A story about Numi Al-Basrah, and all the memories it brings to me. Numi al Basrah is a drink that has an acquired taste.
Finally, a day off. You wake up late, you feel lazy, but the groceries won’t do itself. You head to the Supermarket on the way there you realize that you forgot to check if you still have milk.
While walking between the isles, you hear a distinctive accent. You look to the front, two ladies, and they have a heavy Iraqi accent. You try to ignore it, but you can’t, you find yourself staring at them with a smile on your face. Wait, is that a tear. Your heart softened, the smile is still there, and some tears start to fall.
Amman 2003. Just another evening, we are gathered around the TV with Mum. Dad is at work and while we are waiting for him, we go through the channels. Mother hushed you, the Iraqi prime minister is on TV. Baghdad is free. Goosebumps. Baghdad is free from the invaders. We start to cheer; the nightmare is over. All the channels showing people cheering, everyone is happy. The war is over. Mom asks if she should do some dessert to celebrate.
Back in the supermarket. Where did that come from? You have never been to Iraq, don’t even have any Iraqi relatives. Why can’t you stop staring, and why can’t these ladies just move ahead why do they need to discuss the whole recipe of the dish they want to cook over there. But you are still there, and you feel like crying. You realize how much you have missed home and the warmth there.
Syria Summer 1998. You and your cousins are running around the house. It is the football world cup, and every single evening there is a fight or an argument happening over either who will win the World-cup or what to watch on the television. As always, every evening the fights won’t stop till it is time for dinner. A huge table, your uncle just sent the drivers with dinner. You can’t make up your mind there are at least 10 different items on the table. You are at the balcony; your grandmother is in her corner with a rosary in her hand. Every 2-3 cousins are in a corner discussing some nonsense story forgetting that a few minutes back they were pulling each other’s hair because one said that Zidan plays better than Ronaldo.
Dinner is over but it is time for dessert. 12 young grandchildren run down the 12-floor building chasing each other to the ice cream shop. You were always the shy one, you hide behind your sister and barely dares to say what you want in the shop. Your cousin bullies you and then your sister yells back at him. 12 kids run back to the building making their best to reach before the ice cream melts.
Mum asks for her “tax” on the ice cream. Wait! But you said you didn’t want any, can’t you let me enjoy mine alone. Soon it is time to brush the teeth and sleep. You wait till all the adults are asleep, everyone wants to sneak out to play and chat. You didn’t even turn 8 yet, you fake your sleep next to your mother, promising yourself that tonight you will join everyone with the nightly gathering.
Before you can even notice you are in deep sleep. The next day you wake up to hear stories of how all the cousins had an unforgettable night, they even made french fries on their own. They peeled, cut and fried the potato. You feel sad that -again- you missed a great night that everyone enjoyed. You promise yourself that tonight will be different, tonight your mum can’t trick you to sleep. But that never happens cause for tonight and every other night that summer you will fall asleep and miss the gatherings.
The next morning, Salma (grandmother) wants to make mulberry juice and a lady came to help her. Your mother and aunts are in the kitchen they are helping in the process. Every single person is engaged in the process. You still remember the kitchen and the view it had. You could swear that it had the best view in all Damascus. After all the juice-making process is over, the house is deep cleaned.
The house smells like Gardenia; the smell is everywhere but we don’t have a tree. Later on, in life in and before Salma passes away she tells you her secret that she has always had a concentrated perfume of Gardenia and she would spray all the decorative flowers with it, the perfume brought these plastic flowers to live. Years later, you buy a Gardenia tree and you name it Salma, it still blossoms every summer spreading the smell everywhere.
Back to your senses
You are in the supermarket; the ladies are long gone but you are still there and now you try to avoid eye-contact with people because you are crying. Too many memories in one day! You try to figure out the connection. How did a simple accent awaken such memories? You feel more homesick, you wish you can call in sick tomorrow and take the first flight home. You wonder if you should even quit your job. What is this life for if not spent with your loved ones? you ask yourself. But with going home what would you achieve? There is always a price that must be paid for everything. You remember all the Iraqi songs your dad used to listen to.
You are still crying but you must be realistic, you can’t just fly home. Wiping your tears, you look around and realize that you are in the spice section. You look around and find the dried lime there. You remember the Juice that your Iraqi neighbor used to make. It is been a while since you have made it. “Numi Al Basrah” which means dried lime from Basrah city. Instead of booking a ticket to go home you buy a kilo of the lime, you rush home to start brewing it, cause a sip of it will for sure evoke more memories.
Let’s brew these limes…
Break the lime, by mortar or if it was a bit soft with the knife. Remove as many seeds as you can, these would add a bitter taste to the juice. Place the lime in a bowl and cover with a liter of boiling water. Cover and place in the chiller to brew overnight.
Next day, mix in 250 grams simple sugar syrup 1/1. Add 650 ml of cold water. Best served with ice, or very chilled.
Variation: For a variation for a cup add in 125 ml of Ginger ale and 250 ml of Lime Juice.
Numi Al-Basrah “Dried Lime Juice”
Brew One night before
- 150 Gram Dried Lime White
- 1 Liter Water Boiling
- 650 Ml Water Cold
- 250 Grams Sugar syrup Simple 1/1
- Ginger Ale
Brewing one night before
- Break the lime, by mortar or if it was a bit soft with the knife.
- Remove as many seeds as you can, these would add a bitter taste to the juice.
- Place the lime in a bowl and cover with a litter of boiling water.
- Cover and place in the chiller to brew overnight.
- Next day add mix in 250 grams simple sugar syrup.
- Add 650 ml of cold water.
- Best served with ice, or very chilled.
- For Variation and as the Juice could have a strong taste, Mix 125ml Ginger Ale with 250 Ml Juice.