Monday, July 28, 2008

The 101 Basics of Qaad

Qaad or Chat (pronounced cot), scientifically known as catha Edulis, is an evergreen perennial plant popular in East Africa and some parts of the Arabian Peninsula. It grows in the highlands of Yemen, Kenya, and Ethiopia. Known as Miraa or Mairungu (sometimes spelled Murungi) in Kenya, it grows in the fertile lands around Mount Meru. Meru local farmers have preserved large swathes of agricultural lands for Miraa or Qaad cultivation since it is a major sustainer of the region's economy bringing in estimated yearly revenue worth millions of dollars. In Yemen-and also in Ethiopia, Qaad is a major player of economical sustainability.

"The origins of khat are disputed. Some believe that it is Ethiopian in origin, from where it spread to the hillsides of East Africa and Yemen. Others believe that khat originated in Yemen before spreading to Ethiopia and nearby countries. Sir Richard Burton explains that khat was introduced to the Yemen from Ethiopia in the 15th century.[3] There is also evidence to suggest this may have occurred as early as the 13th century. Through botanical analysis, Revri (1983) supports Yemen origins of the plant.[4] From Ethiopia and Yemen the trees spread to Somalia, Arabia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, the Congo, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and South Africa.[5] The earliest recorded use of khat medically is believed to be within the New Testament.[6] The ancient Egyptians considered the khat plant a "divine food" which was capable of releasing humanity's divinity. The Egyptians used the plant for more than its stimulating effects; they used it as a metamorphic process and transcended into "apotheosis", intending to make the user god-like.[7] [8]

The earliest documented description of khat dates back to the Kitab al-Saidana fi al-Tibb, an 11th century work on pharmacy and materia medica written by Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī, a Persian scientist and biologist. Unaware of its origins, al-Bīrūnī wrote that khat is:[9]

"a commodity from Turkestan. It is sour to taste and slenderly made in the manner of batan-alu. But qat is reddish with a slight blackish tinge. It is believed that batan-alu is red, coolant, relieves biliousness, and is a refrigerant for the stomach and the liver."

In 1854, the Malay writer Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir noted that the custom of chewing Khat was prevalent in Al Hudaydah in Yemen: "I observed a new peculiarity in this city — everyone chewed leaves as goats chew the cud. There is a type of leaf, rather wide and about two fingers in length, which is widely sold, as people would consume these leaves just as they are; unlike betel leaves, which need certain condiments to go with them, these leaves were just stuffed fully into the mouth and munched. Thus when people gathered around, the remnants from these leaves would pile up in front of them. When they spat, their saliva was green. I then queried them on this matter: ‘What benefits are there to be gained from eating these leaves?’ To which they replied, ‘None whatsoever, it’s just another expense for us as we’ve grown accustomed to it’. Those who consume these leaves have to eat lots of ghee and honey, for they would fall ill otherwise. The leaves are known as Kad."[10](Wikipedia)

Though there are no historical exactitudes when its cultivation and consumption began, a plethora of conjectural writings assume its use predate a thousand years when religious scholars depended on it for inducing insomnia so that they would stay awake to recite and expunge religious scriptures or educate adherents on issues pertaining to religious doctrines in the dead of the night when human evil activities and satanic designs remained at lowest ebb. On the other hand, travellers, warriors, and those on sentry consumed it to remain alert and not be overtaken by slumber.

Catha edulis, when fresh-before the leaves wither off-has been found to contain cathonine, a drug that is also found in heroine. This drug content is what induces euphoria, hallucinations, loquacity, anorexia, and excitability. Chewers feel raised blood pressure levels caused by abnormal heart palpitations, palsy-walsy (friendly), absolute energy and drive, exhilaration-and for some-elevated sexual feelings not experienced other times.

The major drug contents of Qaad include: Cathinone (cathinine), Cathine (1), Cathidine, Celastrin, Edulin, Choline, Ascorbic Acid (2), and Ratine. It also contains amino acids, minerals and vitamins especially Vitamin C.

However, after 48 hours, its drug contents and levels drop drastically. At this stage, Somalis refer to it as "Garaabo" or "Baarixi"-meaning of lower quality. Whereas, in Ethiopia, where the cultivated brand is longer in size than the types reaped in Yemen and Kenya, the dried leaves of the "Hareri" plant retain ubroken cathonine levels and also have greater economic value as tons arrive North American and European airports for distribution to consumers laden with hard cash and living the affluenza lifestyles.

