I had the good fortune of traveling to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia several years ago for four days. Talk about exciting. For this entry I will mainly discuss the chewing of qat, which I experienced and the coffee celebration which I only observed. Both are very social activities in the Ethiopian culture. Both provide stimulants, but I got the strong impression that many more people approved of the coffee than they did the qat.
Qat is used a lot in the Horn of Africa, including Yemen, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. It is actually illegal in some countries, including the USA. I had never heard of it or saw it before. I took a taxi a couple hours outside of Addis to visit a pretty lake resort at Debra zeet. Beautiful setting.
On the way back the driver stopped to purchase something. I noticed people buying what looked like herbs wrapped up in a newspaper. I got out of the car and asked what it was. The lady explained to me that you chew it and sit with friends and family and talk for hours. A very social activity and I was very welcome to participate. How kind! I had to leave with the taxi but I bought one of the rolls of qat.
I had the driver explain to me how to consume it. He said I needed to have water also because it was bitter. He was right. He also said I would not be hungry for hours. Again he was correct. It was eight hours later before I even thought of food! He mentioned that I would not need a toilet either.
Apparently you chew it in your cheek for a while. It was very subtle to me. Much cleaner than a coffee buzz. I felt very clear headed, energetic in a calm way and truly felt great. I can understand why people like it.
The coffee celebration is very traditional and is done for family and friends. A highly social event. Although I did not participate I was told the coffee was brewed three different times for three servings. It is considered an honor to be the server. It is truly beautiful and eye catching. I wish I could go back to experience this….and to try qat again.