Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind
Tennyson: The Lotos Eaters
I PASSED the hours listening to the gentle lubalub of the hookah and whispered conversations about
dead poets and fine deeds. In Sana'a, qat governs. Each day at three, climbing the steps
to a smoky room with a bundle under the arm; then closing the door to the outside world,
choosing the leaves, gently crushing them with the teeth and waiting for the drug to take
effect. No rush, just a silky transition, scarcely noticed, and then the room casts loose
its moorings. "Capturing moments of eternity," someone once called the subtle
tinkering with time that qat effects.
After two years I no longer knew if life was good because
of Yemen or because of qat.
Eating the Flowers of Paradise
WE CLIMBED a small, ribbed peak. Hamud pointed down. We were on the lip of a sheer face of rock. Wadi
Darr - the Fertile Valley - was nearly a thousand feet below us, a great stretch of vivid
green with a steep little city of stucco towers at its head.
Here is grown the best qat in Yemen.
It was an intricate patchwork of smallholdings and
irrigation ditches. I had not seen anything like so much green since I had left England.
To the Arabs of the desert Wadi Darr must have represented everything that their Arabia
lacked. Darr means copiously flowing, productive, rich, lucrative, profitable. So
And all that is just qat?
The farmers grow some little corn. Enough for them
and for their families. Otherwise it is qat.
Isnt that a terrible waste of land?
What means waste? The qat is the very
best in the whole of Yemen.
Arabia Through the Looking Glass
CHEWERS recognise a huge variety of types and are fascinated by its origin: when one buys qat one
first establishes its pedigree. Quality is judged by region, by the district within a
region, even by the field where the individual tree is grown and by the position of the
leaf on it. Qat can be any colour from lettuce-green to bruise-purple. It comes long or
short, bound into bundles or loose, packed in plastic, alfalfa or banana leaves. In
Sanaa, as a rule of thumb, the longer the branch, the more prestigious it is: less
image-conscious chewers - and I am one of them - buy qatal, the pickings from the
Just as in the West there are wine snobs, in Yemen there
are qat snobs. I once found myself opposite one. Fastidiously, he broke the heads
off his yard-long branches and wrapped them in a dampened towel. It was almost an act of
consecration. When he had finished, he drew on his water-pipe and appraised my bag of qatal
with a look that threatened to wither it. Everything, he said in an
audible whisper, has pubic hair. Qatal is the pubic hair of qat. Besides,
dogs cock their legs over it.
Yemen - Travels in Dictionary Land
WE HAVE three problems in Yemen: qat, sheikhs and water.
A Yemeni from Sana'a
FOR THE consumption of qat in the traditional
social setting, the chewers meet in a house some time after
noon, usually bringing their own supply. After being welcomed
and carefully seated according to their social position, the
guests begin to masticate the leaves thoroughly one by one ...
After the qat leaves have been chewed, the guests stay on for
most of the afternoon, passing their time in animated
discussions often devoted to matters of general interest, such
as community affairs. From this point of view, qat can be seen
as a factor furthering interaction and structuring social
life. Besides these traditional forms of consumption, qat is
nowadays also chewed by single individuals idling in the
streets ... In these regions, qat is also consumed (sometimes
along with alcoholic beverages and other drugs) at gatherings
which lack the restraint and well-defined social setting
Times, 7 August, 2000
I AM an American. I have recently researched the
events in Somalia of October 1993. Qat is the drug that made
the Somalians feel they were invincible to our US Rangers
and Delta Forces. The only reason our military was there was
to make sure the Somalians overcame the famine they were
experiencing. Because of our military, they overcame this
famine. However, this drug made the Somalians unappreciative
of our efforts to help. They felt as if they could conquer the
world. In reality, they only conquered this one battle. Today,
their people are still starving. I'm sorry, but we tried.
use of qat is a disgrace to my country because the Somalian
militamen were fighting while high on this drug. My country
does not fight high on drugs but high on the pride of their
own country. We fought a sincere battle to help the Somalian
people during their time of famine. I hope that you think
about the millions of Somalians that died because of the use
of that drug during battle at Mogadishu. My heart breaks when
I think of the thousands of Somalian women and children that
Please, discontinue the use of this drug. It's not worth
it. Ask Aidid's son. He'll tell you. He was there. He was an
American marine. Maybe he never experienced this drug. But, I
guarantee you, his father and his warlords did, and he now
vows to continue the work of his father. What do you think? Is
qat your drug of choice? Please tell me. Because if you are, I
have absolutely no respect for you. Reflect on your decisions.
Perkins, 27 January, 2002
AftermathThe Yemen Times interviews some chewers about the after-effects of
qat. (1 March 1999)
Readers are invited to
send us more quotations,
opinions and qat-induced reveries. From time to time we
receive many enquiries about how to cultivate qat outside
Yemen. Anyone who has information about this please contact