“When you make a to-do list whist chewing khat, you wake up the next day, read the list and laugh at yourself as it’s not possible to achieve” – Occasional Khat User.
Khat, a legal drug in Ethiopia is a stimulant that is used by many, drivers, students and teachers, to name a few. It is a bitter leaf that is chewed for hours at a time and produces effects similar but not as potent as speed. Students claim it helps them study, you’d be hard pressed to find a driver that’s not chewing to stay alert and many coffee shops lined around the country double as Khat houses where patrons sit and chew.
While many maintain that the effects of Khat keep them feeling alert, energetic and with a sense of euphoria, it is common to see many chewing alone, in an introverted daze.
Awaday in Ethiopia’s East is the heart of the countries khat world. The cash crop is traded 24 hours a day, the busiest hours being from dawn to 9am. Bundles of khat are packed in makeshift sacks amongst other leaves for safety and the worth of the pristine harvest can sometimes be as high as $2000 USD a bunch. Trucks leave Awaday daily heading to destinations such as Djibouti and Somaliland to deliver the in-demand leaf. It is estimated that 25,000 kilograms of khat are sold daily in Awaday.
Many women are big traders in Awaday’s market, but it is also common to see them gathering away from the activity for a cultural dance.
The khat market is a bustling space, pushing, shoving and being grabbed by the shoulders is all common practice in the aisles of the market place. However, unlike other khat markets in the country, the people here are some of the friendliest.