Chewing ‘kat’ is a favourite pastime in Yemen

  • Nation
  • Monday, 21 Mar 2011

IN the afternoon, men, boys, and sometimes women, buy a plastic bag of kat which is basically a bunch of small green leaves.

They then sit together, pluck the youngest leaves, put them in their mouth, and start chewing.

They swallow the juice from the leaves but keep the leaves in the mouth.

Then, they put a bit more of the leaves in, chew some more, then put in a bit more and more until the cheek really bulges.

It is a common sight here to see people walking around with a bulging cheek it almost looks like someone with mumps.

And they chew it everyday for three hours after lunch.

“It makes me feel relaxed. And it helps me think,” said Mochtar Syed. who was chewing kat with a whole bunch of anti-government protesters men at Taghyeer Square between 2pm to 5pm.

“It's good for diabetes. And no, it doesn't stain the teeth,” said 37-year-old, who began chewing kat at the age of 20.

Kat contains a stimulant which causes people to feel excitement and a sense of euphoria and is said to be less addictive than alcohol and cigarettes.

But it is banned in a number of countries including Malaysia as an illegal substance.

Manaa is only 16 and he has been chewing kat for four years.

His parents are fine with it and his elder brother even gives him money to buy it.

It costs 400 rial (RM5.70) for the bunch of leaves for a day.

“It taste sweet for me,” said Manaa, who dreams of becoming a mobile phone engineer.

There is no school because of the anti-government protests and Manaa has joined the protesters at the square.

He wants President Ali Abdullah Saleh gone because he believes that there will be more development and it will be safer here.

The anti-government protesters have been at Taghyeer Square for five weeks now to try and oust their president of 32 years through peaceful protests.

On Friday though, things turned ugly when snipers on rooftops shot at unarmed protesters, killing more than 40 and injuring hundreds more.

Manaa was there during the shootings and helped carry the injured away.

“I was not scared. Even if I am martyred, I'd still come and want to be here,” he said.

The square has taken on a festive mood with people selling food, drinks and dances and songs.

The Hamdan tribe performed the Jambia Dance which is essentially the war dance for those who had died.

“The tree of the resistance has been irrigated by the blood of the martyrs and it is going to blossom not too far away,” said Mohd Hussein from the tribe.

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 7
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3

Across The Star Online