“While in Yemen, Ethiopia, and Somaliland, I learned about the history, lore, and complicated relationship countries in the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula have with the drug.”By Justin Fornal.

I’m in Sana’a, Yemen, and I’m surrounded by a dozen men who are all armed to the teeth. The satisfying metallic clack of steel magazine cartridges popping in and out of automatic rifles echoes off the plaster walls of the mufrage. Everyone in the room seems to be wearing a dagger and nursing a firearm. I have neither, but I’m in no danger. I’m amongst friends who have brought me here to chew khat, or qat.

Hargeisa, Somaliland

Hargeisa is the dusty yet charming capital of the Republic of Somaliland, a self-declared nation in the Horn of Africa that borders Ethiopia, Djibouti, and its namesake Somalia. Since its independence from Somalia in 1991, Somaliland remains the largest de facto controlled land area in the world that isn’t recognized as a country. But with its own army and security forces, this autonomous state is largely considered safe for visitors as it’s managed to successfully distance itself from the civil conflict of Somalia.

It’s 1 p.m., and my local friend Hanad and I are finishing up lunch. I grab a chunk of roasted camel hump from our shared platter. The fat-lined meat is so decadent that I decide to mix it with a few fingers of spaghetti to cut through the oily richness. The whole meal gets washed down with a tall, cool glass of fresh camel’s milk that has a refreshingly grassy aftertaste.

Hanad looks at his watch and lets me know it’s time to shop for khat. We just received an invitation to an afternoon chew, and it would be poor etiquette to show up empty-handed. Driving through town, we’re on the lookout for Ureeto, a strong red-stemmed khat strain known to give chewers a longer/stronger experience. If we cannot find Ureeto, we will have to settle for Jabis or Mac isii, which Hanad claims aren’t as strong but acceptable. If we have to buy the lowest quality strain known as Tajaro, we will have to cancel our plans.

Read full article here: What I Learned Chewing the Stimulant Khat Across Three Countries