National Geographic : 1917 Aug
Photograph from Charles K. Moser TIHE CLIMAX OF ARAB CONTENTMENT The Yemen prototype of Honest Jack Falstaff takes not his ease in his inn with a flagon of sack to soothe and sustain him, but in his mabraz, where, with the aid of juicy khat leaves, he catches glimpses of Allah's rose gardens. The public mabrazes are not so luxu riously furnished as the private establishment shown here. They correspond to the taverns of the western world or the coffee-houses of the eighteenth century. water chatty beside him, and in the center of the circle two or three mudaheen (street beggars) singing their loudest. When the khat is finished each guest pays the shopkeeper a half penny and does not forget to throw a pice to the mudaheen. In Aden, khat chewing also takes place in the evening, after sunset prayers have been said. The evening scene differs from that of the afternoon only in the flaring lamps and candles and the red glow from smoking narghilis that throw into black relief the recumbent figures on the mabraz floor. If the mabraz is of the Syeds, descendants of Mohammed, there is no music, but only the droning sing song reading of tales about the old prophets and the glory of Islam. Khat customs differ somewhat in the different towns of the Yemen. In Ho deidah only the lower classes, the servants of European merchants, and the girls who hull coffee berries chew khat before 4 o'clock. This is the "official hour" when native business ceases. Charpoys, water pipes, and sweetmeats are brought out into the shade before the street door. The men of the household and their male friends sprawl sociably on the charpoys, the ingredients for the promotion of goodly fellowship ready to their hands. A graybeard sits in their midst expound ing from the sacred book, or conversation lively in character, but subdued in tone, entertains the company. The aged, the palsied, even the dying, are brought down on their beds from the top of the house to partake of this feast of reason and flow of wit. Inside the latticed windows the women sit, munching the second best leaves and listening to the scraps of wis dom that float to them from the company below. At Sanaa, where the climate is always delightfully cool, there is no inter ruption of business for khat chewing. During all hours of the afternoon the busy merchant picks heedlessly at the green bundle beside him, and a cud of much proportion constantly wads his cheek.