Chewing Qat in Ethiopia and Coffee Celebration

A coffee celebration I saw in the street. Very photogenic.

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.

The resort at Debra Zeet
Qat all rolled up. Apparently best when fresh
My driver buying something

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.

The coffee is typically poured from about a foot above the cups

Published by jimboyce44

World Traveler, Educator, Father, Husband, Son

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