The ‘Our Yemen Starts From Here’ initiative, in collaboration with Lish La Foundation, organized the event Silent Scenes for Qat and Coffee.
On 8 April, youth acted in scenes about various realities of qat and coffee consumption. People at Fun City were treated to the performance. In total, there were about 60 volunteers from the initiative present.
One scene featured a big clock with time moving quickly as qat chewers sat in a mafraj, chewing for hours. Another depicted a child intensely watching his father chew, and himself learning to chew despite the young age. Another scene contrasted two families. The first family featured a father buying qat and quickly dragging his son home so that he may enjoy his chew, while the other family featured a father that stopped to buy fruit and vegetables for his son, implying that qat effects the relationships with one’s loved ones.
In one scene, three youth discover a treasure chest. The contents? Yemeni coffee.
The scenes, which featured no dialogue, depicted the negative effects of qat in Yemeni society and the negative consequences for the community as a whole. “We also dealt with the decline of Yemen’s coffee trade, and how it is a semi-forgotten treasure,” said Hajer Al Joulabi, the initiative’s media communication officer.
Amal Al Qalih, head of Lish La foundation, stressed that there was a need to make Yemen known for positive reasons. “Yemen is beautiful—it has always been, but we are not taking care of it. We have been negligent with our natural treasures and seem to have forgotten the splendid past of Yemen.”
The crew of Lish La filmed the event, hoping that it would make it onto the Arabic television show ‘Khawater’ (Ideas). The show is presented by Ahmed AlShughairi on MBC during the month of Ramadan.
“Even if it’s not featured on the program, we are planning to promote the concept and to introduce it to the Yemeni media,” Al Joulabi said.
One participant, Sumer, acted as a host serving coffee at the event. “I believe qat is our tragedy. Let’s remember that we have alternatives,” Sumer said. Moreover, qat is no longer the occasional treat it once was. Many Yemenis chew the narcotic leaf several days a week, some chew it everyday. “People used to chew for a couple of hours before the sunset prayer and then spit it out. Now people start chewing at 2 or 3 pm, spit it out, and start another session,” complained Sumer.
Basher Ahmed, a spectator enjoying the unexpected show with his wife and daughters applauded their efforts. “I am already against qat, if I chewed I wouldn’t be here today with my family. I just want to remind qat chewers that they will be held accountable for the time they wasted chewing qat on the day of judgment.”