Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Qat got my toungue

If anyone had told me In 1986, when Live Aid was in full swing and I was doing a sponsored maggot race to propell Bob Geldof to knighthood, that twenty years later I'd be sitting in central Ethiopia complaining that the white wine was too sweet, I'd have thrown my Raleigh Bianca at your head.

But its funny how times change. The maggot racing, btw, was not a success. They kept sticking to the sellotape I'd used to make the race track, the smell of them made me want to puke, and I dropped a box of them on the floor causing grade 3 to be plagued by bluebottles for the next 4 months.

Yet another example of my creativity far exceeding my ability. Anyway I digress.

So Yemen was fantastic, mad, full of men chewing qat and brandishing Kalashnikovs. Barren brown mountains and maze like cities.

Qat is a green leaf, rather similar looking to privet leaves. You stick the soft bits in your mouth and chew slightly. Apparently it makes you high. I ate a bloody bushell of the stuff and failed to get even the mildest buzz. What a bunch of wusses. I presume its because they can't drink. There was no alcohol in yemen except at the sheraton hotel, where one bottle of crap cheap Turkish wine will set you back 90 dollars. A glass cost me 30, and it was foul. We did find a metal hut in the middle of a mountain pass where a man sold us a warm can of heiniken for 5 dollars though.

Qat I can only liken to tabacco. It has no significant benefit. People claim that it calms them down. They also claim that it helps them concentrate (the exact opposites - sound like smokers?). The reason they seem to want it is to relieve the discomfort felt by not having it. It also gives you some pretty nasty mouth cancers (although that is mainly attributed to the modern use of pesticides). Qat has been around for some 3000 years.

Yemen used to be a land rich in fruit, now all the land is used to grow Qat. Qat hibernates when conditions are not favourable and it takes just a drop of water and three days to get a harvestable crop.

Yemen is also one of the poorest countries in the world with a population of 20 million. It has the highest deathrate during childbirth. Its no wonder that people are dependent on this plant for a living, and to make life a little more bearable.

The Yemenese are really friendly. I spent many a fine afternoon drinking caj and chewing the qat with them. But honestly I got more effect off the caj. They tell me the qat in Ethiopia is much stronger. I will report back.

Anyway the internet connection here is too ropey to post pictures right now but I will when I can. I've been in Addis Ababa for one evening already. Tomorrow we are heading south to Arba Minch where I hope to see hippos and elephants and Lord knows what else.The beer here is good. The food is fekking fantastic and really spicey.

The wine, however, sucks. Its sweet, cheap and nasty and you can see the granules of sugar sticking to the side of the bottle. Even I can't drink it, and I can drink Czech wine.

I haven't had a fag since I got here. Pity my poor travelling companions who have had to bear the brunt of a wineless, smoke free maie. Another 3 weeks in Ethiopia, land of crap wine, and then to Kuwait, land of NO wine. Can't wait for that. No seriously we will go and camp in the desert and pavel has some home made stuff.

I probably won't be able to speak to any of you when I get back to Prague, I will have been arrested and escorted off the plane for being drunk and disorderly.

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