Hasheesh in Ibb: City of the Blue Smoke Sky

For a long time, the ancient city of Ibb was known as the city of high mood – that is, hasheesh.

It grows heavily in the green mountains found throughout the governorate, and especially in the al-Sahool valley, Ba’adan, al-Ta’akar, al-Tawabi and on the roofs of houses in Ibb city.

Hasheesh dealers have been using the vegetable markets as one of the places for their high-volume sales, and the product is whisked efficiently to places of smaller-scale distribution, typically in public places like barber shops and cd stores.

The very mention of Ibb has become synonymous with the mildly hallucinogenic herb in the minds of many Yemen.  Verdant hills and valleys in the area are lush with the crop, especially in the areas of Hafsah or Madfa’a.

One of the old stories on the origin of the potent crop has it that hasheesh was first imported to the area by Yemeni American expatriates in the United States. Joblessness is a major contributor to its widespread use in the area today.

The government has implemented a multi-pronged campaign aimed at targeting dealers and suspected distributed. The security forces have successed in capturing a number of dealers, and even sentenced two to death.

But the continual security campaigns against hasheesh traders may play a part in creating  new alternatives among young drug-users, who often resort to prescription drugs, injections, or sniffing petrol or painting materials.

A prevailing view among many Yemenis is that the traditional custom of chewing qat provides users with a long pleasant diversion, which is enjoyed communally takes a while for its mild effect to set in, which in any event supposedly stimulates thinking.

The same view has it that hasheesh is an individual habit where supposed addicts swim in a mood of magic and world of blurry dreams.

The tree grows in summer in the hills and it needs time to dry after in sunny climates.

The dry hasheesh of the area has a major effect and the user is said to suffer deterioration in ther personal appearance, like white hair, lost teeth, and shaking hands.

The strong police crackdown on smokers has seriously curtailed habit of midnight smokers in the small streets and allies of the city.

Ingesting it in its fresh green form with food helps some users to consume more, yet smoking it in the form of cigarettes remains the favorite way.

At the beginning of last year, security forces captured two thousand kilograms of hasheesh in the area in a major bust.

This led a gang of traffickers to attack the central police security in Ibb with a bomb, resulting in the injury of the soldiers on duty.

Different plans and strategies in fighting the habit in Ibb continues through security campaigns, offering training for young generation for future opportunities, and, predictably, expanding prisons to accommodate detained users.

Many of those involved in the fight against hasheesh emphasize good training for policemen and the empowerment of NGOs to deal with addicts and discover and act upon early warning signs.