Ali, Yemen – photo essay –

Catha Edulis

There are these leaves that go by various traditional names and can cause mild euphoria and excitement. It’s a socializing drug used for centuries in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. And while I’m not going to go through the classic dance-and-sing routine of cries and threads—deviously trying to trigger our deep fear of death or social rejection (I love you, Mom), I do want to share a cultural phenomenon I observed with its (ab)use.

When trippin’, it’s one of the rare few times where Yemenis get together without discriminating each other by their stations in life. Hot topics such as socioeconomic inequality, tribalism, other believes, and porn are paradoxically tolerated and collectively reflected upon. Yes, porn. If that doesn’t mean anything in our “parochialist” society than I don’t know what else will. It’s just love and peace and loss of appetite (a side effect). Just like… hippies. Crooked, haughty, LGBT-hatin’, assault-rifle-worshiping hippies.

Rumor even has it that Jews aren’t necessarily unfamiliar with it. I heard that, inter alia, their spiritual leaders use it to enter a hypnotic state of calm trance. Hmm… if that means that it takes drugs to remind us that we’re in fact not that different, then by all means: Light it up! (The flame of the gas stove after you chose to consume them as tea (duh!); otherwise, chew ‘em like there’s no freaking tomorrow!)

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