Ethiopia never fails to surprise me, be it coffee or its love for green grass, my each visit I find something interesting. Khat is one of the most interesting finds of my visit.
Khat, “flower of paradise” is a flowering evergreen shrub native to – Horn of Africa, Ethiopia.
It’s a stimulant whose leaves are chewed and produce effects similar to opium.
P.S.: I don’t know about the effects of opium, I have just heard it and read about them
Anyways, users simply chew the green Khat leaves, keeping a ball of partially chewed leaves against the inside of their cheek (not unlike chewing tobacco). The dried leaves can also be used in this way, though they have less potency. Some Khat users also smoke the drug, make it into tea or sprinkle it on food. Now that’s a good kick to food, what say ?
Khat tea is popular in Ethiopia but more so in Arabia. It is especially popular in Yemen, where 85% of the population consumes it daily.
The dried leaves and twigs of Khat are also used to brew tea. It is popularly called Bushman’s tea.
Khat (Catha edulis) is a very popular, legal recreational drug in East Africa and in the Arab world. Some consider it less harmful and use it as a recreational drug, yet sale and trade of Khat is are banned in many countries. It is illegal in North America, many European countries, UAE, China etc. But in Ethiopia, Khat chewing is a social custom dating back thousands of years. Khat has become the preferred and most sought-after cash crop in Ethiopia, the most visible and pervasive social habit, and an important income-generating occupation for millions of Ethiopians. Within Ethiopia, Khat chewing has become a ubiquitous habit, cutting across class, religious, ethnic, and gender affiliations. In addition to satisfying the domestic demand, Ethiopian producers supply fresh leaves to chewers in Djibouti, the Republic of Somaliland, Kenya, and some Middle Eastern countries.
In Ethiopia which is the home of coffee, chewing Khat predates the use of coffee. So Ethiopian were drinking Khat tea much before coffee. Khat was first grown in Ethiopia and then was later introduced to Yemen from Ethiopia in the 15th century.
Ancient Egyptian imperial cults considered the Khat plant a sacred substance, which was capable of realizing a user’s divinity. These early Egyptians consumed the plant ceremoniously in attempts to transcend into “apotheosis” and or garner and manifest mystical experiences, systemic trances, and other metaphysical experiences rather than habitual recreational use or abuse. Sufis also used it to intensify their mystical experience and to facilitate a sense of union with God
I saw a lot of Khat shops in every market area of Ethiopia. Its as common to see people chewing Khat here as we see people chewing pan and pan masala in India.
As for my personal experience, I had first tried the Ethiopian Khat in Mombasa, Kenya during my earlier visits. So I was much inclined to NOT taste it this time.
So next time you are in Ethiopia and want to add some kick to your day, Just chew it away…