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Narghile around the world   

Libya        Tunisia         Yemen

Tobacco would have reached this country during the first years of the seventeenth century. Two hundred years later, a traveller described:

"In Tripoli's cafs, [how] the Lords were served the pipe and coffee by their slaves who always accompanied them [] Moors smoked pipes of the Turkish type or sometimes narghiles of the Persian form. The bey Sdy Hamet smoked in a pipe decorated with gold, coral, amber and silver" (from French Encyc. du tabac).





Last year, at night fall, a walk around the part of the capital awash in the orange glow of magnificent street lamps, was a constant temptation to linger awhile in a good-natured atmosphere. Under tall palm trees, right in the middle of a colourful crowd of young men and women, of whole families and old men, the waiters of an open air restaurant could be seen rushing between the crowded tables and the kitchen. After the meal, those who ordered a narghile that was already set up at their table would be provided with a kursy (pipe bowl, in clay or in metal, depending on whether the narghile was an "arguila" or a "shisha") full of apple-flavoured mu'essel. Sometimes, the waiter would alternate this with the distribution of new live embers for burning the tobacco. Freedom/Independence Square, located in the city centre, is where, during the daytime, taxis for Tobruk, Benghazi, Cairo or Tunis wait far a full load before leaving. Their cosmopolitan customers assemble at the coffee-house on the esplanade. There many of them order a narghile full of their favourite tobacco, chosen from the wide range of mu'essel brands on offer, mainly imported from neighbouring Egypt, It is also quite usual for customers to bring their own tobacco...





Before the come back of narghile from the Middle East in the seventies, the gza, locally named "rguila", was especially associated, at the beginning of the century, to the use consumers of marijuana (tker(l) iyya) and hashish made of it. Today, only mu'essel is smoked out of shsha. For some still not clarified reason, tumbk is not used; the geographic limit for the use of the latter, through narghile, seems to be nearby Libya. A paid attention to the signboards of cafs, even the most modest, reveals how a good many of them tempt to the specific conviviality the pipe creates. The traditional and typical name is "Maqhä Shsha"(narghile caf). Rather absent of small villages, narghile shows a strong concentration in medium and big cities, as Sukra, Bja, the capital and others. Authorities, worried in front of this "conspicuous" phenomenon, took dissuasive measures against it. Municipal orders were not made public but their source of inspiration hints at different ministries: of Health, Interior and Tourism. Caf owners are called upon not to serve any more narghile on the terraces of their houses. Its use is only tolerated inside these last ones.





It is possible to imagine a tourist who could not very well notice the pipe in this country, simply because unlike the shsha, very conspicuous in coffee-houses of other cities of the Mediterranean region and the Middle East as Tunis, Cairo, Damascus or Beyrout, its practice takes place in a private context or away from the public glance. Besides, from a linguistic point of view, the word "narghile" is almost not used in this country without being unknown however. Indeed, the usual term is that of the main widespread form, that is the elegant and traditional "med'a". Then, locally according to regions, one finds the "kz" with its long stick and the itinerant "rushba", of small dimensions. Finally, for some years, the modern shsha did appear in this country, not without arousing strange hostile reactions among some who consider it as an intruder in the Yemenite society. In brief, the practice of narghile is wide-spread in Yemen. However, the use made of it is particular because it overlaps another cultural custom well documented today: that of the ritual consumption of qt. Yemen, more than any other country, maintained very long-lived this traditional use of tobacco which, with that of qt, shapes, for its peoples, a real life-style. Qt and narghile have so common points and affinities that they are, in the eyes of Yemenites, two of a kind or an ideal couple, would it be only because of the time they dedicate to both activities.



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