Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Yemen Tea: Khat (巧茶)

Paul did tell me about 'khat' or the Yemeni tea leaves that saved him and his filming crew from the grasp of local militants. Seems that when local folks see khat, they became much friendly and being invited to chew khat together fosters some kind of comradeship. So during Paul's stay in Yamen for his work, he purchased a big bag of khat and distributed them wherever he went. According to Paul, khat really made miracles in making contact with Yemenis.

But there is a catch as 'khat' though is legalized in Yamen and a few Arabian countries, it is illegal in Europe and USA. Even planting of khat may be prosecuted in the State as I was told. Paul didn't realize khat is illegal until he was about to check in his flight to US. So as to avoid legal prosecutions back home, he and his team had to throw away all his khat before departure.

Intranet sources cited khat was originated from Ethiopia and it is used to combat hunger and fatigue as early as 13th century. The chewing of khat gradually spread to Arabian Peninsula and continent Africa. According to modern medicine, chewing khat in long term can cause vascular disease and anorexia.

In Yamen, khat is treated as socializing drug and it is consumed by students and drivers for refreshing purposes while laborers used khat to reduce fatigue. It is said that the effect of khat is equivalent to 5 milligrams of amphetamine. Until today, Yemenis still reserve their best room for khat chewing and socializing. I was told that the best khat variety was that of the 5 leaflets.

I personally treat khat chewing equivalent to betel chewing in Asia or the ketum leaves in Southeast Asia but  other than from what Paul told me and from intranet sources, I have no real personal experience as yet. 

My purpose of posting this information is in case you are travelling to Arabian or African countries and intent to bring khat back to your home countries; please check your customs regulations concerning import of drugs. In some places, you maybe slap with a fine; while death penalty maybe awaiting you in some countries. So travelers beware!