As everyone now knows, there are pirates in Somalia. Most of them come from Puntland, the region bordering the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean at the far Northeastern edge of Somalia. They hijack large shipping vessels passing through the Gulf and then hold them for ransom. Generally, they use small speedboats and board the ships they attack armed with machine guns and rocket launchers. There are tons of pictures on the internet of boats carrying three or four pirates with the telltale bulbs of rocket launchers poking up over the bow. Abdi Farah Juha, a resident of Puntland, puts it succinctly: “They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns.”

And why shouldn’t they? These men are pirates, and pirates are cool.

Did you forget, dear reader, that… More…

 

Mohammed had a squirrelly look in his eyes, which together with his green-flecked teeth made me wonder whether to trust him. We had met that morning in Jijiga, Ethiopia, and he volunteered to show me — and then devour with me — the bleak town’s one real attraction: qat bushes. Here, near the Somali border, Mohammed cultivated qat and then shipped it all over the world for Horn-of-Africa expatriates who, like him, were utterly addicted to the numbing buzz you get when you chew its leaves for a few hours. They tasted about as bitter as you’d expect a shrub to taste. We were well into our fifth hour of chewing, and the bits of leaf gave his pearlies an emerald cast — the qat equivalent of the grotesque orange teeth one gets after scarfing a whole bag… More…