One of the various surprises that greeted me in
Legend is that the property of qat was discovered long back in
Our Chinese anesthesiologist narrated his experience. He said it tasted bitter and he couldn’t keep it more than an hour in his cheek. (The tender leaves and shoots are stripped off the twigs, wiped clean, smacked by the fingers and gently placed between the molars, chewed and moved into the cheek, the fingers busy getting the next leaf ready. The juice is swallowed with water or carbonated beverages. The accumulating ‘cud’ is spat out only after the session lasting 4-5 hrs is over) He couldn’t sleep either that night or next. And mucosal ulcers developed in the cheek mucosa. He hasn’t used it ever since. A nurse from
Our Yemeni pharmacist tells us it gives ‘good mood’, and that he chews it regularly every evening. He said it is mentioned in Pharmacology books, and narrated the ‘qat ritual’ every Thursday evening. (The weekend here is Thursday and Friday) The master of the house will sit down in the tidied up room with the arm pillow to his side, his wife would have washed and dried the tender qat leaves for her hubby. After a bath, she is already in a beautiful dress, and well perfumed, hair well combed and usually wears a garland of jasmine. There is a twig of some plant with exotic smell tucked into her hair. She sits near him to chat, and pour the water or soda for him. She may or may not use qat herself. He is euphoric, and children find it the best time to get hard demands sanctioned.
In one study 60% of men and 35% of women in
The botanical name of this exotic plant known for its stimulant properties is Catha edulis. It is a shrub or small tree. It is known as Mirra in
One should know…
The stimulant property is attributed to the alkaloid cathinone in the plant. It breaks down into cathine and noradrenaline. No wonder it behaves as a sympathomimetic, increasing blood pressure and pulse rate. In the
Qat consumption is known to produce euphoria and excitement. It is also said it can induce manic behaviour and hyperactivity. The effects of qat include alertness, energy and euphoria. Some say one relaxes and get intellectually focused. One may undertake skilled tasks and the creatively talented may write poetry. A psychological dependence may develop, but is not considered as an addictive drug. There are no medically accepted benefits of qat. More than the physical high, there is a cultural side to qat -- the qat chewing sessions. In many houses, there are well furnished qat chewing rooms or halls, a show-piece of the house.
Money, money, money..
Qat is cultivated in mountain terraces and most such areas in
Many consider this a social evil. An American soldier writes in www.al-bab.com: “Qat is the drug that made the Somalians feel they were invincible to our US Rangers and Delta Forces. ... 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. … Today, their people are still starving. I'm sorry, but we tried.”
Back to square one
As for us medical staff here, the average employee chews qat and don’t sleep at night, comes to the hospital next morning requesting medical leave, as he is “tired”. WHO has listed qat as a "dependence producing drug" The users will attempt to get daily supplies to the "exclusion of all other activities." It is said qat chewing is a near-daily activity for those who can afford it - and sometimes even for those who can't. When the poor man willingly foregoes food in favor of buying qat, his wife and children get neglected thus. So, some request the government to extend the work day in an effort to reduce qat consumption. But advocates of qat feel that Yemenis are not lazy, there is just not enough work to be done.
Qat chewing distinguishes Yemenis from the other Arabs. It is well woven into