03 September 2010

Happy Yemen :)

The nickname of Yemen in Arabic language is “Happy Yemen” I tried to understand why and I got to know that the national sport in this euphoric country is chewing Qat, Gat, Chatt, or Khat. Khat which is a green, flowering plant that grows in eastern Africa and the Gulf and is commonly chewed, for amphetamine-like effects

Qat contains the alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria.

The best Gat as the Yemenis call it is home grown but the trees that produce the most sought-after leaves are in a war zone so huge quantities are imported from Ethiopia and it costs the country millions of US Dollars and it is negatively affecting the economy. The tradition of Qat chewing in Yemen goes back at least 500 years.

Chatt is masticated a bit like chewing tobacco...which apparently gives buzz. Yemenis are absolutely addicted to it, three quarters of Yemeni adults chew Qat leaves each afternoon, for a period lasting at least five hours. Most Yemenis that I have met chew Gat and get a rush from it. People spend about one-quarter to one-third of their cash income on Qat. Prices for an afternoon's worth of the stimulant leaves can run anywhere between $2 and $100 depending on quality

Chewing of Qat is a purely social event, for Yemenis the mild narcotic Qat is as much a part of life as an after-dinner drink in the West. Talking to the country manager of Yemen in my previous company he said that one of the Sales Supervisors is antisocial when I questioned why it turned out that he does not chew Qat. So beware if you are in Yemen and you decide not to chew you will be labelled as a social outcast!

Both men and women chew Qat; the chewing start after lunch, the main meal of the day. Qat chewing mostly occurs in private homes, with all in attendance bringing their own Qat. On the other hand there are some Qat-chewing venues. When it is time to chew symptoms of life freezes in Yemen!

A recent study by Fethi Sakkaf, a Yemeni academic, estimated that 20 million working hours are lost every day in Yemen through staff leaving early to indulge in the ritual afternoon of chewing.

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