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Public places where people smoke narghile





For 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 America, 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 East, 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 service.

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)

Turkey, 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.

United States of America
The 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…


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