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Somalia: Mogadishu qat market

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Mogadishu qat market | Somalia | Africa

[Visited: December 2014]

We have seen stalls selling qat at several places around the city, but we are now parked in a street leading to the main qat market of Mogadishu and, inevitably, the entire country. Just when I start wondering why the driver has left the car, and the guide is on the phone, a big truck with guys standing on its load passes by. I want to get out, but for the first time, one of the armed guards in the back of our pick-up truck pushes me back in; apparently, it is not safe. The daily cargo plane from Kenya has landed, and its cargo is fresh qat. More trucks pass by, and minivans with women, plus a crowd of people with bags made of cloth on their back. My guide tells me that they contain money.

Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): People carrying qat from the trucks to the market stalls

When the madness outside gets a little less, the driver jumps in, starts the car, and we stop after another hundred metres. To our right, we see stalls with beige coloured linen on top; to our left, an open space, with dust whirling above it. The men on top of the trucks are now throwing big bags with qat down, and other men put them on their backs, and run away, towards the stalls. To me, it seems amazing: all these bundles represent a high value, yet, they are thrown overboard without hesitation. How can they know that the person standing on the ground, is the right one? I want to walk to the market, but according to both the guards and the guide, this is not safe. There is a frenetic energy here, there is lots of money involved, people are nervous, and I guess that they are right.

Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): Two women walking in the open space of the qat market

The men run directly from the trucks to the stalls, where the supply of fresh qat is directly taken out of the jute bags, and traded to the hawkers who will take it to their stalls and sell the stuff. Just in time for buyers to have a bunch of freshly imported qat to chew on in the afternoon. In a matter of minutes, the trucks have disposed their cargo; it feels like we have seen a movie played fast forward. Tuk-tuks drive away with a big bundle of qat next to the new owner, men run by with a bag on their shoulders: the qat will now quickly find its way to whoever wants to chew it, wherever he is. I am not surprised to see the guards in the back of our pick-up with a small bundle, too.

Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): Trucks with qat surrounded by swarms of people
Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): People carrying heavy loads of qat from the trucks to the market
Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): The trucks have provided a fresh supply of qat; this is where it is traded
Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): Man walking away from the market with a bag filled with qat on his head
Picture of Mogadishu qat market (Somalia): People carrying qat from the trucks to the market

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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