In recent months Yemen’s economic and social problems have been well documented but the most evident problem to the visiting tourist isn’t covered by the news. It is ‘gat’, also pronounced ‘cat’ and spelled ‘QAT’ which is a legal drug openly available and openly consumed throughout the country.
The beauty of what we are doing is that you get to make friends in high places. Meet Colonel Mohammed, the big cheese of the Yemeni Coastguard. This happy chap hosted a reception for the Vasco da Gama rally, showed us his fleet of boats and eventually invited us back to his office. It was here that along with Fiona and Terry of Roam 2, Francesca and Marco of Easy and Free, we learned about the colonel’s sex life. His secret is the aphrodisiac-cum-opiate ‘gat’. It is chewed in the afternoon but its effect in the bedroom takes place after dark. Apparently. It’s all in this week’s podcast.
We learn more about gat, and how it is destroying Yemen, in next week’s podcast.
Come with me to Crazy Place, a place like nothing you have ever witnessed before. Crazy Place is the name given to the qat market, the covered area where the locals come to buy their drug. It is an insane place. It is Crazy Place.
I found Yemen a difficult place to love when I first stepped ashore. With the beauty of the desolate marsas of Sudan and Eritrea behind us I found Aden an industrial mess. After spending some time there and traveling around, especially to Arab Town, I began to understand it a bit better. Some of the people we met were wonderful. But the problem I had with Yemen was qat.