Sunday, August 03, 2008

In Yemen, they dope themselves with qat...

Chewing qat leaves is bad for Yemen's economy and public health, says its government. But, as Stephanie Hancock found, curbing this national pastime is an uphill task. 

I had only been in the country a few minutes when I noticed a man with a gigantic growth bulging out of his cheek. The swelling was enormous, it was so bulbous it practically had its own heartbeat.

Now I have been brought up not to stare but, feeling slightly guilty, I kept sneaking glances at this unfortunate fellow. 

What an awful disease, I thought to myself and how nice that other people are not staring at him, unlike me. 

I wondered whether the growth might be a tumour, or perhaps some sort of thyroid problem. 

I did not want to seem rude but I quietly asked my guide, Ahmed, if perhaps this man was ill. 

Ahmed, in his nonchalant manner, turned to look at the man, and gave a small laugh that suggested I was very stupid. 

"Ha! That's qat," he said. 

And so it was that I discovered the substance that makes Yemen tick. More...

See also: Al Muhamasheen, the Untouchables of Yemen..

And this: Albert Hofmann: the man who invented "medicine for the soul"

And this: The weed issue: How Europe deals with marijuana...

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