Category Archives: Qat and Coffee

Shooting Qat


This is a store in Doha.  I suspect there is no qat in Qatar (apart from the first three letters), but there are plenty of photogenic cats.  Or perhaps this is a store for buying Catha edulis plants.

Coffee vs. Tea


This poetic debate is courtesy of Muhammad Gerhoum

صراع بين القهوة والشاهي :
من ماضي حضرموت اغنيه من اجمل الاغاني القديمه
التي كانت تغنى ولازالت تغنى الى اليوم

وهي حوار شعري غنائي بين الشاي و القهوه
لشاعر يدعى البـيتــي …
وقد تغنى بها كثيرين واشهرهم فنان في الخمسينيات يدعا عمر باحويرث
وهو واول من فتح محل بيع تسجيلات على اسطوانات قرامافون في ساحة الرياض احدى ساحات سيؤن في منتصف الستينيات السبعينيات اومابعدها حينها
كان تسجيل هذي الاسطوانات في عدن وتأتي أغلبها من محل يضع يسجل بصمته على هذه الاسطوانات ويعرف ب جعفر فون
والمعذره هذا مااستطعت الحصول عليه من معلومات

واليكم القصيده

الـهـاشـمــي يــقـــول يـالـهــاجــس
لاتـقــوم عـــادك جــلــس جــالــس
مــا شـفـت حـلـقـي صـبــح يـابــس
هــــذا مــقـــدر مـــــن الـرحــمــن
مــا الـيــوم كـــذ قـامــت الـدعــوه

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With Rochet d’Hericourt at Mocha in 1839


Mocha was a frequent port of call in the 19th century and there are many travel accounts of the town.  One of these was written by Rochet d’Hericourt about his 1839 trip down the Red Sea from Egypt to Ethiopia.  He paid 20 silver Maria Theresa thalers to sale to Mocha in seven days.  The population was estimated by the author at the time as between 4,000 and 5,000.  His description, written in French, is interesting and is provided below.  His entire text is available on

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AIYS at MESA 2014: Making Yemen’s Islamic History: Engineering, Monuments, Taxes and Stimulants

[P3654] Making Yemen’s Islamic History: Engineering, Monuments, Taxes and Stimulants

 MESA Annual Convention, Washington DC
To be held Monday, 11/24/14 11:00am

•    Written versus archaeological evidence: The example of water and wastewater in medieval Zabid, Yemen by Dr. Ingrid Hehmeyer
•    Ideal and pragmatic tax law in mediaeval Zaydi Yemen by Dr. Eirik Hovden
•    A cultural heritage text from early medieval South Arabia by Dr. Daniel Mahoney
•    Coffee and Qat in Yemen: The Historical and Literary Evidence for their Introduction by Dr. Daniel Martin Varisco
•    Discussant:  Dr. Nancy Ajung Um


Scholarship on Islamic history has paid less attention to Yemen than to Iraq, Syria or Egypt. Despite an important corpus of manuscripts and the publication of several significant primary sources, the historical reconstruction of Islamic Yemen lags behind these other regions. This panel brings together historians who work on various periods in Yemen to illustrate how the current historiography is being made. Archaeological fieldwork on the Islamic era has been limited with the notable exception of the Royal Ontario Museum project on Zabid. Based on the excavation of water works in Zabid, one paper compares the material evidence with the description of water engineering schemes in the 16th century Yemeni text History of Zabid by Ibn al-Dayba’, thus showing the importance of archaeology for fleshing out the tantalizing details in written texts. Another paper focuses on the 10th century multi-volume al-Iklil of the Yemeni savant al-Hamdani, who provides a rhetorical landscape of monuments as an aid in the formation and maintenance of the South Arabian political identity in a fashion akin to modern cultural heritage texts. At the same time, al-Hamdani’s reconstruction of Yemen’s pre-Islamic past serves as a mirror of the politics of his own time, with the retreat of the Abbasid presence and the recent arrival of both Zaydis and Isma’ilis to northern Yemen, more than a century before the Ayyubid invasion. The Zaydi presence in Yemen’s north since the late ninth century is the focus of a paper on the tax policies of the Zaydi imams, especially the tension between the traditional zakat on production and other kinds of taxes. This paper discusses both the theological debate about tax collection and recorded information on how taxes were actually collected. Another paper examines the evidence for the introduction of both coffee (Coffea arabica) and qat (Catha edulis) into Yemen, probably during the Rasulid era. Recent research has resolved the issue of the origin of the term “qat” and there is a need to update discussion of the stimulant in previous sources, including the EI. This paper will examine historical, literary, legal and lexical sources as well as Yemeni folklore. Overall the panel provides both an indication of current research and an invitation for other scholars to help make Yemen’s history as well.

Going Qatless in Britain

qatbanThe Yemeni press is reporting the news that Britain has banned the growing, distribution, selling or buying of qat in Britain. The penalty is said to be up to 14 years in prison.  Actually, the ban had been planned with much criticism in 2013 . To me this sounds like a bizarre ruling, since fresh qat leaves are certainly not a dangerous drug.  There is an obvious ban on any derivative drug that can be extracted from the qat plant, but this is an attempt to regulate social behavior with criminal consequences.  I know of no evidence that qat induces violent behavior and it is certainly not a mind-altering drug like heroin.

An article in The Guardian, however, tells a more nuanced story.

Police have been officially advised to use their discretion in deciding how to enforce the ban that comes into force on Tuesday on qat, a mild herbal stimulant, that has been widely used in Britain’s Somali, Yemeni and Ethiopian communities.

Official guidelines from the Association of Chief Police Officers tells constables that in applying a “three strikes” enforcement policy they should take into account that qat has “historically not been a controlled drug and was part of the culture of certain communities linked to the Horn of Africa.”

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Osgood on Mocha


[Joseph Osgood was a Black American sailor who visited the Yemeni port of Aden about a dozen years before the start of the American Civil War. He offers a rich, descriptive account, including information on the coffee cargo that may have brought his ship to this Red Sea port in the first place. The following is his rendition of a popular origin tale for the popular brew.]

Any communicative Arab will tell the following story about the early history of Mocha, with more or less modification.

A little over two centuries ago, there dwelt near the beach, enclosed by two sandspits forming the harbor, a worthy fisherman, whose learning, wisdom, and pious observance of all the tenets of the Moslem faith, had collected around his humble hut the dwellings of a band of devoted pupils to be instructed in the religion of their great Arabian legislator and prophet. One day a ship from India, and bound to Jiddah, was driven by adverse winds into the cove, and, while there detained, the crew visited the settlement near the beach, and were entertained by the holy Sheik, who regaled them with coffee, a beverage till then unknown to his guests. The Sheik, learning that the captain was ill on board his vessel, extolled the sanative virtues of coffee, and sent some as a present to the captain, by the returning crew. The prescribed medicine was taken, the captain recovered his health, visited the shore, made confidence with the people, bartered his cargo for coffee and sailed for home, where the worth of the rare and newly discovered product was quickly acknowledged, and successive voyages soon established a lucrative commerce, and thus founded and gave a world wide repute to the city of Mocha and many of the neighboring inland towns. The holy Sheik’s reputation was continued to him among his people till his death, when a costly mosque was erected as a memorial of his virtues, on the site of his fisher’s hut. In so high veneration was this edifice held by the Mocha Arabs, that when the Bedoween Arabs seized Mocha they destroyed the building, jealous that Sheik Shathalee was more reverenced than Allah. It was afterwards rebuilt and remains at the present day, inside the walls of the city. A well and one of the gates of the city also bear the name of this patron saint…

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