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Qat, the passion of Yemen.

Qat plantation in Yemen
Qat plantation in Yemen.

 

Qat is a native tree to the Arabian Peninsula. It’s an amphetamine-like stimulant. Its fresh leaves and tops are chewed to achieve a state of euphoria and excitement.

In Yemen the custom of chewing qat dates back thousand of years and is the country’s basic form of socializing.

90% of men and 25% of women are estimated to chew the leaves, storing a lump in one cheek as the qat slowly breaks down into the saliva and enters the bloodstream. The custom is followed by men of all social ranks : religious leaders, officials, businessmen, doctors, workers, craftsmen. There are qat chewing gatherings at home in the Mafraj ( the special room situated at the top floor of each Yemeni house ). But, workers, shopkeepers, craftsmen chew qat while working.

Late morning, men buy the bunch of qat they will need for the day. By four in the afternoon most men are high, showing cheeks bulging with qat.

There are central markets in all cities. The farmers or wholesalers bring their qat there. Qat is wrapped in damp, thick materials to keep it fresh. During the sale, it is divided into small bunches and wrapped in plastic bags in various sizes according to the needs of the buyers. Each type of qat has its own special quality and price.

But negative facts about cultivation and effects on the population are raised :

  • it’s an expensive habit in a country which is the poorest country in the Arab World.
  • the widespread cultivation of qat has exacerbated a severe water shortage in the country. Most experts predict Sana’a will run out of economically viable water supplies by 2017.
  • its cultivation consumes much of the country’s agricultural resources. Once a vibrant farming economy, Yemen today imports up to 80% of its food needs.

In today’s Yemen war ravaged, the population at large ( including all Houthis rebels, soldiers and Al-Qaida  fighters ) is still chewing qat and the number of children using qat is increasing.

 

The images on this post have been taken in the Old City of Sana’a in 1992 and 1993.

 

Sources :

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/feb/26/yemen-qat-water-drought

http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1917685,00.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khat

 

 

Qat leaves
Qat leaves

 

Khat market 016-
Truck loaded with qat arriving at the market

 

Qat market in the Old City of Sana'a, Yemen
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, looking for the best merchant.

 

Qat market in the Old City of Sana'a.
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, checking quality.

 

Qat market in the Old City of Sana'a
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, the deal has been made.

 

Qat market in the Old City of Sana'a.
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, discussing price.

 

Kat market in the Old City of Sana'a.
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, the deals are not always easy.

 

Woman buying qat in the Old City of Sana'a.
Woman buying qat in the Old City of Sana’a.

 

Qat market in the Old City of Sana'a, heading home.
Qat market in the Old City of Sana’a, heading home.

 

Old City of Sana'a, man returning home with his bunch of qat.
Old City of Sana’a, man returning home with his bunch of qat.

 

Old City of Sana'a, man returning home with his bunch of qat and his donkeys.
Old City of Sana’a, man , qat and donkeys returning home.

 

Old City of Sana'a, small house in a back alley.
Old City of Sana’a, small house in a back alley, soon, time to chew.

 

Old City of Sana'a, money changer on the street chewing qat.
Old City of Sana’a, money changer on the street chewing qat.

 

Old City of Sana'a. Portrait of a man chewing qat.
Old City of Sana’a. Portrait of a man chewing qat.

 

Old City of Sana'a. The owner of a Jambiya shop, chews qat in the afternoon.
Old City of Sana’a. The owner of a shop selling Jambiyas chews qat in the afternoon. A jambiya is a short dagger worn by men in Yemen. It’s a status symbol and a sign of Yemeni manhood. Men wear the jambiya in a special thick belt around their waist.

 

 

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One thought on “Qat, the passion of Yemen.

  1. Maybe a different culture but people looking to ease their sort just as in the Occident. I wonder if there are less side effects than the soft drugs have here? A very deep study, it can’t have been easy to take such photos.

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