Photos: The Story of Khat, the “Chewable Amphetamine”
Stunning photos offer a glimpse into the centuries-old tradition of chewing khat in Mogadishu, Somalia.
Khat-chewing is a popular custom dating back thousands of years. The flowering plant—native to the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula—produces a high similar to amphetamines when chewed.
Photographer Feisal Omar documents khat-chewing in Mogadishu, Somalia, in an essay and striking series of photos (below). Known locally as “the flower of paradise,” the plant is flown daily from the highlands of Kenya and Ethiopia to Mogadishu and is distributed in open air markets. Up until recently, the drug was also transported to Britain, where a large Somali community sustained demand. But this summer, the UK banned khat, putting a strain on khat farmers and distributors and flooding the Somali market.
Though many khat-devotees cherish the tradition, which they compare to coffee-drinking, some claim the drug is partly to blame for the violence and economic problems faced by Somalia in recent decades. Some Somali women say their marriages and families have been wrecked by husbands’ problem khat use. “Men who chew are not good,” says Maryan Mohamed (below). “They chew alongside their hungry children.”
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