Three years ago, when she was 6, Shiloé Khokhar of West Islip took a cruise to Bermuda with her family and tossed a bottle overboard with a message inside – now it’s been found by a fisherman on a beach in Morocco.
Shiloé’s dad, Imtiaz, 54, medical director of hospitalists at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson, got an email from Ayoub Elbaz on May 21 saying his father, Hassan, had just discovered the bottle on Plage Blanche – or “white beach” – near the city of Guelmim in northern Africa. The 22-year-old college student sent a photo of his father, who doesn’t speak English, holding Shiloé’s letter, and the families have been messaging daily and hope to somehow meet in person.
“I waited and waited and then I gave up,” said Shiloé, now a 9-year-old third grader at Paul J. Bellew Elementary School in West Islip. "I think it's really cool because it actually took almost three years." Shiloé said she had to look at “a big map” in the family’s house to find Morocco. “I thought it would go to England because of the current of the ocean,” she said.
Shiloé’s dad said he thought it would go to the bottom of the sea. “I didn’t think it was really going to go anywhere,” Khokhar said. “I was just trying to make her happy.”
The Khokhars threw the glass bottle -- which Khokhar had corked and sealed with Krazy Glue and wax -- from the back of the Norwegian Cruise Line ship, which had departed from Boston, he said. They did it, Shiloé explained, because her dad had read her a children’s book about a message in a bottle. Together they penned a note dated Aug. 14, 2015 that introduced Shiloé and said, “I want to wish you a happy and health [sic] life.” Shiloé enclosed a crystal she had found in a cave in upstate New York. “It is my present to you,” she wrote. “Please email me…if you find my bottle.”
When Hassan Elbaz, 62, found the bottle on the sand, he broke it open to get to the paper, Ayoub Elbaz explained in a text message in French from Morocco. "My father doesn't know how to read," Ayoub said, and he speaks Arabic, so he brought the typed letter to Ayoub, who is studying French and speaks some English. "I read the contents," Ayoub said. "Honestly, I thought it was a lie. I asked myself how a girl age six could write a letter."
Ayoub decided to send an email anyway, and when he got a response from the elder Khokhar, he said he was suprised. He sent the Khokhars a photo of Hassan with Shiloé's letter. Said Shiloé’s mom, Wendy, a 54-year-old stay-at-home mom: “If someone was telling me this story, I’d be like, ‘Sure, sure,’ but it’s really true.”