to allow Mete to get there.
A zoo staffer at the Butterfly House helped Alayoubi pick the perfect spot for the proposal.
Mete said a zoo staff member spotted her when she arrived, asked if she was the photographer and escorted her through the locked gates. Another zoo staff member at the Butterfly House snuck Mete inside.
“It was beautiful,” Mete said. “Andrew spotted me. He moved out of the way. I could see it all happen, but I couldn’t hear anything.”
Shamoon explained that she and Alayoubi had a tradition of surprising each other on their birthdays with mystery dates.
“He’s an incredible planner and a wonderful listener,” she said. “The zoo is where he told me he loved me for the first time. When we pulled up, there was two feet of snow. I thought, ‘He’s trying to be romantic,’ and decided just to go with it. We both grew up going to the zoo. It was very special to us. But I was not expecting a proposal at the zoo. I was completely shocked.”
She said she knew Alayoubi was “the one” pretty quickly after they met.
“He’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
She said yes. The plan was to then head to Greek Town for dinner, but Shamoon asked if they could skip dinner and just go be with their families instead.
“He said, ‘Let’s just have a quick dinner,’” she said.
When they arrived at the Monroe St. Steakhouse, both of the couple’s families were there to celebrate the engagement.
“It was a beautiful dinner — a very emotional day, a very happy day,” Shamoon said.
“The zoo isn’t a small restaurant that can stay open for your accommodations, so I was very pleasantly surprised,” Alayoubi said. “We left the zoo, after all the help we were provided with and all the exceptions they gave, as well as being exceptional themselves, at 4:50 p.m. The Detroit Zoo allowed us to cherish our moment for almost an hour after they had closed. The zoo showed their heart, and I was proud of how hard it beat for us.”
They are planning a fall wedding.
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