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11 Types of People You Meet in Hookah Lounges

1. The Kid From Dearborn
If we label him as obnoxious, he may sue us for defamation, since suing people his full-time job. Then, he’ll sue the shisha place for not doing it like they do in balad al-Dearborn, or Dearbornistan as the right-wingers call it.

The trouble with the kid from Dearborn is that he/she is never satisfied with anyone else preparing a Hookah for them, unless it is a non-Arab, then it is an opportunity to flaunt their Hookah credentials with a free lecture.

He will tell you about how the hookah places in Dearborn are better, with stadium-style seating, movie projection screens, and live performances by Dearborn’s version of George Wassouf (coke and all).

He’ll ask the servers if they offer carved pineapples or watermelons for the sheesha heads, or if they have the new bab ghanoush-flavored tobacco. Then, he’ll roll his eyes when they ask “what?”

Starbuzz is his brand of choice, bro. And he thinks self-starting charcoal is for chumps (he’s right).

2. The Curious White Chick
“Is that, like, a bong from India?” These girls are eager to experience new things and taste different cultures, which is why Arab men go for them, if you know what I mean. She does not have interest in the Middle East, but rather there are a lot of Arab guys where she grew up or went to school, so it is natural to develop a curiosity. Plus she thinks it will help her feel “ethnic.”

“Is this illegal?” and “Am I going to regret this?” are signature questions. She bugs you by insisting on using her own plastic protector tube, thereby messing up the flow. Get it over with and hand her the “double apple” flavor so she can go experiment with Thai food, kabbalah and lesbianism.

The presence of white chicks gives many Arab men a temporary feeling of having a safety net and false indication that we are the new blacks, the forbidden fruit white chicks use for revenge against daddy.

Giveaway sign: when Amr Diab starts playing, they get up and dance dirty with their girlfriends.

3. The Latino Hookah Preparer
They say immigrants do the work other Americans don’t want to do. In general, Americans don’t want to work. And Arab-Americans are the same.

Just as Latino labor is key to the service sector, in places where Arab immigration is scant, Latinos run the local hookah lounge. They took over preparing the sheesha and bringing you fresh coal to keep it like going like an Egyptian train.

While some might find interesting forms of cultural hybridity here, especially as the workers learn Arabic from the management, there are some negatives. First, they are probably poorly compensated since their status is likely not legal. And Arabs care less.

Second, tension comes with the few Arab customers who are out of things to be proud of. On more than one occasion, Arabs, like the Dearborn kid, lecture the underpaid employees on how to make a better hookah. Thus the employee develops a passive-aggressive approach that makes him/her debate between punching your face or smiling at it.

4. The Redneck
Although he feels a bit gay puffing on a phallic pipe, he’s thrilled to be behind enemy lines. He met Al, his one Arabic buddy, in world history class and now he is joining his new friend for a taste of the Orient.

Growing up in small town in the south comes with a lot of liabilities, like not knowing much about the world.

On 9-18, he was throwing eggs at a muhajibah, so he’s a bit shocked he ended up in the lounge. he should have listened to his uncle Todd who warned him about the liberal professors from his community college brainwashing him. Uncle Todd later mocks him for smoking the “hubbly bubbily.”

Surrounded by 10 other Arab men, it would be hard to decline the offer to smoke. This is a one-time experience, it won’t likely be repeated as Al makes less weird friends.

5. The FBI Informant

He’s the coolest, slickest guy in the lounge, the smoothest operator, and very outgoing. He’s also an FBI informant who gets a nice check from the government for the intel he picks up from the cafe — which is like none, except that he is great at telling the Feds what they want to hear. They think the “Oasis Hookah Palace” is the Tora Bora of Southern California.

He is commissioned to eavesdrop on all conversations and screen all patrons for possible threats, instead he just picks up names and details from the Hollywood terrorism flicks like ‘The Siege,’ ‘Body of Lies’ and ‘Syriana.’ He occasionally takes a picture of a few patrons with his cell phone as he pretends to be text messaging.

While the government’s money is decent, he is doing it in exchange for a reduced sentence on a tax fraud scheme he was into with his cousin.

You’ll know when you meet him because he’ll add you as a friend on Facebook within minutes of meeting you.

6. The Student Who Spent a Semester Morocco
Nearly every sentence begins, “In Morocco…” It could be set off
by the most trivial reminder. The waiter’s named “Mohammad,” and this type tells you about the King of Morocco.

Sure, he or she misses kicking back and doing nothing all day except talking while sipping mint tea and smoking grape-flavored argeelah. And they are comforted by the fact that they won’t wake up with the runs this time.

To show off his hookah skills, he brings his date there, thinking this is America, the same creepy taboos overseas won’t apply. To his surprise, for every woman, including his date, there is probably more than 10 horny dudes leering at her through the clouds of smoke.

