Time magazine has an interesting article on the Yemenis addiction to khat here.
I used to do business in Yemen or rather South Yemen, before unification of the North and South into one nation in 1990.
It was the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula.Almost every kind of business were controlled by the state under a dysfunctional socialist system.Half the population lived below poverty line, the other half on government's largesse.The Russians and other communists used to have strong influence here.
Aden, the capital city, which used to boast the biggest bunkering facility and a maritime gateway between the West and East during the British colonial era has been reduced to a dilapidated city, nothing seemed to function properly, from its hotels to public transportation, the wheels of progress seemed to have departed from this once bustling port.
The biggest refining and bunkering facility in the region once stood here. In the eighties it was running only a third of its maximum capacity due to outmoded equipments and machinery that constantly broke down.The state didn't have the money to repair or modernise the facility.
This desert outcrop has little arable land.Many items, including most of the foodstuffs have to be imported.Most farming and cultivations are concentrated in the Hadhramaut district. The Yemenis prefer to cultivate their land with khat rather than food crops.Khat needs tremendous amount of water which the Yemenis had hardly enough for their own consumption.
It's a kind of misplaced priority that certain society seems to have and suffers from.
In Yemen, it's khat before anything else.
In Malaysia, if you notice, it's cars before anything else.Do you know why our nation's highway are choked and more and more are dying on the roads.
Cars seem to be Malaysians pride possession.It's their pride and joy. It's also their weapon of destruction. Some Malaysians, maybe, more than some, are prepared to pay almost RM500,000 for their cars but live in a terrace or linked houses costing less than RM150,000.Some, may even have 2 to 3 cars parked in a garage space meant for only one car.How they do it is an amazement.
On the lower rung of the ladder you get the Kancils' owner who spent half their wages on cars they can ill afford, choking not only our roads but petrol kiosks as well.One may think the petrol stations are doing roaring business when in fact, if you care to take a closer look, they are choked by Kancils filling up between RM5 to RM10 every time they pop-in the station. Our highways are choked not because there aren't enough roads, there are just too many cars that shouldn't have been there in the first place.
In spite of being poor the Yemenis can indulge in a great pastime, khat chewing and talking fuck all, all day.
Thursday is official 'khat day', which means Yemenis are only officially allowed to chew khat on this particular day. They would do it with great enthusiasm, an all day affair of khat chewing with families and friends and exchanging stories and problems that at the end of the day came to nothing.
I was once invited to this ritual of khat chewing but only lasted about an hour, which didn't do much good in term of me getting the high from the narcotic content. You need to ingest a lot and over a long period to enjoy its potentials. Like most other things, if you are not used to it, the taste is revolting.The Yemenis also claim the aphrodisiac value of the leaves giving the same effect you get as taking Viagra, although Viagra was not invented yet when I used to go to Aden.
If the Yemenis have khat to take care of their erectile dysfunction, Malaysians have tonkat ali, unfortunately, without the doping effect, both could just be a myth.