Qaad is a banned susbtance in the United States and not in Britain and Holland where its consumption is tolerated. There is a growing debate in Britain about how to contain the growing social ills related to Qaad use visible among poor African and Arabian immigrants. In Southern Somalia, almost 75% of men and 25% of women chew Qaad while in the northern breakaway Republic of Somaliland, almost 95% of men and 50% of women are hooked on Qaad use.

Many Somalis are of the view that the demise of Somalia's military administration that collapsed in 1991 rekindled old wounds when Major General Siyad Barre branded Qaad an illicit drug in 1983. An exodus of Qaad chewers found their way across the Kenya border town of Mandera where its abolition ignited regime change deliberations. Neigboring Ethiopia and Kenya, two major growers and suppliers of Qaad who also had territorial disputes with Somalia over the Ogaden in Ethiopia and the former Northern Frontier District (NFD) in Kenya felt perturbed by Siyad Barre's abrupt proclamation. Thus, guerilla activities against Siyad Barre's regime that had been dormant for a while, started to harpoon Somali border posts with debilitating effects. The closure of chewing dens countrywide agitated thousands of Somali youths suffering from depression and side effects-a feeling known as "qaadiro" stage among Somalis.

Modern research and laboratory studies have been conducted to unearth societal, psychological, emotional, and physiological effects of qaad. Some of the results available seem encouraging while others cite great dangers and dangerous precedents associated with its consumption. For example, there are those who are of the view that qaad is a cure for sexual impotency and erectile dysfunction. If this hypothesis becomes credibe, then, qaad will have to be declared an alternative drug to be sold side by side with Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra.

On the other hand, some researchers have raised the alarm by revealing the gravity associated with its constant use. A line-up of diseases including myocardiac infaction, peptic ulceration, lip and lung cancers, cirrhosis of the liver, colorectal cancer, gingivitis, halitosis, dental decays, depression, diabetes, hemorrhoid, hypertension, urinary tract infections, vaginal infections among women chewers, and many others have been reported in medical journals. Abshir Bacaadle, a poet having great reputation among Somalis, in his denunciation of Qaad consumption, cites all the negative health hazards in the following lines:

Qorya raamso quudkana yaree qaadow adigaa leh
Boqolaal qorshoo wada qabya ah qaadow adigaa leh
Qoys dumaya qayliyo huruuf qaadow adigaa leh

Qalbi qooqan qoora aan waxtarin qaadow adigaa leh
Qardareeye kaadida qul quli qaadow adigaa leh
Jirkoo qaasha nadarkoo qayiran qaadow adigaa leh

Qalbi guban sigaar lagu qanciyo qaadow adigaa leh
Macdan qubta hawshoon laqaban qaadow adigaa leh
Hurda qarow ah soojeed qam qama qaadow adigaa leh

Iska qaado qaantana ha bixin qaadow adigaa leh
Qayil oo cun reerkiina qadi qaadow adigaa leh
Qashin iyo qashaabiir qurmuun qaadow adigaa leh

Qatar caafimaad oo qarsoon qaadow adigaa leh
Qalbi olol mar qabo oo qaniin qaadow adigaa leh
Qaraabo iyo ehel aan latabin qaadow adigaa leh

Qayrkaa shaxaad hana qajilin qaadow adigaa leh
Iska qari cidbaa kugu qabsane qaadow adigaa leh
Qabri ka hor qandha aan laga biskoon qaadow adigaa leh

Isqandiiri kana qoomamee qaadow adigaa leh
Ibliis qarowga aadmiga ku qaba qaadow adigaa leh
Afku wuxuusan ii qaban karayn qaadow adigaa leh

Qosol iyo qamuunyo isku xiga qaadow adigaa leh
Qasad dhaar ah qawl aan la fulin qaadow adigaa leh
Qur'aan lagu kaftamo qadaf iyo been qaadow adigaa leh

Cimri kuu qorraa qayb ka lumi qaadow adigaa leh
Qandiga fuqurka iyo quus rageed qaadow adigaa leh
Qureesh gabara waxa loo qawada qaadow adigaa leh

Dad qamaama qayliyo dagaal qaadow adigaa leh
Shaluu qaatay maantana qafaal qaadow adigaa leh
Qabyaalad iyo iimaan la'aan qaadow adigaa leh

Dhaliyara afkooduun u qoran qaadow adigaa leh
Wax ninwayni qaadoo qawada qaadow adigaa leh
Salaadaha dib qabo ama qallee qaadow adigaa leh

