When we moved to our new house, my grandfather insisted on taking the responsibilty of gardening. When he had a stroke, a couple of years back, he suffered from memory loss and had difficulty speaking. The house’s gardening was a mess but the basil he planted have been well taken care off.
Every morning, before leaving for university, he’d have a batch ready for us to take. With every “No jadu (grandpa), shokran (thank you)”, he says “Keep them in the car, it will smell nice and take away your headache" or "Give it to your friends in school”.
Every Friday, my grandpa would grab an empty water bottle, fill it halfway through, and place the basil inside & place the bottle on the table. We'd wake up to the smell of mashmoom (basil), and then use it as an ingredient in our breakfast on Fridays (the only day we're all home for breakfast). We usually chop them on top of feta cheese & labneh, and other times grilled whilst smooching haloumi.
Basil reminds me of my mother. Ever since I was a kid she would rub them on my hand and put them in my pocket. Even now, when I am leaving home to go to the airport, she kisses my head and puts a bunch of mashmoom leaves in my pockets; sometimes even hiding them in my suitcase between my clothes. More than anything, basil reminds me of home.
For me, basil reminds me of christmas, that's when you get that sweet aromatic & enchanting Purple Basil. We always pick them during christmas and we add it to everything! Purple Basil in very sour yogurt is my favorite winter dish.
My grandmother used to put them in her hair. They smelled like family before I knew what they were. They were just always around. My grandmother loves them too much for them to not be. So when we moved to a new place that didn't have space for any plants she was upset. I think she made them get her potted ones. I think their presence comfort her.
One of the only flowers that grace our gardens so effortlessly. We love them because they're so generous. We used to pick them & put them in a bowl of cold water. The fragrance would permeate the air, calming and signaling summer.
It's the graveyard's flower. Families here (mostly on Thursdays) buy basil and spread them on their loved ones' graves.
Every time our basil plant overgrows in our garden, my father would ask the gardener to not throw away the cut pieces, so he's pick the basil blossoms out and distribute them around the house. He'd put a few in the cup holders of our cars too. We'd start faintly smelling like basil blossoms and sometimes we smell it even when there's none around. My father has a soft spot for them, I think they remind him of my late grandmother, his mother.
Reminds me of one person only, my grandfather (الله يرحمه). He used to always plant them and whenever we would go back to Abu Dhabi from Sharjah, he would always cut some off for me and tell me to put it in my pillow. I have this one memory of him singing me an old song him planting them and letting me help. He once gave me some for national day and mom woke me up early, did my hair while being half asleep, made two braids & tied some at the ends.
الله يرحمك و يغمد روحك الجنه
Because it's my name, I've always had a certain stigma with basil. Maybe because I'd like to think that they represent me as I see some of my feelings in that flower. As gracious as the strands would be, yet they stand tall and only look up towards the sky. Their aroma fills the air when you walk past them. They're subtle in color yet they grab your attention with their shades and texture. Despite al lot this, basil is a bitter plant. It's aroma might fool you into loving it but biting it will sting your tongue. Sweet smelling but bitter on the inside.
When we moved to the new house, I used to pass by it everyday back from school. I remember it looking quite ugly, sticking up like that, staring at me all the time, and slapping my nostrils with a whiff of perfume tangy depression. With time I got used to it really. In the garden of the house, it would be the first thing to welcome me back home, purple and bright, and just as soon as we became friends, the grown-ups of the house were fed of it and rooted it out. I guess it was only expressing itself, but…
I was walking down the street in Rome with one of my dearest friends and when we passed near a bar she stopped because out of it there were some plants of basil. She just wanted to take a leaf when the whole vase fell down. But at the end she was happy because she managed to have her leaf to smell.
One of my friends used to pick basil every morning from their garden and use them as bookmarks in my Quran so it'd smell pleasant while I memorize.
I had an uncle named Basil. I suppose I still have an uncle named Basil, it’s just I’ve never met him, and apart from the split second of time I spend thinking about him whenever I see a basil plant, he’s not really a part of my life.
I know basil is lovely in salads, but I have no idea what Basil is like or what he likes. I know basil is often used in drinks, like iced tea, but I don’t know how my uncle Basil lives. The little I know about him could be etched entirely onto the back of a single basil plant seed and I would still have room left over.