Yemeni youth discuss life during chew meets
“Being out of work is like hell. I wish I could find a job as soon as possible,” Maooda said.
He wakes up late every morning and heads to the qat market. Maooda said qat is the “sole sanctuary” for him and his friends to “escape the bitter situation” they reside in.
Many young people in Yemen face unemployment. With nothing else to do, they fill qat sessions, chewing to pass the time.
Young Yemenis use qat because it provides happiness and comfort. A qat session distances them from life problems, they said.
Qat chewing phases
Qat gives the chewer a strong focus and a desire to talk. The leaves’ effects are apparent early on in the chewing session, and young people start raising controversial issues.
Loud voices seem to dominate the session’s atmosphere. Many issues are discussed without organization or order.
An hour later, the group calms down and quiets down. They start small group discussions and chat about various issues.
Different personalities arise when chewing qat.
Some people take the leaves greedily, squeezing the liquids into their round, swollen mouths.
Some chewers develop headaches, so they cover their heads to ease the pain.
By the end of the session, the qat has turned the chewer’s teeth green. Lethargy has taken over their bodies, and they have trouble concentrating. Some talk to themselves, and some, by the end, prefer silence and solitude.
Topics of discussion
“These days, youth during qat sessions talk about the political situation in Yemen,” Bassam Al-Khamiri said. “They also discuss problems facing youth. Unemployment is on the top.”
Arfat Al-Utmi, who has experience with qat sessions, said, “Of course, we talk about several issues. If the qat chewers are soldiers, for example, the talk will be about military affairs. If there is a religious man in attendance, religion will be highlighted. Even doctors speak with regard to their major. In my opinion, this is the only advantage of qat sessions.”
Abdulnasser Al-Reefi said he and his friends enjoy qat while watching soccer games together on television.
But chewing is not limited to young men. Girls chew, too.
“Girls talk about social problems,” Reenad said. “They take advantage of eachother's experiences during qat sessions.”
Amal, a university student, said that “good” youths discuss appropriate solutions for improving their living standards and building their society through developing their skills and exchanging experiences.
She said she personally knows young people who educate themselves through reading, and they share what they learned during chewing sessions. This is really positive, according to Amal.
Chewing is common in Yemen. It occurs daily. Sixty percent of Yemenis chew, according to a 2007 study conducted by the General Corporation of Radio and Television.
The study said imitation is a leading factor in the youth demand for qat: 40.5 percent of the study’s sample said they chew because of their friends’ behavior.
Yemenis consider this phenomenon as a part of their traditional inheritance that becomes a clear aspect in their daily lives.
Dr. Adel Al-Sharjabi, a sociologist at Sana'a University, said the only advantage of qat is to improve societal relationships due to the social aspect to chewing. Otherwise, the leaves have no advantage, Al-Sharjabi said.