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March 24, 2002

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From Ta’iz we drive north, through towns Ibb and Jibla, towards Sana’a. Rain falls; this region is the wettest in Arabia, 1500 mm rain annually, fields fertile and harvested 3 or 4 times each year. Coffee used to be Yemen’s cash crop. Ethiopia introduced the coffee plant and Yemen commercialized it. Yemen enjoyed a coffee monopoly; the country grew rich, until the early 1700’s when smugglers took the coffee plant to Ceylon and Java. That destroyed Yemen’s coffee business. Now Yemeni farmers grow qat to make money. People from Madagascar to Afghanistan chew quat by stuffing qat leaves between their cheeks and gums (they don't swallow the leaves). Men walk around with bulging cheeks. The World Health Organization has seven categories for drugs and qat is in its own one of these.
Picture perfect town of Jibla, the home of Queen Arwa, called 'little Bilqis,' or the second Queen of Sheba. Yemen prospered during her reign.
Buying qat - chewing it keeps you awake on long road trips.
Sunday market. Buying a good looking cow will cost $250 (an average monthly wage).
Yemen can be green. Qat trees surround this village. The people cut off small branches and chew the leaves.