7. The Bored and Boring Middle-Aged Guy
This is the older Arab man who was married in the old country and is now divorced with not much to do but smoke his Hookah and fly solo. Or he may be married, but no one has ever seen the wife as proof. And apparently he only eats hummous.

This guy has his own official corner. It’s like Mustafa’s freaking office. He sits there all day every day. He checks out everyone walking into the lounge and stares at them, only taking occasional breaks to pee, talk really loudly on his cell phone, get charcoal himself, or play tarneeb or backgammon with other regulars.

He is not nostalgic for the bad old days, but the present really sucks. The only thing going for him is that he has as much authority as the hookah preparers do in his smoky little kingdom.

8. The Sheesha Tyrant
He is the cousin of the owner. It’s like being the son of the President/King/Col. Qaddafi in the Arab world. In other words, his familial link entitles him to act like he owns the place, so he bosses the staff and picks fights with the guys from the Gulf who treat the place like they could buy it (they could).

His cousin who owns the place hates this guy, but cannot kick him out because he owes his Dad money and may be interested in marrying his sister. He, of course, recognizes the power imbalance. So after he closes up the gas station, he brings all his loser buddies to smoke their favorite Hookah flavor and, if feeling naughty, have a non-alcoholic beer, play a round of obnoxious tarneeb, and get into a fight with other customers.

He is the Latino Hookah Preparer’s worst nightmare (behind immigration raids and Lou Dobbs).

9. The Hookah Etiquette Nazi
You know yourself. More often than not you hail from Lebanon where everything has to be done just right, from shawarma to political assassinations.

So when a Hookah comrade hands you the wrong end of the hookah you get offended and insist that they hand it to you the proper way so as not to make it look your comrade is telling you to screw yourself. I am sorry, I do not get this one, I am a Palestinian, and we are used to getting screwed by our friends.

Warning: If the sheesha is dirty, not airtight, there are too many holes in the tin foil, or the tobacco is packed too tight, a psychodrama ensues, followed by the single greatest Lebanese contribution to the Arab world: a rich sequence of highly decorative and colorful cursing (at and about the sheesha, the preparer, and his family, particularly his female relatives).

You can spot this guy easily. He’s the one who removes the head and blows the dust and smoke through the holes in the tin foil after it has been burning a while. They also blow the most perfect rings, sometimes followed by a smoke arrow through the middle then their name in Arabic.

10. The African American Who Likes Them Pillows

“I gotta get me one of these.” Like African-Americans, Arabs can be ghettofabulous with our furniture and decor. So the sheesha lounge can feel like home.

Many African-Americans don’t know that most Arabs live in Africa (most Arabs don’t know that either). Most don’t care. What they do care about is if you can smoke marijuana through the sheesha. You can. But it is less efficient than the traditional ways. Non-blacks, sharing that tidbit can win you street cred.

I hear so many African-Americans mention Egypt and Morocco as key places they want to travel. You never meet a black guy who wants to visit Syria for some reason, and definitely not Iraq.

The non-ratty hookah lounges provide a nice relaxing environment—the Arabic pillows at these lounges prove it. Puffing on a water pipe may be relaxing, but to my black friends, do not rest your feet on the soft cushion. It is a sign of disrespect. It’s the Arab equivalent of messing with a black guy’s radio (I learned so much from ‘Rush Hour’).

Another word of advice: Drop couple of non-offensive Arabic words, you will probably get a complimentary tea.

11. The Overdressed Gulfie Kids

The waiters love them for their generous tips, but unfortunately this sentiment is not shared with the rest of the lounge’s patrons. They hit on anything that moves, whether or not they are there with someone else.

They are dressed in the best brands, but that does not mean they necessarily have style. And they show off the Beamer in the parking lot, often sitting around the car waiting for girls to walk by.

No matter how old they get, they always act like teenagers on a prom date, or better yet, the ones who go without a date.

They cannot outsmoke the Dearborn kid, but are pretty hard core smokers. The upside? They always know what they want. The downside? They always fight over who gets to flip the bill.

[Tarboush Tip: Yousef, Will, Lyndsay]

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24 Responses to “11 Types of People You Meet in Hookah Lounges”

  1. C'mon now, everybody knows that Moroccans only smoke juj tfeh flavored shisha…which gets really really old, really really fast.

    Posted by JillianKF | May 20, 2009, 10:55 pm
  2. The one thing I love about these lists is that the stereotypes about the Khaleejis are always spot on.

    Posted by SanaKF | May 21, 2009, 2:16 am
  3. i love juuuj. my fave moroccan word.

    Posted by sunbula | May 21, 2009, 7:02 am
  4. which game is tarneeb?

    Posted by sunbula | May 21, 2009, 7:03 am
  5. Thanks Sana, I was raised in the Gulf and went to school with few of them here in the States. I really do love the khaleejis, but cannot help but state the obvious.

