At least three times a week the entrepreneur Michel Wajchman, 24 years old,
sits in his living room with friends or his girlfriend to smoke narghile.
Michel is not an Arab
descendant, doesn't like cigarettes, but is part of a generation of Brazilian
youths who is discovering the pleasures of the table pipe, very popular in
Arab countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, United Arab Emirates,
Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Iraq.
About seven months ago,
a friend of Lebanese origin showed Michel the narghile. One month later he
bought the gear, which is now a central piece when his friends, mostly from
the corporate sector, get together to chat or talk about business.
The narghile transcended
the doors of the Arab houses in São Paulo about two or three years
ago. Today, not only do many Brazilians own their own narghiles, but the hip
bars and restaurants in the city offer the pipe to their clients.
Alibabar, a chain of bars
in the São Paulo neighborhoods Vila Olímpia and Jardim São
Paulo for example, owns about 30 narghiles in each of the two units.
Entirely decorated with
Arab articles, the bar normally receives clients varying from 20 to 40 years
of age. "I had a narghile at home and I noticed my friends were interested
in it," says Bil Rajab, one of the proprietors and Lebanese descendant.
When he opened the first
bar in 2002 he had no doubts about transforming it into one of the establishment's
attractions. And he was right. "When we have a full house, all narghiles
are taken, there isn't one left," says Rajab.
A group will pay from
US$ 5.00 to US$ 7.00 for a round, which lasts for about one hour and a half.
The tobacco flavors available at the Alibabar are melon, double apple, mint,
strawberry and assorted fruits. The most popular one, according to the owner,
is the double apple.
However, not only the
Arab places have narghiles. Bazzi, a trendy bar and flirting scenario to the
sound of pop-rock music, also offer the pipe to their clients.
From Decoration to
Farid Mekhael Kheir, director
of the Arab products retail and wholesale chain Maxifour, said he noticed
a change in the buying trends along the last three years.
"People used to buy
narghiles to decorate their houses, now it's for the real purpose," he
stated. Kheir says the greatest increase in the demand for the pipe happened
this year. "Today it is Brazilians who are buying and learning how to
smoke narghiles, not only Arab descendants," he says.
Maxifour imports the devices
from Syria and Lebanon and sells something between 200 and 300 units every
month. The stores have both the simple types, made with light metal, and the
more special kind, made of solid metal, glass and crystal.
The prices vary from US$
43 to US$ 103. As well as the pipes, he also sells accessories and tobacco
with the flavors double apple, almonds, mango, apricots, mint and orange flower.
The narghile has four
parts: the bottom part called vessel or recipient, which holds the water that
filters the tobacco; the pipe bowl at the top, where the flavored tobacco
is placed; the tube or hose, through which the smoke passes; and the mouthpiece
at the end of the tube. In bars and restaurants the mouthpiece normally is
The pipe is popular in
most eastern countries. As well as the Arab countries, China, India, Turkey,
Afghanistan and Iran also enjoy the narghile. There are many versions to the
story about its origins. Most theories however point at Turkey. The Arab countries
would have incorporated the Turkish habit.
In some places the pipe
is also called arghile. In Egypt, the narghile is known as shisha.
Isaura Daniel is a Brazilian journalist. This article was distributed by
ANBA - Brazil-Arab News Agency.