I really hesitated to have a wedding without any khat. I strongly believe our country will not become developed until we get rid of khat. I don’t chew it, and neither do my parents or siblings. However, many of my relatives do, and khat is usually the main attraction in any celebration – especially a wedding. Therefore, many relatives threatened not to come – they said that if there wasn’t going to be any khat at my wedding, that meant that I didn’t want them to be present.
However, after writing about the idea on my Facebook page, I was encouraged by the huge amount of positive reactions. I decided I had to do it. A few of my relatives did boycott the wedding, but many people I didn’t know came – people who wanted to support my initiative. More than 800 people attended in all.
Baraa Shaiban's wedding. Photo courtesy of our Observer.
“Without khat, the wedding hall was beautiful and clean”
Without khat, the wedding hall was beautiful and clean. Instead of people chewing khat and sitting around or leaving early, people danced and stayed until the end. Some businessmen who attended my wedding really enjoyed it, and announced that they would cover expenses of similar weddings in the future – that got many people excited.
This experience makes me think that even if the majority of youth today still chew khat, there is momentum growing against this practice, and that now’s the time to put pressure on the government to phase out its production. Yemen’s Arab Spring taught the youth to be pro-active – not to just sit around and wait for things to change.
Baraa Shaiban (centre) at his wedding ceremony.