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Damascus Ma'loula


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Narghile around the world 

  Lebanon    Syria     Jordan









Narghile is popular as well as with men as with women, as well as with young people as with their elders. Indeed, it symbolises familial conviviality, serenity and harmony. A Lebanese woman said how in Beyrout, during the long war years, the family and the neighbours took the narghile with them down to the cellars. So, it has been a close companion during those dark periods. In the same city, the organiser of a narghile festival points out how the place where this event takes place - Beyrout's wood, near the racecourse -, was symbolically chosen. It mapped out, during the civil war, the demarcation line between both parts of the capital. In brief, today, the use of narghile in this country is assimilated by many observers to the come back of peace. Consequently, on the terraces of cafés and restaurants, the artefact makes, without any moods, an exhibition of itself.


Before going back home, why not go and have a small glass of strong and very sweet tea, take part in backgammon or cards, smoke a narghile among friends by passing round to each other its long hose with many civilities. In some of these cafés, there is a hakawâty, a story-teller of Antar's legend. It is an old chap with a small goatee and wearing spectacles. He sits on a sort of stage, behind a writing desk and makes every evening a reading so alive that all the audience follows him by holding its breath. (A. Keusséoglu, from French)





This country harbours today a prosperous narghile industry which exports to many countries of the region an impressive variety of water vessels and other essential elements of the artefact. Numerous shops have exclusively specialised in them. In Syrian cafés, it is quite common to play backgammon, draughts, chess or cards, etc. Their space and decoration, sometimes vast, are, by comparison, more restrained than those of the Jordanian sophisticated and intimist "coffee shops". One of them, the Maqhä 'el-Hijêz, near the central railway station of Damascus, evolved, in some years, to propose to its customers, in the very place, a modest shaving and hairstyle salon… The same establishment also covered its terrace with vine arbours and decorated it with fountains. Smokers are rather old persons, like patrons of the Nûfara café near the great Omeyyades Mosque. This last coffee-house is one of the last establishments where an old tradition, that of the story-teller, is maintained. At twilight, the latter comes in and sits down on his big raised armchair then begins or resume the reading of semi-legendary tales which enthral a constant audience. As such stories are generally very long, narghile pleasantly helps listeners to go on paying the necessary attention. finally, If one hardly sees narghile smokers reading a newspaper or a book in countries like Jordan, Tunisia or Yemen, they are not rare in Syria. Moreover, their "seriousness" can rightly be compared to that of pipe smokers in Europe.




In the western part of Amman, its capital, "coffee-shops" with wide terraces and a sophisticated decoration are numerous because people living in the corresponding zones can afford to frequent them. In the Eastern part (downtown) and its popular districts, there are no establishments of the above mentioned type; coffee-houses are there "Oriental cafés". An architectural peculiarity of Amman's coffee-houses is to be often located on the upper floors of buildings, even when, sometimes, there is enough space on the ground level. So, we can find: "Maqhä 'sh-she'b" (People's café); "'Urûbé" (The Nation, understood as its Arabian character and identity, or conversely) in front of the main mosque; "Balât 'er-Rashîd" (the Caliph's palace - Harûn) occupying a whole balcony looking on to a thoroughfare; or "Central café" which still possessed, some years ago, a terrace overhanging the heart of the swarming downtown area, etc. As for "Zahrân café", in front of the city hall, its patrons are essentially old persons who generally smoke tumbâk. If backgammon is sometimes played here, many would rather play cards, a game apparently appreciated by Jordanians.






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Succeeding Caliphates and Kingdoms

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