places where people smoke narghile
about fifteen years now, many countries of the Near and Middle East, the
Persian-Arabian Gulf, and Tunisia, have witnessed a revival of narghile.
During the same period, we have seen in Europe and the United States of
the emergence of establishments the central service of which is based on
narghile and its unique conviviality. We term these coffee-houses "neo-Orientalist
cafés". Obviously, the sociability of such salons entices a wide
audience because it is known that in virtually all societies of the
North, traditional brotherly social relations tend to split.
Consequently, one can meet in these new places, sitting side by side, a
civil servant and a student, a janitor and a doctor, not to forget all
the exiles and Diaspora members. Narghile concentrates such lost values
as the conviviality desire, brotherhood, peace and solidarity, at a time
when wars, particularly in the Middle
and forced emigrations and exile, artificially separate peoples from
each other by putting obstacles in the way to intercultural
understanding and friendship.
However, in practice, everything is not so simple. For instance, severe
laws make the commercial import of narghiles difficult in the United
States of America
and in a country like France,
tobacco is a State monopoly.
Near and Middle East
For those who may travel to the Near and Middle East, it would be here
vain and tedious to provide them with a list of establishments where
they can see narghile smokers. Uncountable and omnipresent
coffee-houses, restaurants, taverns, inns and hotels provide the
In this country, the traveller should know that narghile - locally
called "shîsha" - has been officially banished from the cafés terraces.
Consequently, it escapes observation, particularly that of curious
tourists. It is therefore necessary to go inside the coffee-houses in
order to be able to see it.
Cigarettes are for nervous people, competitive people, people on the run
[…] When you smoke a narghile, you have time to think. It teaches you
patience and tolerance, and gives you an appreciation of good company.
Narghile smokers have a much more balanced approach to life than
cigarette smokers." (Ismet Ertep, 71 years)
to which people always look at, is not any more that country where
Pierre Loti, a great amateur of narghiles, could, at the beginning of
the nineteenth century, count the latter "in myriads". Today, those
places fitted out to devote to this art (sometimes called "nargile
bars") can be listed on one's fingers, often under the questioning and
amused glance of tourists or the interested eye of some journalist about
to write a light article on it. Most of the famous cafés where the
peculiar narghile atmosphere prevailed actually disappeared: Pirinçci
(in Kuledibi); Güllü Agop Kiraathanesi (in Gedikpasa); Valide
Kiraathanesi (in Eminönü); Ligor Kiraathanesi under the Galata bridge;
and Erzurum Çayevi. The districts where the "survivors" are to be found
are those of Beyazid, Aksaray, Topkapi, Unkapani, Kasimpasa, Besiktas
and Kadiköy. In the first one, the Erenler coffee-house calls on foreign
guests to try what a signboard presents as the "mystic water pipe".…
Salons have opened their doors in big provincial cities like Lyon or
Marseilles. An amateur told us that in the latter, for example, he
envisages to open a "cultural café" the service of which will focus on
narghile. He informed us that there would be, to date, three active
establishments of this type. As for Paris and its region, the number of
neo-Orientalist cafés is growing continuously. May we mention here:
""Umm Kelthûm" and "Imhotep" ("The Egyptian café") in the vicinity of
Mouffetard Street (5th district; Censier Tube station); "Le Grand Bleu"
(intimate and Tunisian atmosphere vouched for) and, by its side, "Le
Sultan" (19th district; Couronnes Tube station); "Le sable doré" in the
Saint-Lazare area (9th district; Notre-Dame de Lorette Tube station);
Shéhérazade in Chartres. Persian or Arabic are not inevitably spoken but
rather French, English and other European languages. Patrons plays chess
or draughts and since one must not forget that narghile is a
conversation catalyst, they chat a lot. The interior decoration may be
modest; no matter, sophistication is not necessary.
States of America
craze of numerous Americans for narghile and its special atmosphere,
despite the existence of severe laws, according to which it is
considered as drug paraphernalia, is real. However, there are two
categories of narghile users in this country: the first ones mainly look
for marijuana effects (their water pipes are often the so-called
"bongs"). The second ones exclusively consume pure or special flavoured
honeyed (mu'essel) tobacco in their "hookah".
- In Washington D.C.: Chi-Cha Lounge (1624 U, NW, 202/234-8400). The
owner declared to a journalist that he opened his salon after he
discovered narghile during a journey to the Middle East. Customers can
smoke narghile in a culturally surprising atmosphere since they consume
drinks while listening to South American music…