Xubna qaadiwaa sida qof qalan qaadow adigaa leh
Qabiltu jaanka aadmiga ku qabo qaadow adigaa leh
Dubaab lagu qarwoo kugu qulqula qaadow adigaa leh

Bisad ku quustay dabadeeda qabo qaadow adigaa leh
Qarjaf sayntu inay kuu tiraa qaadow adigaa leh
Qanaaskiyo was waaskaa qarsoon qaadow adigaa leh

Qandaraaska qaatumo xumada qaadow adigaa leh
Qarbaboosh ilkiyo gawsa qodan qaadow adigaa leh
Afqashuusha oon cadaygu qaban qaadow adigaa leh

Af qalala bushima qolof dhacsada qaadow adigaa leh
Qasban qayb daroogada ka mida qaadow adigaa leh
Qaflad aan dareenkeed la qabin qaadow adigaa leh

Ragoo quusta dumarkoo qawada qaadow adigaa leh
Faqiir qani ismoodoo qayila qaadow adigaa leh
Indha qoriya qaadirada subax qaadow adigaa leh

Qubays laga wahsado iyo qurmuun qaadow adigaa leh
Qamiis walaf quluub aan xasilin qaadow adigaa leh
Qoys laga dhixiyo qaaqla nimo qaadow adigaa leh

Waa quutul awliyo kidbiya qaadow adigaa leh
Qaamuuska waxa cay ku qoran qaadow adigaa leh
Inoo qaybi aan lagu qancayn qaadow adigaa leh

Qabsimadu inay kala xirmaan qaadow adigaa leh
Qurbaha joog adoon hawl ka qaban qaadow adigaa leh
Deg deg loo qasaariyo shilqoran qaadow adigaa leh

Qiso yaablohooy qarinayaan qaadow adigaa leh
Qofka daa'imoo qiima dhaca qaadow adigaa leh
Waxaad shalayto qabatoo qariban qaadow adigaa leh

Ku qasaar macaashkana ku qarow qaadow adigaa leh
Magnad kugu qasbiyo qaac ibliis qaadow adigaa leh
Hanti qaran qanaafiir ugee qaadow adigaa leh

Qaadicu salaadnimo asala qaadow adigaa leh
Intuu qadaf qof uun ku hadli karo qaadow adigaa leh
Lixdankaa qisoo wada qubxiya qaadow adigaa leh
Qaatala ka laahuye adigaa qaranka aafeeyay.

For some it enhances sexual potential for others it lowers their sexual urge. Some of the male population report dripping of sperms without sexual contact. Sleeplessness at night, exhaustion the following morning, facial decomposition, constipation or diarrhoea, putrid bodily smell, bloatedness, and the list could be endless.

In the Diaspora, cultural decays among chewers hooked on to this tempting drug have taken many institutions by surprise. Soaring school drop-outs or poor class performance, parental irresponsibility, domestic violence, divorce and broken marriages, unemployment due to tardiness and unwilingness to seek improved and better living conditions, dependence on government hand outs, gangsterisms and hooliganisms among the youth, juvenile marriages and unprotected sex, and a host of other social ills bedevil communities dependent on Qaad.

Warlordism, a system of government that is akin to feudalism and endemic to lawless Somalia , has helped accelerate the destruction of Horn of Africa's younger generations as children as young as ten years find themselves conscripted into militia regiments based on tribal loyalty. These desperate children who have either lost one or both parents pledge allegiance to powerful warlords who in return reward them with food and mind-altering drugs including marijuana and Qaad. In the absence of schools and rehabilitation centers, Somali children find themselves forced to choose between death by starvation or survival by shouldering the gun of a warlord. In any case, the might of the warlords rummaging through the streets of Somalia's major cities, towns, and villages and the many signs of death and destructions we often hear or see in the media, must not be perceived to be the handiworks of adults who have renounced the rule of law, but is a heavy assignment carried out with precision by malnourished children fighting for survival. What energizes Somali child soldiers is Catha edulis, marijuana, speed, and a concoction of other drugs including mosquito coil and valium. Qaad is no longer food or fodder for Mullahs but a tool that leads to the perdition and destruction of the individual and the society as a whole-that is, when used in a negative way.

2 comments: said...

"In the northern breakaway Republic of Somaliland, almost 95% of men and 50% of women are hooked on Qaad use. "
— I believe that, after having spent some afternoons in Hargeisa. What is the source of this statistic? Thanks! said...

"In the northern breakaway Republic of Somaliland, almost 95% of men and 50% of women are hooked on Qaad use. "
— I believe that, after having spent some afternoons in Hargeisa. What is the source of this statistic? Thanks!