“I, and millions of others, spend as much time buying and chewing qat as sleeping, and more money on it than on food. The qat effect it is as subtle and as hard to analyse as the alkaloids that cause it. It takes long practice to be able to recognise the effect consciously, and even then it sidesteps definition except in terms of metaphor, and by that untranslateable word, Kayf.

Kayf – if you achieve it, and you will do if you choose the qat and the setting carefully – enables you to think, work and study. It enables you to be still. Kayf stretches the attention span, so that you can watch the same view for hours, the only change being the movements of the sun. A journey ceases to be motion to the changing scenery – it is you who are stationary while the world is moved past, like a travelling flat an old film. Even if briefly, the chewer who reaches this Kayf feels he is in the right place at the right time – at the pivot of a revolving pre-Copernican universe, the still point of the turning world.

One day I was buying qat when a group of tourists walked past. The qat seller said to me ‘Why do people spend thousands of dollars rushing around the world, when they can chew qat?’.

I’ve chewed in taxes, on buses, on my motorcycle, on a truck load of firewood, in a military transport plane, on an over-turning jeep, on the 5:30 from Victoria to Sutton. In retrospect, the movement was incidental.”

Qat, as described by Tim Mackintosh Smith in his book, ‘Yemen – Travels in Dictionary Land’ (John Murray 1997).

Qat (القات‎‎ – Catha edulis) is a leaf chewed in Yemen and other neighbouring countries. It is chewed into a ball and lodged between the gums and cheeks. Qat contains an alkaloid cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which can cause excitement, loss of appetite, and euphoria.

To chew qat is an important part of Yemeni culture. Although described as the ‘curse of Yemen’, it has also ‘inspired a substantial body of literature’ particularly in the Muslim world, including poetry and song. The leaf is illegal in many countries including the United Kingdom. Some independent studies, however, have concluded that the practice has no serious physical or psychological effects.

Thank you for visiting ArabicOnline.Eu. Our award winning interactive courses of Modern Standard Arabic have been developed for anyone with a genuine interest in Arabic, whether for private, educational or professional reasons and are specially designed for self-study. Our website and our language courses are free from advertisements and we don't share any personal details of our visitors or registered members with third parties. Nor do we sell data for targeted advertising. We believe passionately that learning should be free from commercial distractions. For this reason we rely on subscriptions to fund the development of our products. Click here to find out more about our Beginner to Intermediate Arabic courses.