    Posted by Hantizer | May 21, 2009, 1:01 pm
  6. There are very curious people who go abroad. I was slumming it in Istanbul during the hippy era. Many of the British guys there would spend much of the day getting high on medicine. Cor man, you wanna go to that chemist on the corner, tell them you have a real stomach cramp. if they offer you x, tell them it doesn't work for you. You gotta have y. Take 15 of them, wow man, it's like you're really flying.

    Posted by xoggoth | May 21, 2009, 6:17 pm
  7. it's my second favorite, after safi (and how it's used as "khalas")

    Posted by JillianKF | May 21, 2009, 7:37 pm
  8. Dear Hanitizer, I am deeply offended by the suggestion that we Lebanese contributed no more than foul language to the Arab world. You yourself have spoken in the past of our beautiful and dazzling plastic women and their siren songs! We can build them better, faster, and with more makeup.

    Posted by Lebanese Lightning | May 22, 2009, 2:35 pm
  9. Agreed, agreed! However, in terms of the hookah lounge circles, I only see that language and the attitude. Obviously in my opinion, Lebanon sexifies the Arab world in taste, fashion, music, genes and even politics. Me love Lebanon long time! Thanks and sorry you feel offended…

    Posted by Hantizer | May 22, 2009, 6:07 pm
  10. I go to school with a massive population of them …I learned of the stereotypes before I met any, and when I finally met some…hilarity ensued.

    Posted by SanaKF | May 23, 2009, 4:11 am
  11. Not feeling the top 10 lists but otherwise this is a great blogg.

    Posted by *** | May 24, 2009, 8:03 pm
  12. By "taste," you do mean food, right? Because we have the best food. 😛

    Posted by Shawna | May 26, 2009, 2:07 pm
  13. Shisha nazi :/ And yeah, the Lebanese contribute a lot more than foul language. Hair gel, sunglasses indoors, badly knotted ties, 10 year busted BMWs with crap stickers and a spoiler … and that's just scratching the surface.

    Posted by Andrew | May 26, 2009, 5:19 pm
  14. You totally forgot to mention the College Girl Hijabi shisha smoker who unlike the white girl cannot date a black guy or do anything else to rebel against her parents so she comes to the lounge to smoke hookah because it's "ethnic" and it is her little way of attempting to be badass. Then she takes pictures of her and her friends blowing smoke into each others mouths and posts it on facebook and thinks it makes her cool. You so forgot this category!

    Posted by Serena | June 10, 2009, 5:00 pm
  15. SPOT ON Hani!! This is your most accurate list yet. Love it!

    Posted by Dena | June 23, 2009, 9:47 pm
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  17. LOLLLL…… from Toronto, and every stereotype posted above is TRUE. Wow…

    Posted by Jannah Bint Abdullah | August 7, 2010, 9:13 am
  18. I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you. Really impressed! Everything is very, very clear and open. You have shared a lot of valuable information. DONE

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  20. Dean Tammam exhales an odorless puff of smoke that quickly dissipates into the otherwise still air at the Lazy Boy Saloon & Ale House on Mamaroneck Avenue.

    The Friday night crowd hardly notices Tammam as he pulls on his electronic cigarette, a nicotine-delivery device that has helped him, he said, both save money and quit smoking.

    Tammam, 21, was a pack-a-day menthol smoker who spent $300 a month on his habit, he said. Nowadays, he spends $50 every two to three months on e-cigarettes and has better stamina and lung capacity, he said.

    “It’s definitely not worse than cigarettes. I’m not going to say it’s good. It’s the lesser of two evils,” said Tammam of White Plains. “They have helped me quit cigarettes so I’m grateful for the technology.”

    First introduced in 2007, electronic cigarettes are gaining popularity as ex-smokers like Tammam turn to the digital sticks for their affordability, accessibility and what many argue is a safer alternative to inhaling the more than 4,000 chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. More than 250 companies now sell e-cigarettes and sales are reportedly expected to top $1.2 billion this year.

    E-cigarettes are tobaccoless, battery-operated units that heat a liquid solution — nicotine, water, propylene glycol and glycerine — into vapor. Nicotine-free liquids, along with a variety of flavors from bubble gum to mocha, are available for “vaping.” Unit kits range from $25 to $200.

    But despite its growing appeal, a backlash to this booming market has emerged, one that will likely crack down on this otherwise obscure and unregulated product.

    Legal and public health officials are increasingly calling for tighter controls of electronic cigarettes as questions arise about the hazards they may pose to users and those exposed to secondhand vapor. Right now, e-cigarettes have no oversight or restrictions on advertising.

    Commercials featuring celebrities, including Jenny McCarthy and Stephen Dorff, who promote the Blu e-cigarette as a sexy, guiltless alternative, are raising concerns that the ads glamorize smoking and appeal to children — much as tobacco ads did in the 1950s. Cigarette commercials on radio and television have been banned since 1971.

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