Via Basel: A Friendship Born in Baghdad

Basel & Emil 70 th Tetons IP

Friendship, that purest of relationships, unburdened by family bonds, sense of duty or passion of the flesh, is truly a gift. It has nourished and comforted me over the years. It has been a companion in my joys and laughter as well as in grief and the shedding of tears. It has soothed my soul and sharpened my senses. That it has lasted so long and kept on giving is truly a blessing.

To Emil: A poem celebrating your 70th Birthday

A Friendship Born in Baghdad

Two young boys playing games
in the streets and alleys of Battaween,
their neighborhood in Baghdad.
Actually, it all started long before
in their ancient ancestral city, Mosul,
where their fathers, also childhood friends, grew up.
Sons continuing the sacred bonds to the next generation,
at separate schools in their teenage years
before coming together again in medical school,
professors stretching their minds,
girls breaking their hearts.
A stint in the Iraqi Army in Jordan—
both were preparing for a war that wasn’t.
Westward bound to the U.K., first one, then the other.
Education, fun, excitement, and women.
One finds the love of his life, the other keeps searching.

The journey continues across the Atlantic,
both settling finally in Chicago , orthopedic surgeon and urologist.
Families started, children raised, and along the way,
as they weather the fluctuations that life presents,
that bond of friendship matures and strengthens,
and those boys turn into the men we are now,
still hiking together—in glorious Yellowstone in 2006,
Glacier National Park in 2008, celebrating your birthday
on the Road to the Sun.
With gratitude for memories over many decades
as we come closer to the end of our journeys,
it has been my pleasure and honor
to accompany you,
my friend.



Basel for EILBasel Al-Aswad, father of EIL founder Chris Al-Aswad, is a yogi trapped in an Orthopedic Surgeon’s body. His loves in life include reading, hiking, enjoying nature, meditation, and spending time with his large Iraqi family. And, of course, friendship.


  • Tiana

    Great Poem Basel to dear & special friend! Very Faithful to all always! May GOD bless you with health and happiness always and keep you for all of us. Keep writing, you are doing great!!

  • Joe Kilikevice

    Basel, beautiful story with equally beautiful photos! Friendship between two men, began in childhood and continuing as you both matured is a blessings to you and to a world that struggles with how to do what you have done. Thank hyo of the inspiration.