Saturday, August 17, 2013


As you travel the dangerous roads of Kenya your eyes will not be bored. From lush forests, to banana tree lined hills, to pineapple dotted plains; the lands of Kenya are ripe for all that visit. If you look beyond the terra cotta colored soil, there is the fascinating movement of people, animals, and products waiting to be bought and sold.

One of those products is khat: the mysterious plant that is heavily sought after in this part of the world for its amphetamin-like properties that according to scientific study causes "excitement and euphoria". Used culturally for thousands of years in the Horn of Africa and around the Arabian peninsula, khat is at the heart of many African tales. One such tale is that khat was one of the reasons why the US pulled out of Somalia. In order to stay away awake and alert while fighting, Somali soldiers chewed khat--day and night--and it is said that US soldiers were unable to compete next to the very energetic Somali soldiers and so they packed up and went home. 

Whether the stories are true or not one thing remains fact: khat is one of Kenya's most lucrative businesses. Widely grown in the central part of Kenya, this legal drug has created a business model that Walmart could only dream of. Once picked khat has a shelf life of 3 days and so in order to get it to the hands of beckoning customers growers have had to get creative, especially in the areas of transportation. Understanding not only the importance to the Kenyan economy but also to their own personal khat desires, the Kenyan government has exempted these drug runners from any and all driving rules and regulations. Khat drivers whip down Kenyan roads at terrifying speeds in attempts to get the product to the exporters before it goes off. Their trucks, piled dangerously high and often teetering from side to side, carry millions of shillings worth of plant matter bound mainly to Somalia. 

Watching these drug runners fly down the roads is an amazing sight. The physics behind it all remains a mystery and so if you find yourself on the roads of Kenya it's best advised to simply get out of their way. 

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