July 4, 2008

Khat Market.

Every day our driver had an important errand. Even more important than buying bread and water for the day, was the purchase of his daily quota of khat. It's not as if this stuff comes in discreet little baggies. Often it looked more as if someone had done the seasonal pruning of the ficus tree. The leaves still on the branches made for a voluminous purchase and there wasn't all that much room in the Landcruiser, with us and all our luggage in it.
The smart little bunches you see in the photos are not the norm. We must have just made pictures at the equivalent of A.J.'s or Dikker & Thijs (depending in which part of the world you live). Mostly we would stop in a village and someone would appear with a donkey or bicycle
that was laden with a bushel of khat and the negotiations would start. Knowing that this might take some time (by now we had experience) we would wander in the sewerless place and buy hard boiled eggs (if available), digestives (if available), bright colored sweets (always available), anything else (hardly ever available) or make some pictures of a goat or anything that was willing to act as a subject.

By noon the temptation became unbearable and as soon as we reached our destination the driver would chuck the bags out of the car and head for the communal khat room. There would always be a gathering of men and they would fill their mouths with the green leaves, looking like hamsters, and popping in more and more as they ground down the the wad they had in their mouths.

Khat has a sour taste, not displeasing but certainly not worth all the effort. Apparently it is mildly stimulating, because our usually stoic driver would become quite chatty. Needless to say nothing would be done for the rest of the afternoon until dinner time, so we had lots of time to rest and see the sights, which weren't always dismal. Often we would find ourselves in a beautiful region especially in Wadi Do'an where we stayed in Bayt Bukhsan.


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