The usual afternoon or early evening Qat party.
Qat (also known as kat, khat, quat) is a another unique feature of the Yemen. A narcotic bush, cousin to the coca plant in South America from which cocaine is produced, qat is chewed in some other countries, but not to the same degree as here.
The whole country seems to be fueled by this legal drug, a euphoric stimulant, with 90% of the population chewing it for up to 5 hours a day.
Afternoon or evening qat parties are a part of daily life where groups of men, or women – but not both together – gather on the top floor of a house, or in a cafe, or their workplace; they lean on cushions, drink cola, smoke, chat and chew the qat.
Leaf by leaf, they stuff their faces until their eyes are bright, their blood pressure is up by 20%, their conversation is wild and their cheeks take on the shape of oranges.
Newspaper articles argue endlessly about the bad and occasionally about the good effects of qat on the body, but what is indisputable is that Yemen is poor country with very little rain.
A Qat farm outside Sana’a.
Most of Yemen’s countryside is barren earth or rock, with a few small plots of carefully, expensively watered land, yet 50% of this tiny land area is used to grow qat, since people would rather chew the leaf than eat.
Many families spend one third of their monthly income on this drug, but the government doesn’t dare to mess with the habits of so many fiercely independent, well-armed citizens.
And a qat buyer. The qat effect is not unlike chewing coca leaves in Peru/Bolivia, only stronger, it’s a kind of mini-amphetamine hit that makes you talkative, a bit shaky and kills hunger pains.