Money Spent On Qat is NOT a Joke! [Archives:1999/19/Culture]

May 10 1999

It seems that the talk of the hour is the “Qat Combating Society”. Everyone seems interested in the topic, and of course with different points of view. But the most significant feature of this subject, unfortunately, is nobody seems interested in the real harm this evil tree caused. One colleague said that qat is a profitable tree if you compare it with others. When I tried to enlighten his thought and highlight the fact that it is a local profits, not foreign currency that enters your country from qat, he looked disinterested. The quantity of water qat requires is horrible, but also it seems no one is concerned with the lack of water Yemen suffers from. Everyone blames the government, for instance, one said that there are no substitutes for qat chewing gatherings, what shall I do?
The other said it is quite awkward to sit with your family or friends and refuse to chew qat like the rest. The problem is that they ignore the fact that they like to chew qat, whether they have free time or not, they create their free time to sit and chew qat. My neighbor leaves her house every day at 3.30 p.m. to go to her friend’s house with many other women for qat. Talking about her children requires many pages but in brief they are in a miserable condition, dirty and smelly clothes, playing in the street bare feet, swearing and throwing stones. There is no free time for a housewife, in fact no time at all, wouldn’t it be more useful to bade here children or help them with their lessons rather than going out for 2-3 hours for qat? The substitute is spending money on clothing or her children rather than buying a bundle of these leaves. She does not believe so. When I asked her this question she looked bewildered and said you are right but it is a habit that I been in since I was married, and I cannot quit it. The most horrible thing I saw is when I visited her after she gave birth to her 6th child, she was a crowded long room with windows shut, qat and a Madaa’a. This is normal, but the abnormal thing was a 2-day-old baby sleeping next to his mother at the same room, when I tried to explain to her that this smoke is dangerous for the baby’s lungs she laughed and said the baby will get used to it soon. How could a 2-day-old baby get used to this suffocating atmosphere?
One person said that “Even if I stop chewing, I am only an average citizen that nobody cares for, and the rest will continue chewing qat. There is no use, I am a logical person and I tell you real things.”Well I am sorry my friend, you are wrong, all nations start individually, you can not fulfill your ambition unless you believe in its importance deep inside you. Each society consists of individuals, these individuals including you and me can make up the initiative, maybe a friend of yours will be convinced, and maybe not. But the important thing is that you keep on going. The difficult phase exists only at the beginning. As long as you are doing the right thing, people will feel embarrassed for their wrongs, and they will try to stop.
Don’t talk about substitutes such as cultural centers and other entertainment facilities, talk about what your country and family needs from you. It would be worth it.. Take a look at yourself while you chew qat, you look disgusting, not to mention the smell.
Buy a pair of shoes for your child, because his old ones worn torn long ago. Sit with your daughter and befriend her, she needs you more than qat.
A call to those who are called “Intellectuals”: If you quit qat, average people will do the same. Plant your fertile lands with delicious fruits and vegetables; let your children benefit from their natural vitamins. You can export your products to neighboring countries. They already import everything.
Before you talk about the substitute the government should provide, think deeply of things you can do. You will find many things. Let your mind wonder, think of the harmful affects of qat. Think of your wife, your children, your house, you can afford to buy a car if you save the money that goes daily for qat. In fact you can do many things. Foreigners have an unpleasant image of our country due to your habit. You can build your country, clean it, and show a high quality generation to the world. Remember, “the religion is Yemeni and the wisdom is Yemeni,” but most probably the Prophet Mohammed made this statement before your nation discovered qat, or at least the people whom he addressed were not qat chewers.
By: Hind Shakir